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Burn Falls by Kimberly Knight (1)

PROLOGUE

Chicago - 1928

I could hear the sultry notes of the saxophone through the wall from where I stood in the back of the smoky speakeasy. It was the perfect cover for what I was about to do to my sweet Mary.

She was already breathless from dancing on stage in the main part of the jazz club. While most fellas frequented the whorehouse next door after closing, my post-entertainment was already here. She moaned as I pushed her knee-length skirt up her thigh and my hand headed straight to her heat.

“Where’s your hosiery, Mary?”

She bit her ruby-stained bottom lip, her brown eyes gazing up at my grey ones as she smiled. “You told me not to wear any.”

“Good girl.”

My mouth met hers, and my fingers started to stroke inside of her. I could taste the hint of tobacco on my tongue from the cigarette she had been smoking as I brought her closer and closer to writhing beneath me. It didn’t take Mary long before she came around my fingers. I quickly went to work on my pants, needing to hurry and be inside her before the cats came looking for me ready to start the next game of poker.

“Let’s get out of here and go to Lover’s Lane,” Mary begged.

“Can’t tonight, baby. I’m going to take these boobs for all their cabbage while they’re smoked on whiskey.”

“Tomorrow before you go out again. We need to talk.”

I dropped my pants. “Talk about what?”

“About settling down and starting a family.”

My gaze met hers again. “You want to get married?”

“Of course I do.”

“Soon?”

“I figured sooner than later was as good of a time as any given I might be carrying your child.”

I blinked and then blinked again. “My child?”

Mary smiled. “I think I’m pregnant, honey.”

Two hours later, I was the one out on the roof from all the whiskey I’d consumed. I celebrated with the fellas because I was going to be a father. After Mary told me that she might be carrying my baby, I sent her home to rest. Now she was long gone, and I’d taken the saps for all their dough—enough to buy her a ring.

It was a good night.

As I walked toward my home, I could still smell Mary’s sweet perfume on me, and I had a half a mind to crawl into the window at her house, but thought better of it, not wanting her father to cut my balls off. He was already going to kill me since I’d knocked up his daughter. I just needed to make her an honest woman—and fast. Before he found out.

Mary knew all about what I did at night. In fact, she’d sometimes help me, distracting the other players by showing more leg and garter than they were used to seeing (without paying for it). I was happy living the life of running the tables. I spent my time in dens, not caring about anything except money and sex with Mary. I’d still care about those things, but now, at twenty-four, my priorities were finally going to change.

I stumbled my way down the sidewalk until I came upon a man blocking my path. “I’d like to walk that way if you wouldn’t mind stepping aside, fella.” I grinned.

He didn’t say anything. Instead, he smiled at me, the curve of his lips more of a sneer than my friendly one. I groaned, not really looking for a fight.

“Move, please.”

“No,” the man finally replied. From what I could tell through my double vision, he was shorter than my six-foot frame with pale skin and short dark hair. If I weren’t currently a boozehound, I’d be able to take him one-handed. Easily.

“You want my money?” I slurred. I took some of it from my pockets and waved it at him. “Here. How much will it cost for you to get out of my fucking way?”

Before I realized it, he had a hold of me by my shirt collar. He’d moved so damn fast that one moment he was there and the next an excruciating pain from my neck caused my legs to crumple. I fell to my knees as a geyser of my blood sprayed all over my suit and onto the asphalt I’d landed on.

“Why?” I groaned. It was the only word that I could manage to force from my lips as my blood continued to leak out.

I thought of Mary …

I thought about our baby …

I thought about them living a life without me …

And then I blacked out from the pain as my blood seeped into the ground.

When I came to, I wasn’t sure where I was or how long I’d been knocked out for. I wasn’t dead unless this was the afterlife, so that was something at least.

I was bound to a chair in a small, dark, windowless room. The only light came from wall sconces on either side of a metal door that cast a yellow hue over the room. From what I could tell, my neck had stopped bleeding because there were no pools of it on the ground beside me, but I felt deliriously weak. Tired. Was I even really here? Maybe in my drunken state, I’d dreamed everything. Maybe I was still dreaming.

“Have you heard of Renzo Cavalli?”

I turned my head in the direction of a man’s voice and watched as the same fella who had attacked me walked around to face me head-on. His steps were slow and calculated as though I was his prey.

“No.”

“Capone?”

“Who hasn’t?” I scoffed.

“Then you know exactly what we’re capable of.”

Capone? How was I mixed up with Capone? I struggled against the ropes on my wrist again, only to cause the fibers to burn my flesh. This situation was very, very real.

The door behind him opened, and a man with slicked back, light-brown hair and a light beard, and who wasn’t Capone, walked in carrying Mary’s lifeless body.

“Thank you, Samuel. I’ll take it from here.”

As Samuel left the room, the man took Mary’s body and held her up by the back of her neck in front of me like a prized trophy, her blood dripping onto the white shirt he had rolled up to his elbows. My body stiffened as I watched the blood drip down her body from her neck, and again I tried to break free. This time I wanted to rip this guy to shreds for hurting her and my unborn child.  

“Mr. Delano,” the man said my name with disdain. “Tell me, have you heard of vampires?”

I ignored his question, still trying to loosen the ropes. “I’m going to fucking murder you, you cocksucking weasel!”

He pulled Mary’s body back and looked at it, still holding her up by the nape. “Why, because of her?”

“You didn’t need to kill her. She was pregnant with my child! I would have given you all my money.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said dryly, “but it’s not your money I want. I’m Renzo Cavalli, and I own this fucking town.”

I’d never heard of this Renzo Cavalli fella before. Capone was the one who ran Chicago, and he wasn’t him. “Capone runs this town.”

Cavalli chuckled, still holding Mary in his grasp. “And who do you think gives him his orders?”

I blinked, confused. “What?”

Cavalli smirked. He fucking smirked. “I’m going to ask you again. Have you heard of vampires?”

I rolled my grey eyes. “I’ve seen Nosferatu, yes.”

With a flick of his arm that looked effortless, he threw Mary’s body against the wall, the sickening sound of her bones crunching as she hit with impact. My eyes widened as I realized his strength was beyond anything I knew humans were capable of. Bile started to rise in the pit of my stomach.

“You think yourself amusing? No one gets to speak to me like that and lives to talk about it. I’m Renzo Cavalli. I own you now.”

“You’ll need to kill me before you’ll ever own me!”

He smirked and then fangs descended as he opened his mouth. “Not true. I won’t kill you. I will turn you. You’ll have no choice except to work for me.”

“Tu—turn me?”

“You’ll have thousands of years to realize you’re just a pawn in my game. A soldier.” He roughly pulled my head back by my short, dark-brown hair, my scalp burning as he exposed my neck and bit into the other side. Once again, I tried to break free from the restraints at my wrists that bound me to the chair, but there was nothing I could do as he sucked.

I was light-headed as Cavalli pulled back and wiped his mouth, smearing my crimson blood on his hand. He laughed. “You see, I’m a seventy-nine-year-old vampire.”

Seventy-nine? He didn’t look a day older than my twenty-four. I struggled to swallow and to speak, still in denial. “Vampires aren’t real.”

He grabbed my head and forced me to look at Mary’s brutalized body. Then he walked over to her and picked her up using only his fingertips. “Is this proof enough?” He twisted her head off and threw her remains onto the floor at my feet.

“I’m dreaming,” I said, unsure if I was speaking to him or to myself. None of this was making sense, and the only logical conclusion I could make was that I was sleeping.

Back at my side, he laughed again. “You’ll learn very soon that you’re wrong. It’s time we end this conversation and seal your fate in my game, Draven.”

Renzo was on me again, jerking my head back and then he bit into his wrist. “Drink, boy. Complete the turning, and then I will truly own you.” He shoved his wrist to my mouth, and once the first drop of his blood touched my lips, I was unable to resist and attached myself like a leech. It was hard to describe the sheer level of hunger for the life force that dripped from his vein. Almost as though I was finally getting my first taste of food after being without any for years.

“Enough,” he said, knocking my mouth away. Then he was gone in a flash, the metal door slamming in his wake.

I was left in the windowless room while I waited to wake up from this nightmare. It felt like the devil himself had unleashed his furnace within me as my insides burned, passing out when the pain took over my body.

As the nightmare continued, I was vaguely aware of someone undoing my shackles. My limbs cracked, broke and renewed, my body becoming taut. When the pain finally abated, I felt myself falling into unconsciousness.

Again.

Once I opened my eyes again, I realized I could see clearly in the darkness even though the candles had been extinguished. I blinked a few times to get used to the clarity of my eyesight. A smell hit my nostrils, the aroma of which was far superior to any liquor I’d ever tasted. I turned to my side, my eyes widening as I realized it was the smell of iron—of blood.

My gaze flicked toward Mary’s body, and without a second thought, I tore her to shreds, searching out every last available drop. After I’d consumed every ounce from her body, I licked the traces from my fingers to make sure I got it all. Once they were clean, I stared at my bloody hands.

I was a monster.

I banged on the door over and over to no avail. I was trapped, locked in a dungeon—maybe forever.

When the door finally opened sometime later, a girl was pushed into the room, and I was on her before I knew what hair color she had, what her eye color was, or even her approximate age. I didn’t care. All that mattered was her blood. I fed on her quickly before tearing out her throat like some beast.

I was that beast.

I detected the sound of someone approaching, and I smiled to myself. I had accepted my fate, but I had also come up with a plan.

The door opened, and a woman was pushed inside. The need to feed was starting to diminish over time, but each time food entered into my cell, a lust for blood flowed through me, and I was unable to resist my hunger. I knew it was wrong to feed from a person, but I couldn’t help myself. The venom in my veins was like a stick of dynamite being lit and I had to curb my appetite.

Not this time.

This time I wanted freedom. I flew across the room and grabbed the vampire by the throat before he could close the door. The woman ran out, screaming as I struggled with the vamp, going around and around, trying to get the upper hand before I was yanked back and thrown into the wall back in the windowless room. The cement crumbled around me and the pain from the impact quickly subsided as I felt my body heal quickly from the force against my backside.

“Well, it looks like Draven survived his turning,” Renzo said, staring down at me.