Dark Kiss Page 1

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Prologue

This is going to hurt like hell.

The grim thought was confirmed by the look on the gatekeeper’s face, but Bishop didn’t want anyone’s pity. After all, he’d volunteered for this.

“Are you ready?” the gatekeeper asked.

“Yes, I’m ready.”

“And you know your mission.”

“Of course.”

Bishop glanced over his shoulder at the expanse of bright white behind him. This was as far as he could go before leaving Heaven entirely. He’d left before, many times, but this was different. He pushed aside a sliver of fear. He would return soon—this was not the end for him. It was only the beginning.

The gatekeeper studied Bishop as if looking for any sign of weakness. “You’ve been warned that there will be pain?”

“I have.”

“And disorientation?”

“Yes.”

Traveling to the human world was not normally a huge ordeal. However, there was nothing normal about this mission. An invisible barrier shielded his destination, preventing any supernatural being from entering or leaving the city through normal means. Bishop had been told this gatekeeper had the ability to help him breach the barrier—but it wasn’t going to be pleasant. The minds of the others would be protected to prevent any harm, but not his. He was the only one who would remember what needed to be done.

Bishop was positive he was more than strong enough to handle whatever was to come. All the better to prove his worth.

This was going to be very good.

“First you must find the others,” instructed the gatekeeper. “If you don’t find them within seven days, they’ll be lost forever.”

“I know this already.” He didn’t even try to keep the sharp tone from his voice. Patience had never been his strongest virtue.

The gatekeeper pursed his lips and his expression soured. “Do you have it?”

“Yes.” A golden dagger was tucked into the sheath he wore strapped between his shoulder blades. It was all he needed to take with him.

The gatekeeper nodded. “Come closer.”

Bishop did as he asked. The gatekeeper pressed his pale, long-fingered hand against Bishop’s chest. Bishop grimaced as an unpleasant burning sensation sank into him. He gritted his teeth to keep from showing discomfort at whatever protection the gatekeeper was searing into him to help in his journey.

Finally the gatekeeper stepped back. He didn’t smile. It was quite possible that he never smiled.

The oldest angels were usually the least pleasant.

“Well?” Bishop prompted. “Are we done here?”

“We are. May your journey be—”

Before the sentence could be completed, the solidity beneath Bishop dropped away. He hadn’t had a chance to brace himself.

Bishop had imagined what this might feel like—a cleansing pain that would help him focus on the all-important task that lay ahead.

Instead, it was an agony unlike anything he’d ever experienced. He struggled against it, but it was too much, and he had his very first doubt about his success.

But it was too late for doubts. Too late for fear. Too late for anything.

As he continued to fall with no way to stop his torturous descent, he felt his mind begin to rip away.

The instant he slammed through the barrier surrounding the human city, Bishop realized he’d never before heard himself scream.

What of soul was left, I wonder,
when the kissing had to stop?

—Robert Browning

Chapter 1

“This is going to be an amazing night, Sam!” Carly shouted over the music blasting all around us.

“You think so?” I yelled back.

“Best night ever!”

Sure. My throat already hurt and we’d only been here for a half hour. So far it felt like every Friday night at Crave, elbow to elbow with other sweaty kids on the dance floor.

Don’t get me wrong, as one of the only all-ages clubs here in Trinity, it was a decent place to hang out—especially with my best friend—I just didn’t think it was going to change my life or anything.

Anyone looking at us would think that Carly and I were the polar opposite of each other in looks and attitude. Carly Kessler was a curvy, flippy-haired blonde with a sunny personality whereas I was a skinny, nonsunny, long-haired brunette. And yet we were still best friends and had been forever.

After a few more minutes enveloped in the hot nightclub, Carly clutched my arm, her face flushed with excitement. “Heads up. Stephen Keyes is looking right at you.”

I glanced over my shoulder and saw him standing at the edge of the dance floor. He was looking at me. Or, at least, he seemed to be looking at me.

I turned back around, my heart pounding.

Everyone has that one crush, the guy they can’t stop thinking about even though it’s totally hopeless. Stephen Keyes was mine. He was nineteen—two years older than me—and utterly gorgeous with jet-black hair and caramel-colored eyes. We grew up in the same neighborhood, him two doors down from me. He mowed lawns in the summer. I watched from my bedroom window.

It was such a cliché, really. The weird, unpopular chick with the massive crush on the hot, older jock.

As far as I knew, Stephen was supposed to be at university in California, two thousand miles away. I’d even watched his parents help him pack up his car when he left town at the end of August. I wondered why he was back only a couple of months later.

Suddenly he wasn’t just lingering at the edge of the dance floor looking distant and delectable. He was standing right next to me. Carly watched, her eyes widening as Stephen leaned close enough for me to hear him over the loud throb of the music.

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