The Darkness Within (Etherya's Earth #3)
The Darkness Within (Etherya's Earth #3)
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- Reformed Antihero
- Enemies to Lovers
- Forced Proximity
- Paranormal Romance
From USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Hefner
An antihero struggles to reform as he battles desire for the woman he can never have...
Arderin, princess of the illustrious Vampyre kingdom, has always marched to the beat of her own drum. Motivated by a calling to heal others, frustration consumes her since her brother, King Sathan, doesn't understand her desire to study medicine in the human world. Moreover, the son of the Dark Lord Crimeous now inhabits their compound, armed with his sharp tongue and dark nature.
Darkrip has been enthralled by Arderin since the night he knocked her unconscious and sent her down the river, prompting the end of the War of the Species. Never has he met a woman more beautiful and passionate. Frustrated by her dramatics and consumed by desire for her, he vows to stay away. For the son of Crimeous, with his malevolent blood, could never have children or a normal life.
When Crimeous threatens both their lives, forcing them into a shared captivity, they do everything possible to escape and survive. As their connection grows, so does their attraction. Together, they forge ahead in the conflict against the Dark Lord, determined to deny temptation. But the Universe is fickle and can muddle with even the best intentions...
Intro Into Chapter 1
Intro Into Chapter 1
Two centuries after the Awakening
Darkrip sat in the murky cave, the sole light emanating from the torch on the nearby dirt wall. His father, the Dark Lord Crimeous, was several miles away, conducting his nightly torture session.
His father wasn’t aware of this particular cave and that made it a welcome hiding spot for Darkrip. He’d started coming here when he needed to breathe, feeling that his lungs were going to collapse from the evil that coursed inside him. Existence so far had been filled with death and destruction. When his beautiful mother had perished, he clung to them, thriving on the wicked thrill that he felt every time he crushed another’s soul.
But one death bled into another, one harem woman violated turned into so many faceless others, and he felt himself drowning from the ever-present stench of death. His father’s blood was so malevolent, comprising half of his nature, making him wonder if he should just jump in the Purges of Methesda and end it all. Wouldn’t that be better than living in this wretch of a world?
He’d thought he could kill his sister. After all, she shared half his father’s blood too. It was imperative that every trace of the Evil Lord be removed from the world if it had any chance of thriving. When he’d tried to kill her in her sleep, his mother’s blood had coursed through his body, rendering him unable to complete the deed.
Determined to prevail, he hired their old caretaker, Yara, to complete the grisly task. She was one of the few people Evie trusted, and Darkrip gave Yara specific instructions on how to murder her before she could call upon her evil powers. Sadly, Yara had failed.
Now, Evie was gone, lost to the world of humans. Inside, he felt what he could only identify as regret. He questioned whether he would ever see her again. Cursing himself, he sat on the dirt floor of the cave, brainstorming ways to kill his powerful father. Since the bastard could dematerialize at will, manipulate things with his thoughts and read others’ images in their minds, the task was extremely difficult.
Darkrip shared all of those powers, but with his mother’s Slayer blood, he would never be as mighty as his father. Frustrated, he rubbed his forehead with his fingers. Snapping his head around, he narrowed his eyes at the faint noise behind him.
Suddenly, a bright light pierced the darkness. Darkrip’s heart began to pound as he stood, facing the unknown with strength and curiosity. Out of the brilliance, his mother appeared. Unable to believe the image, he blinked quickly several times and shook his head furiously.
“My sweet boy,” she said, walking up to him and cupping his face. “It’s so wonderful to see you.”
Wetness clouded his eyes as he gazed down at her. “Mother?”
Rina’s pink lips turned up into a dazzling smile and her olive-green irises glowed with love. “I’ve missed you so.”
Unable to stop himself, he pulled her into a firm embrace. “How are you here?”
Pulling back, he ran a hand over her silky, raven-black hair.
“I made a deal with Etherya. It was imperative that I see you.”
“What kind of deal?” he asked, filled with dread. He knew the goddess to be spiteful, evidenced by the awful curse she’d placed on him when he was only a teenager.
His beautiful mother sighed, her expression sad. “I promised her I would spend eternity in the Land of Lost Souls, instead of the Passage, if she let me appear to you.”
“No,” he said, palming her cheek. “You won’t find any peace there. You need to be in the Passage. After all he put you through, you deserve that.”
“My dear son, you always were so protective of me. For better or worse, the decision has been made. Let me tell you what I’ve come to say, as I don’t have much time.”
Darkrip nodded, hating that his mother would have to suffer for eternity. She had been tortured so thoroughly by his father, and he wished for nothing more than serenity for her.
Releasing him, she straightened her spine. “You tried to kill Evie. It’s unacceptable. She is your sister, and I need you to protect her.”
“I know,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck, filled with shame at his mother’s scolding. “I thought I was doing the right thing by ridding the world of father’s blood.”
“No,” she said, glossy hair flying as she shook her head. “You must protect her. She has a tough road ahead, but she is very important. I need you to promise me, son.”
“I promise. I’m sorry. I regret it immensely.”
Rina nodded. “I need you to be patient. You’re going to have to wait several centuries. Let Evie stew in the human world during that time. Leave her alone while she comes to terms with what she is. In the meantime, earn your father’s trust. It’s imperative he trust you if we are to defeat him.”
“Have you seen the future?” Darkrip felt his eyes grow wide.
She nodded. “Bits and pieces. Eventually, you will learn of the prophecy. Miranda will become the savior we need. She will reunite the species again and help forge a path toward your father’s death.” Lifting her chin, Rina’s eyes filled with warning. “But it will not be easy. You must bide your time. If, after several centuries, you don’t see her act, then do what you must to spur her along.”
“Okay,” he said, swallowing thickly.
“You cannot torture and kill anymore, Darkrip. I know that your father encourages you to do these things, but they are heinous and beneath you. I refuse to have a son who chooses hate over love.” Lifting her hands, she caressed his cheeks. “You have so much of my father in you. Please, let that half win. You have to let it guide you. I need you to give me your word. No more death from your hands.”
Darkrip inhaled deeply. “He urges me on. It’s so difficult—”
“I know,” she said, her eyes filled with understanding, “but you have to be strong. It will be hard for you to hide your lack of evil from him but it can be done. I want your word.”
“You can never understand how hard it is for me to control that part of myself.”
Anger flashed in her irises. “Don’t tell me I can’t understand your father’s malevolence. He used it to torture me for decades. I only regained my sanity, and all of my severed appendages, when I entered the Passage. I understand your struggle, but I need your word. I sacrificed an eternity of peace for an infinity of suffering so that I could come here and get it from you. If you ever cared for me at all, you’ll give it to me.”
“I loved you, Mother,” he said, his heart filled with sadness. “I don’t know how to live in this world without you. When you died, I lost the ability to care about anything else.”
“That’s not true, son. You’ll see. One day, many centuries from now, you will have the life that you deserve. The road there will be filled with pain and suffering, but you will have it.” Lifting her face to his, she gave him a sweet kiss on his full lips. “Now, promise your mother.”
“I promise,” he said, vowing to do right by her. “I won’t torture, although I can’t promise not to kill. If I have to, I will. But you have my word that I will do my best to live by my Slayer half. I hope that your visions are true. If not, we are all doomed.”
Her magnificent face glowed as she smiled up at him. “Good boy. I love you so, Darkrip. When the time comes, help both of your sisters. They will need it. Follow your intuition.”
Wrapping her thin arms around his neck, she gave him a hug. As he closed his eyes and tried to hold her, she disappeared. The agony of her departure burned in his chest, and he rubbed his hand over his heart.
Determined to listen to his beloved mother, he dematerialized out of the cave and back to the room he kept near his father’s main lair.