An exclusive excerpt from the best selling novel, Dark Prophet
by, K.N. Lee
Koa entered her cottage and was welcomed by an eerie quiet. She only had a few hours before she needed to meet Halston at the Gate, and after a night with Lindley, she wanted to check on her former pet, Ian, and hoped to see her mother as well. Jax returned to the church the night before after Koa’s abrupt departure. She wondered just how awkward things would be when she returned. It almost didn’t matter.
Halston was safe. That’s all that mattered. Now, seeing if Ian and her mother were doing all right would ease her mind further.
The drapes were still closed and everything was still.
All she heard was the ticking of the grandfather clock at the end of the corridor right off the stairwell landing. She stepped inside and her heels clicked along the stone floor.
Home. She had missed it. Still, it would never replace her father’s manor, where she had spent most of her life. Koa had lived in many different places: South Korea, America, England, and the Netherworld, but she missed France the most. Her memories there were all of good times.
Koa felt a shudder run up her spine as she thought back to her time in the Netherworld. There was no doubt that the Netherworld was the worst of all the places that she’d lived. She didn’t blame Halston for erasing her memories of that time. But now, they were all back, and she could not escape them.
Koa smelled something.
A familiar scent. Her eyes scanned the room. A terrible sense of fear and trouble filled her. Someone had been there, someone she never wanted to see again. And then. Koa remembered where she had smelled that scent before and was taken back to memories she wished she could forget.
There were hundreds of bedrooms; each with its own private bathroom. Dozens of kitchens. Nine dining halls. Seven grand ballrooms. Five libraries; one for each wing, and another massive one for the guests.
The Netherworld was Koa’s prison, the Lyrinian palace her cell, and yet, she found a way to make it bearable. As she sat on the steps watching the hordes of creatures pass her by, Evina played with her hair.
Koa sighed as the vampire princess finished the long braid she made with Koa’s black hair.
Koa pulled the braid over her shoulder and looked at it. She’d never had her hair braided before. She smiled at her friend.
“Thank you,” Koa said.
Evina shrugged. “No problem. You almost look like a Netherworlder now.” Evina traced something on Koa’s face. Her blue eyes narrowed as she examined Koa.
Koa chewed her lip, feeling odd under Evina’s gaze. She couldn’t help it. There was just something in the Netherworld vampire’s eyes that made her feel exposed and uncomfortable. Even her father’s eyes made her feel like hiding sometimes.
She thought of Jax. Her lips curled into a smile. Whenever he looked at her, she would blush, but Koa never turned away. She hid a grin from Evina. She looked forward to sneaking away with him again. It was all she had to look forward to.
Evina nodded. “Yes, I can see it now.” She kept tracing shapes onto Koa’s face. “You just need a few tattoos, right across your cheekbones.”
Koa made a face. “Never.”
Evina tilted her head. “Come on. Give it a shot. It will look amazing.”
Koa shook her head as she looked at all of the tattoos that Evina had on her neck and at the corners of her eyes. They may have looked intriguing and beautiful on the vampire princess but Koa was certain that she’d look like a clown with tattoos on her face.
She turned up her nose. “Like I said… never.”
Evina pushed her shoulder and shrugged. “Suit yourself, but the people will never accept you unless you start to act and look like us.”
“That’s fine with me.”
Evina grinned. “Oh come on. We should start making sketches. I know just the artist.”
Koa sighed and watched Evina pull a silver pen out of her purse and clicked it twice. The sound of tiny bells ringing made a few of her lady’s maids and escorts glance over from their stations with vague interest, but once they saw what Evina was doing, they returned to looking ahead with expressionless faces.
Light collected around the tip of the pen and stretched outwards until hundreds of little blue dots seeped into the air. The dots combined and slowly transformed into identifiable shapes.
Evina frowned at the pen, shook it so vigorously that her black curls bounced around her face, and clicked it again. “This dammed thing needs to be looked at. It’s awfully slow,” she complained under her breath. “Jax’s pen never does this.”
Koa’s mouth parted in wonder as the image of a pale male face floated across the air. His brows were too big and bushy for his skinny face, but they furrowed as he looked back at her.
It was as if the ghostly artist could actually see her. She twisted her mouth.
No. It’s not possible, she thought. Apparently anything was possible in the Netherworld. Koa’s cheeks paled as the artist drew strange characters onto a piece of parchment. Her face started to appear on that very parchment, with an intricate tattoo around her left eye.
Such an anomaly intrigued Koa. The image was outlined in silver and clung to the air like a ghost. It couldn’t be real, and yet he seemed to see her, or knew her face well enough to draw it.
Koa rubbed her face. She didn’t want to admit that the tattoo actually looked interesting. Instead, she frowned at Evina. “I’m never getting a stupid tattoo on my face.” She gasped as the image floated through the air and hovered before her face.
The artist seemed to sneer at her but disappeared the moment Evina clicked her pen and tucked in back into her silver side purse. With the interesting images gone, Koa went back to looking out into the crowds of the citadel, just as she had been doing all day.
“Come on, Koa. You can only reject your role as Netherworld royalty for so long. You’ll have to get on eventually.” Evina didn’t seem to notice that Koa was intentionally ignoring her. “Perhaps something red. As I recall, it looked quite nice on you—your wedding dress.”
Koa cringed; she wanted to forget her wedding day.
Evina spread her arms out towards the passing creatures. “Right now you look human.” She gave Koa a sidelong glance. “And that’s the last thing you want to look like in the midst of creatures that would love to take a bite out of you.”
Koa gulped and looked down the narrow staircase at the crowded citadel. She was thankful that the tall gates at the bottom of the staircase separated her from the vampires, War-Breeders, Syths and Scayors. She’d been in the Netherworld for four years, and the citizens still frightened her.
“Come on,” Evina coaxed. “Just one tattoo. Father will be pleased. Your sixteenth birthday approaches and...”
Koa felt a chill. She shot Evina a look that made Evina purse her lips and look away. Koa couldn’t hide the hurt in her eyes. “Don’t say it.”
Evina covered Koa’s hand with her own. She spoke softly. “Forgive me. I nearly forgot.”
Koa stared at her, trying not to let the tears fall from her eyes. Evina lowered her head. Her voice came out cracked.
“I truly am sorry, Koa. I look at you like the little sister I never had. Sometimes I pretend that you are just that, and not my father’s third wife.”
As if on cue, Lera, second wife to King Greggan stepped between them. The skirt of her red gown brushed across Koa’s face. Koa pursed her lips and glared up at the vampire queen.
“Watch where you’re going,” Koa warned.
Lera grinned, showing off her fangs. She knelt down to Koa’s face. Grabbing her by her chin.
Koa tensed. She wanted to push that woman down the stairs. The smell of rosemary was strong. Lera seemed to bathe in it each day, for it followed her and lingered even when she left a room.
“Or what, little bug?” Her voice came out like a purr. Her violet eyes were full of hate despite her smug grin.
Koa didn’t know what to say. What could she do?
Lera laughed lightly then. Koa was afraid of her. She’d seen Lera do things that she couldn’t explain. Netherworld vampires have odd powers.
Evina, Jax, Greggan, Lera, and Lysett all had a certain skill for which they were known in the kingdom, and Koa still wasn’t used to living amongst a bunch of beings that would be considered superheroes—or super villains—back in the human world.
Lera’s violet eyes bore into Koa’s. Koa pulled her head back and held her breath, afraid of what the vampire might do. She’d seen Lera chain a servant to the floor once, and had her guests strike the poor young vampire girl with fire whips.
“You walk around here like you’re better than us.” Lera sneered at her. “But you are not. You are a bug beneath my boot, and I will squish the life out of you if you get in my way. I am King Greggan’s favorite, and I will remain that way. Do you understand?”
Koa couldn’t help herself. Even though she was afraid, she sucked her teeth and made a face at Lera. “You think I want him?”
Lera tightened her grip on Koa’s chin and Koa snatched her face away, flailing the back of her hand at Lera’s face, except Lera caught the blow with one hand and Koa’s throat in the other. She squeezed. The squad of Syths stepped forward.
Evina was on her feet, with one hand on Lera’s shoulder.
Lera hissed in Koa’s face. Koa struggled to breathe.
The Syths bowed. “With respect, Queen Lera. We have orders to not let anyone harm the Queen Koa, not even you. Forgive us.”
Lera ignored them, but somehow Evina’s hand on her shoulder made her pause.
“You’d better listen and take your hands off of her,” Evina ordered. Koa was so surprised by the authority in the princess’ voice, even she shot a look at her, despite being unable to breathe.
Lera looked from Evina’s tattooed hand back to Koa’s face. “Remember my words, little bug. Either way, he will kill you.” Her voice lowered to an almost inaudible whisper. “But if, for some reason, he doesn’t, I will.”
Lera released Koa, shrugged Evina’s hand off her shoulder, and pulled a black disc from her belt. She opened her disc. Like a fan, the electronic device opened and hovered before her. She hopped onto it and with one last glare, flew away.
The smell of rosemary wafted into Koa’s nostrils and as she was brought back to the present, she knew: Lera was not dead.
She had been there. In her home.
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