Home > Midnight Unleashed (Midnight Breed #14.7)

Midnight Unleashed (Midnight Breed #14.7)
Author: 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

with bravery.

 

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: شهريار, “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

women.

 

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

cannot explain.

 

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

you now.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Tamisia stood over the crib and stared down at the plump little form beneath the pink blanket. So precious and innocent. So tenderly mortal. Sia had never given human life more than a passing thought in all her centuries of existence. Now, nothing meant more to her than the protection of this mortal soul and the others under her care at the women’s shelter in Rome.

Reaching out, she gently touched her fingertip to the crown of gossamer curls that sprouted from the infant's head. Sia smiled. Angelina was the baby’s name, little angel, and it fit. That silken hair, the chubby pink cheeks, and sweet cherub’s mouth. Being around this kind of fragile innocence every day for the past month had been a gift, a reminder that even among the bleakest of situations, there was still hope. There was purpose, a reason to get up each morning and greet the sun, things Sia hadn’t expected to find again, least of all among mankind.

Some days, if just for a moment or two, she could almost forget the circumstances that had brought her here in the first place.

Almost.

It had been just six weeks since her staggering fall from grace and resulting banishment from the Atlantean colony that had long been her home. Not even a blink of time for one of her kind. The pain was still fresh. So was her shame.

Having real, important work to do helped.

Feeling useful was the only thing keeping her sane when everything else she was had been stripped away from her—through no one’s fault but her own.

The image of Elyon’s too-handsome face came floating into her mind, bringing with it a second, gruesome image that made her throat constrict with nausea. For as long as she lived, she would never be able to purge the memory of her friend and fellow Atlantean council member Nethilos’s murder. Nor would she ever forgive herself for the price of her ignorance when it came to placing her trust in the wrong man.

Before the swell of grief and regret became too much, she shoved away thoughts of the colony and friends she would never see again. Sia wasn’t accustomed to feeling emotional weakness, let alone giving in to it. And dammit, she wasn’t about to start now.

Her new life was here, in this crowded, often brutal city in this foreign, mortal world.

It was a penance to be sure, but seeing children like sweet Angelina resting safely, peacefully under her care smoothed some of the edge of her melancholy. Her work here mattered. And it was enough, Sia told herself.

With little hope of ever being welcomed back to the colony and her own people, this new life would have to be enough.

Removing her hand from the baby’s crib, Sia glanced across the darkened room to where the baby’s twenty-year-old mother, Rosa, slept on the narrow bed. The pair had come to the shelter two days ago, alone and scared. Fortunately for Rosa, she bore none of the bruises or broken bones that were all too common among the shelter’s other desperate arrivals, but there was no mistaking the terror in the young woman’s eyes when she came to beg safe harbor for her and her baby. She was a shy thing, barely giving eye contact to anyone since she arrived, never mind divulging the sordid details of her life or the abuser who’d sent her running to the sanctuary.

Then again, trust, once broken, was not an easy thing to give.

Sia understood that all too well herself.

She blew out a sigh and backed silently out of the room, closing the door behind her. With the rest of the shelter’s charges asleep or settling in for the night, Sia picked up a basket of towels and blankets that needed washing and carried it downstairs, the rope of her long blonde braid bouncing against the backs of her thighs with each step.

As she walked into the kitchen on her way to the laundry room, her sole coworker and the founder of the private sanctuary glanced up from a stack of papers on the table.

“You don’t need to do that, Tamisia.” Phaedra’s chestnut brows knit over pale gold eyes. “Please, let me take that for you.”

When the beautiful brunette rose from her chair to help, Sia shook her head. “It’s all right. I enjoy the work. Continue with what you’re doing.”

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