Stroke of Midnight - Lara Adrian
One Thousand and One Dark Nights
Once upon a time, in the future…
I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.
I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and
the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast
library at my father’s home and collected thousands
of volumes of fantastic tales.
I learned all about ancient races and bygone
times. About myths and legends and dreams of all
people through the millennium. And the more I read
the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered
that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually
become part of them.
I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher
and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I
would not be telling you this tale now.
But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off
One afternoon, curious about the myth of the
Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to
see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar
(Persian: شهریار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then
sent yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. It was written
and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,
the vizier’s daughter, he’d killed one thousand
Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived
in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged
places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had
never occurred before and that still to this day, I
Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have
taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can
protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to
protect herself and stay alive.
Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.
And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a
point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.
And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that
he might hear the rest of my dark tale.
As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new
one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before
Screams shot up from one of the many narrow, cobbled alleyways in the heart of Rome’s quaint old Trastevere ward. The shrieks of mortal terror pierced the night as effectively as a blade.
Or, rather, a pair of razor-sharp fangs.
Like the ones on the gang of lethal predators who’d shredded the throat of a human civilian in a dance club across the city only minutes ago.
Shit. Jehan swung an urgent look over his shoulder to the two other Breed warriors currently on foot behind him. “They’re getting away.”
He and his teammates from the Order’s Rome command center had been in pursuit of the four blood-thirsty Rogues since their patrol had been alerted to the killing at the club. They had contained the situation before any of the other humans had realized what was going on, but their mission wouldn’t be over until they ashed the feral members of their own race.
“Split up,” he told his men. “Damn it, we can’t lose them! Close in from all sides.”
His comrade and good friend, Savage, grinned and gave a nod of his blond head before veering right to take one of the other winding alleys on Jehan’s command. The other warrior, a hulking, shaved-head menace called Trygg, made no acknowledgment to his team leader before vanishing into the darkness like a wraith to carry out the order.
Jehan sped like an arrow through the tight artery of the ancient street ahead of him, dodging slow-moving compact cars and taxis who were getting nowhere fast in the district that was clogged with tourists and club-hoppers even as the hour crept close to midnight.
The public out and about tonight was a mix of human and Breed civilians, something that would have been unheard of just twenty years ago, before the Breed’s existence had been revealed to mankind.
Now, in cities around the world, the two populations lived together openly. They worked together. Governed together. But their hard-won peace was fragile. All it might take was one horrific killing—like the one earlier tonight—to set off a global panic.
While every Breed warrior of the Order had pledged his blood and breath to prevent that from happening, others among mankind and the Breed were secretly—and not-so-secretly—instigating war.
Tonight’s Rogue attack had the stamp of conspiracy all over it. And it wasn’t the first. During the past few nights there had been a handful of others, in Rome and elsewhere in Europe. While it wasn’t unusual for one of Jehan’s kind to become irreversibly addicted to blood, the spate of recent slayings in all-too-public places by Rogues torqued up on some kind