Hello, everyone. I’m A.M. Hudson, author of the paranormal romance series, Dark Secrets. Today I’ve got a very exclusive, one-time only preview of Lies in Blood, the 4th book in the series. Reading this won’t give anything away, but it will give you a unique look into the reason for David’s mad ways when it comes to his ex-girlfriend, Pepper. Enjoy...
“How’s things going at Elysium?” Arthur asked. “Have they worked their way through most of the prisoners now?”
“Mm-hm.” I sipped my drink as I nodded. “But a few of them have to go to the mental asylum.”
Arthur and Jason exchanged glances.
“Pepper inclusive,” I probed, keeping my gaze on the horizon.
“I’m not surprised,” Arthur said, turning to lean his back on the rail. “I saw her a year or so ago, and requested they move her then.”
“Why didn’t they?”
“Drake denied the motion.”
“David was gone at the time. And...I guess Drake saw it as a method of revenge for his defection, perhaps,” Arthur mused.
My lip curled. “That’s so cruel.”
“He can be a cruel man.”
I looked up at Arthur for a second and watched his blue eyes wander in thought. He looked younger when he was absent from his mind--his features so much softer and almost kind of sad-looking. “Don’t you both think that, maybe, it’s time for me to know what happened to her--to Pepper?” I waited then, letting the idea sink in for them. “Clearly, I’m not going to dump David if I find out he’s a masochistic torturer.” I held up my ring hand. “If I haven’t left him yet, chances are, I’m not going to.”
Arthur smiled down at me, but when he looked at Jase, he frowned.
“Jase?” I caught the same vibe Arthur had.
Jason bent down with a huge sigh and left his wine glass by his feet, standing back up again slowly. “You’re right, Ara. You should know.”
“Yes,” Arthur said suggestively, his wide eyes arresting Jason’s boyish confidence. “She should really know everything, shouldn’t she?”
“In good time,” Jase said. “We’ll start with Pepper, and see how we go from there.”
Arthur seemed to agree, stepping back and offering the floor to Jase while he went to grab another glass.
“They were in love,” Jase began. “As much any two vampire souls had ever been, but David's desperation to be a council member started to waver from the day he met Pepper. He was missing meetings, failing to complete tasks, and staring in dreamy-eyed gazes when he should have been carrying out punishments. The last straw was when he set a prisoner free without torture.”
“He set someone free?” I asked, nearly leaping over the balcony in disbelief.
“He wasn’t always as a harsh a man as he is now,” Arthur added, standing beside me again.
“So, what did the prisoner do--the one he set free? Was it a horrid crime?”
“He’d unlawfully turned a human,” Arthur said. “And David quite simply said that he understood how love could madden a man--force him to do things he wouldn’t normally do.”
I stared out to sea. “That doesn’t sound like my David.”
“It wasn’t the David any of us knew,” Jason said. “He was even getting along--or trying to--get along with me.”
I smiled, rubbing Jase’s arm, then turned my head to look at Arthur. “So Pepper was a good influence on him?”
“In ways.” Arthur nodded. “Well, enough that David had planned to ask her to marry him—”
“He had the ring his grandmother passed down,” Arthur continued. “And he’d set the date and the time he would do it.”
“But. . .” I thought back to the day he told me about the one and only vampire he’d ever wanted to marry.
“Who was it?” Jason asked, coming up off the railing just a little.
“Who was what?” Arthur asked, confused.
“Ara was just thinking that David told her he’d only ever wanted to be with one vampire, and it wasn’t Pepper.”
“Morg,” I said, my tone raising in question on the end.
Arthur and Jason broke into a gusty fit of laughter.
“That is a big, fat lie, right there,” Jason said, failing to compose himself. “They hated each other.”
“Yes,” Arthur said, sobering a little. “I suspect David told you it was Morgaine so you wouldn’t keep asking.”
I nodded. “Well, it worked.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t keep asking after that, anyway,” Jason said, leaning down again. “He and Morg are incredibly mismatched.”
“I just figured it was in another time, you know--and that people change.”
Jase wiped his mouth. “Not that much.”
“Right. So, what was Pepper like then?”
“She was a sweet thing, very much like you in a lot of ways. Her hair was golden, her features petite, and she always seemed to be smiling, like nothing ever bothered her,” Arthur said fondly. “I know she reminded David a lot of his aunt.”
“And he was gonna ask her to marry him, right? So, why didn’t he?”
“The night before he set off for his biannual leave, Drake called him to preside over one last case.” Arthur’s lips rolled inward, the memory skitting across his face, painting it with emotion. “I saw the look in David’s eye--saw his heart break right there in a room full of people when Pepper was bound and thrown to her knees before him like some petty thief.”
“He didn’t know she’d been arrested?”
“No.” The way Jason said that made me look at him. “I was the one who arrested her.”
“I was a Warrior, Ara. It was my job.”
“Who gave the order?”
“I just. . .” I rubbed my head. “I can’t picture David sitting there and sentencing her to torture. I just can’t.”
“It was a grim scene--and it was, in many ways, a test,” Arthur said. “He knew that. From the moment he looked into her eyes and then over at Drake, David knew his next move would determine the fate of his career.”
“He had to leave emotion out of it from there,” Jase said. “He heard her pleas, heard her reasons for turning the child, and he suddenly went stone-faced, as if he cared nothing for her.”
“Because she broke the law, or because it affected a child?”“No one really knows.”
“Wow.” I toyed with the stem of my glass, then popped it on the floor by my feet. “So, why does she haunt him so much? I mean, I knew he sentenced her and that he’d loved her, but what’s the big deal, really?”
“The standard punishment for a vampire that turns a child is The Hot Tar,” Arthur said. “Whereby the vampire is stripped naked and lowered into a vat of boiling tar, burned until their flesh peels from their body, then taken away to heal again--slowly, and without blood.”
“Once their skin is just pink again,” Jason said, “they repeat the process. And this is done for the full term of the sentence. Often three years.”
Arthur nodded to confirm. “However, Drake was so disturbed by the fact that a council member’s own girl had broken such a law that he stepped in after the sentencing and added two months torture--to be carried out by soldiers during the day, and by David at night.”
“But. . .what about his leave? I thought he was—”
“He was delayed by two months as punishment for not controlling his girl,” Arthur said. “Wow. So. . .” I pictured it all in my head--seeing the room I was taken to the day Jason tortured me. “He just did it--tortured her, like, happily?”
“Certainly not, my dear.” Arthur exhaled, looking off at nothing for a few seconds, his face scrunched up tightly. “Every day, when he would return to his chamber after her torture, he would fall to his knees and pray for forgiveness.”
“I found him once,” Jason said, his own gaze drifting off to thought. “He was on his knees, his body rigid—eyes on the brink of tears. He said he couldn’t take any more. He said she cried his name out, begging him for mercy. I offered to trade places with him--be the one to do it so that he didn’t have to suffer. No one would’ve known it was me. But—”
“But he refused?” I said, knowing why. He would never have let anyone else hurt someone he loved. Which, I understood then, is why he was so quick to forgive Jason for the same.
“I remember, one night,” Arthur added, “I embraced him--tried to comfort him, and for the first time since he was a boy, he wrapped his arms around me and I heard him cry. Nothing haunted me more than seeing tears from this boy who refused to cry for even the most heinous things. Even the day his aunt died, he shed not one tear--that any of us saw, anyway.”
“But despite that,” Jase said. “He’d dust himself off and go back down to that cell, because if he didn’t do what the king asked, much worse would be ordered for the poor girl.”
“What kind of torture did he...I mean...it must have been bad to haunt David?”
“It was.” Arthur nodded. “The final straw came one night when I found him in a corridor, his hands and face covered in blood--her blood--her golden hair tangled in long, broken threads around his fingers. I asked him what had happened, and he said she went mad. Told me she just couldn’t take it anymore.”
“Then...what was the hair and the blood from?”
“I asked the same thing. But he couldn’t speak. So, I went down to see the girl—attend to her medically, if needed—and found her huddled in the darkest corner, her eyes black, her body unclothed and bleeding. When I squatted down and inspected her closer, found her hair was torn in patches from her scalp--most of the skin missing from her upper thighs and wrists, peeled away, you might say, as if she’d scratched it off with her own nails.”
“What happened to her?” I asked, horrified.
Arthur looked away. “David had found her in a similar state. He asked what had become of her, and a prisoner told how she’d been quite brutally raped--had things done to her that no young girl could imagine possible. She’d tried to tear the skin from her own body to wash off the horrors of what those men did to her, and when David came to comfort her, she attacked him—thinking he was one of them.”
“The guards stepped in, Ara,” Jason said. “Every prisoner knows that the punishment for attacking a council leader is a grave one--no matter what state of mind they’re in at the time.”
“She was bound,” Arthur continued. “Thrashed with the guard’s belt while David watched on--bound himself by the laws he protected. When the lashings stopped, she laid there in a pool of her own blood, and before David could react, the guards grabbed her by the hair and. . .”
“Sodomized her,” Jase said.
I covered my mouth, knowing how David would react if that were me.
“David tried to fight them off,” Jason added. “But it only made matters worse, and he was tangled up in the process--tearing half her hair away himself.”
“The guards restrained him,” Arthur said, “made him watch until the girl gave up screaming and just laid there sobbing his name.”
“When they released David,” Jason said. “He just turned away and walked from the cells like a ghost--went on leave the next day, and never spoke of her again.”
“Drake recommended a two-year stint in a high school--to live among those who have so few cares and worries,” Arthur said. “He figured a lighter occupation would do David good after such a harrowing ordeal.”
“School? He sent David to school after all that?”
Arthur nodded. “And it did do him good. Drake was right. We saw changes in David after just a few weeks. But, even then, everything that made that boy alive was dead. He was colder and harsher, and I worried for the young humans in his community.”
“Then he met you,” Jason said, smiling at something far away.
“Yes,” Arthur added, and the energy in the space changed—the daunting, horrible reality lifting away a little. “After that, he returned to council meetings—smiled again, he was, you could say, more human than he’d been when he was a boy.”
“So, you can imagine what you must mean to him, Ara,” Jason said. “That you were the very thing that gave him a reason to live again--to believe that life wasn’t a nightmare he couldn’t wake from.”
I thought back to everything we’d been through--feeling a sense of dread for the time he walked away from us just to protect me from his world. And I was grateful to him for that now more than ever after everything Pepper went through. He always said he couldn’t protect me from the horrors of his world, and this story explained so much more why the very mention of turning a child had sent him storming off to his room--slamming the door. I felt bad for even bringing it up now. “God, I just wanna call him and tell him I’m sorry for everything bad I ever said or did.” I laughed. “Poor guy.”
“Yes. And you can see now why, in my pursuit for revenge, I thought it so marvelous to steal you from him--by pain of heart or even death,” Jason said.
“Wow, that was incredibly malicious, Jase.” I backhanded his arm.
He rubbed it as if it hurt. “I know. But, he knows I’m sorry.”
“We all do.” I nodded, looking out to sea, then just let it all out with a really long breath. “Wow.”
“Yep.” Jason leaned beside me again. “Wow.”
“I’ll say,” Blade came to stand beside Jason. “That’s quite a story.”
“He never told me that,” Emily said. “I asked him once, but he wouldn’t tell me.”
“I can see why,” I said. “I wouldn’t either.”
“Well, now you know.” Arthur stood tall again. “And I must warn you, Amara, do not ever bring it up in front of him. Do not ever seek to use it against him or to—”
“I wouldn’t do that, Arthur.” I crossed my heart. “Not even if I was mad with him.”
“Well, I hope not.” He bowed his head. “Because I could not vouch for the man you may see beneath this new David.”
I nodded. “Okay. I’ll never speak of it. I swear.”
“See that you don’t,” Arthur said, and walked away.
“Well, story time’s been fun, Ara,” Blade said. “But it’s time for bed.”
“Okay.” I looked back at Jase.
He offered a sweet smile. “Night, Ara.”
“Night, Jase.” I went to take the jacket off and hand it to him, but he stopped me.
“Keep it tonight. Give it back tomorrow when you come see me for our first training session.”
I snuggled into the leather again. “Okay, what time?”
“Sunrise.” He flashed a mischievous. “Nah, just kidding. Any time you like, sweet girl. I have aaaalll day.”
“Okay.” I nodded and walked past him with a big smile on my face. “Sunrise it is.”
“See you then,” he called.
I hope you enjoyed that little sneak peek. Be sure to join us on Facebook for more little bits and pieces.
About the Author:
A. M. Hudson loves her life in Australia and, despite wishing it would snow at Christmas, couldn't imagine living anywhere else in the world.
She fell in love with her husband at just sixteen, and since then, has added three boys to the mix.
A. M. prides herself on writing the shocking, the depthy and the highly-emotional subjects other writers steer away from. She addresses the uncomfortable with conviction and enjoys taking stories down dark paths.
Some of her heroes are Stephen King, Walt Disney, Hamish and Andy, Muse and 30 Seconds to Mars, and with influences like these, one can only imagine what stories will unfold.
When she's not writing, A. M. reads books, watches movies and chats with fans on Facebook.
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