Chapter One

Adrisa knelt beside her brethren, willing him to open his eyes. It couldn't be that bad, the wound. A pierced chest, frowound. a m what she saw. But maybe she hadn't looked hard enough.

She tore his shirt, ripping the material. Then she sighed and leaned back. Who would have known? Only a few. But she couldn't think on that for now, for she heard a faint stirring. It was like the sound of an ocean, only louder, darker.

Adrisa looked up in time to see the first hint of light. She tore her companion's necklace from around his neck and stood. She didn't look back until she was in the shadows, far away from where light could get her. If he was indeed trying to fool her, this was the time to get up and stop the foolish game. But he wasn't, and soon he was covered in light. Adrisa turned abruptly and began walking away. She had the necklace and his last words…all she needed now was somewhere to start.

She didn't wake to the usual noises. All of her clan had died the night before…all but her. She was now the leader of a one-vampire clan. The Moon Stalkers.

She scoffed as she rose from her bed. "Should be Moon Stalker."

Adrisa had slept through the better part of the day. Actually, through the whole day. It was now night, the time when her kind rose. Her kind, yes, but not her kin. All who rose now were suspects. Of course, she had an idea. She wouldn't act without one.

Adrisa dressed in tight black jeans and a black leather tank top, and then shrugged her cloak on. The bloodied outfit of the night before had been left out to burn in the sunlight.

She attached the sheath of her curved blade to a belt buckle and went out of her room. The dark cavern was brightly lit to her. Weapons lay about, but nothing else showed anything of anyone else ever having been here. But she knew, she remembered.

Contour, Moon Stalkers' leader, had lounged on that counter, his black boots propped up. Even when the call had went up, he hadn't worried. They had split up during the attack, leading sections to different places.

"And that's what killed him." Adrisa hissed, walking past the counter and striding up the stairs. Their—her home was underground, within a vast maze of tunnels. Only members of the Moon Stalkers knew which way would lead them where.

It was dark outside. About nine-thirty. Adrisa made her way down the sidewalk, ignoring the humans she passed. She wasn't hungry, doubted she would be for a few days. However…she might find a nice one for later.

"Adrisa." The deformed man at the door said in a throaty voice.

"Let me in." she ordered. He opened the door and nodded as she passed. Did he know? If he knew, then everyone did. But when she walked into the main room, no one noticed her. Which was exactly how she wanted it.

But one did. Oh, yes. She caught his attention. Not many members of the Moon Stalkers dared enter Venomous Shadow land. Or, for that matter, a club owned by its very leader.

"Yes?" the bartender greeted, not paying attention. Adrisa leaned forward, only too aware of the vampire watching her.

"I wish to talk to Fringe."

"He isn't here." The bartender replied. "And neither should you be."

Adrisa tightened her jaw. "I suggest you tell him that Adrisa of Moon Stalkers wishes to speak with him."

"I told you: he isn't here." The man's eyes flicked over her shoulder. She drew her blade, turning quickly and pressing it against the man's neck. His dagger was cutting into her skin and his fangs were down. Adrisa grew hers and hissed.

"I come in and this is how I'm treated?" she said boldly, not paying attention to the venom dripping from his razor sharp teeth.

"You came in, Adrisa." He whispered. "Did you expect different treatment?"

"I only wish to talk to Fringe."

"He isn't here." The dagger was pulled back. "But I can show you where to wait."

He nodded for her to put her blade away. She sheathed it and followed him up a flight of curving stairs. The door to her right was open and she turned in.

"Drink?" he asked, holding a bottle of blood out to her. She eyed it suspiciously and shook her head. "Why didyou come here?"

She crossed her arms over her chest and retracted her teeth. "I need to talk to Fringe."

"I know that, but why?"

She glared at him. "Don't be interfering in my business, Gavin."

"He is my leader. I need to know why, or you will not see him at all."

Adrisa stepped forward and knocked the glass out of his hand. It shattered into tiny fragments upon hitting the floor. She glared at him once more before turning and walking out.

Two steps down the stairs, Gavin caught her arm and jerked her around to look at him.

"Don't come onto our land without a reason, Adrisa. I know you had full reign of thousands last night, but you don't now. You come here again, and you'll die."

She scoffed, pushed him away, and trotted down the stairs. The news of the visitor had spread and people turned to look at her when she descended. She walked to the door with her head high, ignoring their cat calls.

It opened when she got there and she quickly stepped to one side. A tall man walked in. His hair was gray with white tips. Adrisa's stomach clenched. This was him. This was Fringe.

People on either side of her went to one knee. Gavin, who was descending the stairs, bowed his head. Adrisa was the only one left standing, except for Fringe. He glanced at her with an amused look on his face before his eyes scanned the room. People stood and resumed dancing, talking.

"I had thought that all the Moon Stalkers were eliminated last night." He said in a crisp voice, staring straight at her. Any other time, she would have bowed slightly to him. But she was the leader now, and she didn't have to.

"I'll send for you when I'm ready to speak."

Adrisa glared at his back as he made his way upstairs, to his quarters. She hissed softly and looked around.

"You might as well enjoy yourself." Someone said to her left. When she turned, however, they were no longer there. Adrisa pushed through the bodies, ever so alert, and leaned once again against the bar.

"Here to stay, are you?" the bartender said.

"Looks that way. For now." She replied, taking the glass her offered her. She didn't drink it right away. Instead, she sat it on the top of the bar and scanned the room. Along the wall opposite Adrisa were oaken double doors. They were trimmed in dark wood and showed the Venomous Shadow's symbol. Two plump sofas leaned against the wall on either side of the doors, where about five people lounged. Left of that was an open archway. Adrisa knew somehow that down that hallway was where all of the rooms were. They were rooms for people who got caught here from five in the morning to about nine, just to be safe. Next to that doorway were two pool tables. A deep red top with dark wood, most likely mahogany, made these tables looked majestic. This came to the bar, which was situated in a corner. Beside the bar was the stairs, then an emergency exit. The wall on which the entrance was showed off many of Fringe's weapons and tools. The middle was where people danced, even though more sofas were there. The music, Adrisa knew, was controlled from an upper-story room.

But she didn't know how she knew that.

"Fringe is ready to speak with you." Gavin said, standing before her. She put down her second drink and wiped her mouth. It was daylight and the club had slowly tuned down. Only the bartender and another remained.

Adrisa was only too aware of Fringe's style. He'd shut them within his club during daytime. She was trapped.

"Where is he?" she asked. Gavin grinned mysteriously and began walking away. Adrisa followed with a growl, her canine teeth growing halfway.

Gavin led her through a back room, then through a beaded doorway. Adrisa tasted the air. Gavin's scent was all over the room. A bed lay against a far wall, surrounding by black beads. A joined room led to the library. Clothes were flung all over the room. Adrisa felt her throat constrict, and she forced herself to begin breathing regularly again. Gavin spared her a glance, but otherwise didn't show signs of having felt her beat quicken, or her scent shift.

"A little further." He said. Adrisa hissed.

"I know where his bloody meeting room is."

Gavin turned toward her, laughter lighting his eyes. "It isn't bloody anymore, Adrisa."

She ignored his sarcasm and pushed past him, only to have her wrist grabbed. His fingers tightened with an unnatural strength. She heard her bones crack.

"I wouldn't be in such a hurry, if I were you."

"You're not." She replied simply, pulling free of his grasp. She flexed her arm, tightening her fingers into a fist, and felt the bones growing back. He continued onward until they came to a dark red door, upon which the symbol of Venomous Shadow was inscribed. Gavin knocked in a rhythm that she couldn't follow, then opened the door. Fringe looked up from his desk and motioned them in.

"Adrisa," he said, gazing into her eyes. "It's been so very long, you know."

She shivered at his tone, and his look. His eyes washed up and down her body and he sighed.

"So very long." He repeated. He turned to Gavin. "Please, go have fun elsewhere, Gavin. Adrisa and I have some…catching up to do."

Gavin bowed and left, the door shutting sharply behind him.

"What is it you seek?" Fringe asked once he was sure Gavin's hearing would not pick up anything.

"I wanted an audience with you. We need to talk."

"Of course. But not today."

"What?" she asked incredulously.

"I have to prepare some things by tomorrow evening, and since I have been gone for the past ten days, I need to catch up on the preparation. I'm meeting with the leader of Timber, the only all-female clan. You've heard of them, yes?" Adrisa nodded. "Well, it seems they wish to partner, become an ally. It would benefit you if you'd join them, since we all learned a long time ago that it was not your wish to join us."

Adrisa heard the dismissal in his tone and she bowed her head, then left. Shutting the door softly behind her, she leaned against it and touched her neck, where she'd been bitten. The skin was leathery.

It was always that way when one was bit by a Venomous Shadow member.

She walked slowly down the corridor, the lighting casting eerie shadows along the walls. Gavin met her at the door to his room, pulling the beads open, then shutting the door and letting the beads fall into place after she'd gone through.

"That didn't last long." He said. She glanced at him and shrugged.

"He had things to do."

"Well, knowing him, you might be here for a week."

Adrisa smiled deviously. "You can't keep me in past my bedtime."

Gavin blew out his breath, a wry type of chuckle he'd always had a habit of doing. Adrisa watched as he walked into another room, the closet, and reappeared with a pair of pajama pants and a black shirt. He handed them to her, then sat on his bed and pulled off his shoes.

"Like I said," he stated, looking at her. "You'll be here for awhile. You might as well get some sleep."

She laid the clothes next to him, shaking her head slightly. "I'll do fine in these."

Gavin watched as she walked to his couch and laid down, folding her arms beneath her head and staring at the ceiling. He walked over to her side without her knowing it, using the stealth he'd known since forever. He slowly pulled off her high-heeled boots, setting them on the floor next to the couch.

"What are you doing?"

"What does it look like?" he replied. She shrugged.

"I don't know. You make it so I can't see."

Gavin laughed and stepped away, laying the second boot by the first. "You take the bed; I've got the couch."

She glared. "Do not try to make me feel welcome, when clearly I am not."

"Lie to yourself, then. You've always been welcomed here. You know it, too. That's why you went away. But you—"

"Gavin," she interrupted. "I made my choice, and I'm about to make another. Don't make it hard on either of us."

His movement was swift, so swift she could not see him as he came and pulled her up by her arms, holding her tightly against his chest. His left hand clutched a handful of her hair, the right held her waist against him. Adrisa sighed and relaxed.


"Shut up." he ordered in a soft voice. She sensed, more than saw, his eyes closing. "Tell me what I have to do."

"Nothing. I won't change my mind."

"Damn you." He growled, and she heard his fangs grow. The sound was sharp, like two knives being struck together, their blades singing with the impact. Gavin tilted her chin up so he was looking into her eyes, his silver ones mirroring her black ones. Her teeth grew and she hissed softly as he bent and kissed her, piercing her lip. His tongue ran over her top row of teeth, pressing up against the sharpest pair.

She pulled away abruptly. Her stomach was in knots. Adrisa's hand flew to her neck automatically, as she caught him looking at it.

"I'm here on business."

"Don't lie to me and expect to get away with it." he whispered. Adrisa laughed harshly.

"Go to sleep, Gavin." She said, not answering his unsaid question. He walked away slowly, his predatory gait sending chills down her back.

She woke in the middle of the day to find him looking at her.

"What do you mean, he's busy?" she hissed as Gavin walked in on the second day.

"Exactly that." Gavin shrugged. "He's been gone for ten days."

She sat sullenly, crossing her arms. She wouldn't wait forever. But the food was so good…

"Adrisa." Gavin said. His tone suggested he had said it once before.


"Why do you need to talk to him?"

She gazed at him for a length of time, sighing. Her eyes slipped to the floor and she shifted her legs.

"I'm the last of my kind. I can't feel any others, can't sense them in the night. And that is one of my main abilities, having been bitten by one of them and one of—" she stopped herself before she could finish. "I haven't sensed anyone and no one has contacted me. I can't survive on my own; no one vampire can. The solitude itself could drive any vampire insane."

She looked away from his burning gaze. "We both know what the horrific outcome would be if I bit, to add to Moon Stalkers. So I need to enter a new clan."

Adrisa met his gaze head on, daring him to oppose her. He didn't. He stood and walked over to the couch, sitting next to her.

"So you're requesting sisterhood to Venomous Shadow?" Gavin asked. Adrisa nodded.

"It's my only chance of survival, this or Timber—and I don't particularly want to be around one hundred pissed off vampires, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, one is bad enough. I can just imagine a hundred."

Adrisa ignored his comment. "Plus, since I have the venom…no other clan will take me in."

"You do know that you'd have to go before the Three, don't you? They judge harshly."

"I'd only have to go through one, since I'm already qualified in two ways." She shrugged and took a drink of her soda, the taste lost to her.

She felt Gavin's hand on her knee. "Why did you join Moon Stalkers in the first place?"

"I hated this place, having been cooped up in it for my first year. Contour was just like me—a runaway venom vampire. He took me in, showed me skills."

Adrisa faced Gavin. "Why did you stay?"

He sighed, a sad laugh echoing through the mellow sound. "I have claim to the title. Why would I leave?"

She shrugged and finished her pop, setting the empty can on the table. "I need to sleep. It's already twelve."

Gavin rose, giving her knee a quick squeeze. "Don't forget, my bed's open to you."

She watched him walk to his bed and disappear behind the beads. Adrisa lay down on the couch, staring at the ceiling. She didn't fall asleep within the first hour, and his bed was warm—she could feel the heat from where she was.

She stood and walked to his bed silently. The only thing that gave her away was the whistling of the beads as she pulled them back. Gavin's eyes opened automatically, his hand going for the dagger underneath his pillow.

"Shh." She whispered, pulling the covers over her body. Gavin relaxed and moved closer.

"I knew you couldn't hold back."

"Chht, yeah." She replied sarcastically. Adrisa felt his hand moving up her side. "Gavin—"

"Shut up, Adrisa." He ordered. She complied as his hand came to rest on her neck, encircling it. "It's been so long since you were here."

She exhaled as she felt his breath on her neck, then his hand sliding up her shirt.

"There was a reason for that, Gavin." She whispered. He chuckled and kissed her, biting once again into her lip. She gasped, running her tongue over the blood. She could feel the harmless venom entering her mouth as he continued kissing her, deepening each one more than the last.

Adrisa woke up with a gasp, her heart pounding. One look at the bed said he was still there. She got up and left the room quickly, entering the club. People nearest looked up at her, surprised to see her there.

She grabbed her cloak and pulled it on, anger encompassing her. She pushed past the mass of bodies until she reached the door. No one protested her exit.

She threw what glass she found at the walls of her home. But that didn't satisfy her need for bringing harm to something. So she went out and looked for prey.

"We have Sir Roald's party tomorrow evening." Father said at the end of the table. He always read the post, and went over the agenda for the next day after dinner.

"The girls and I shall have to go into town for the ribbon, William."

"I told you: I will have Gregory go for it tonight."

"Adrian." Mother said.

"Yes?" Adrian replied.

"You shall have to help the youngest dress before you do, since you are older. Okay? You get up early, help the girls, then get yourself ready. No frolicking outside or doing yourself up first. Understand?"

"Of course, Mama." Adrian replied, smiling. Then, adding in a lower tone, "And I don't frolic."

"Girls, you're dismissed." Father said. The two youngest ran off. Emma, who was twelve, and Regina, who was fifteen. Adrian was sixteen. She was the last of the children to leave the table, taking her time—like a proper lady should.

She stopped when she was out of her chair, resting her hands on her father's shoulder.


"Yes, sweetie?" he replied, looking up.

"When will Thom be back?"

William rubbed his cheek. "Soon, darling. Your brother's ship just landed at port. Only a few days yet."

"Goodnight, Mama. Goodnight, Da."

The two adults said goodnight to their daughter and watched her walk away.

"I'm off to dress for bed, dear." Olivia said to her husband.

"I'll be there soon. I have to tell Gregory to fetch the ribbons. What colors, again?"

"Plum, for Regina. A very light pink-peach for Emma." She sighed.

"And Adrian?"

"She has yet to decide which dress she should wear."

"That girl—!"

"It's between a red one or a silver one."



"Red." He said again, more forcefully. He stood and went to find Gregory.

"Dear." Said Olivia.

"Mama, Emma's hair!"

Olivia sighed and turned into her daughter's dressing room.

"Here, girl."

Emma sat between her mother's legs. Soon the brush was yanked through her tangled hair.

"What dress shall I wear?" Adrian asked, tying the ribbon at the back of Regina's waist.

"Not that horrid green one you were considering."

"It is not horrid! I look quite good in it."

"Believe what you will." Regina replied.

"Girls!" chastised Olivia. "Adrian, your father said to wear your red dress. The ribbon is lying on your wardrobe."

The two oldest girls stared at their mother. Finally, Regina gasped out, "The red dress?!"

"Adrian, just go get it on. Regina, finish Emma's hair."

"Finish her—? But, Mama!"

"Do it now!" Olivia hissed, leading Adrian to her connected room.

"I can't possibly wear the red one, Mother!"

"I know, dear. But your father chose it."

"To Roald's party?! Does father think to flaunt me about?"

"He is not flaunting you. He despises Roald and wouldn't even think of the pair."

Adrian held onto the bedpost as Rosemary pulled the corset's strings. When a great amount of cleavage was shown, Rosemary stopped.

"Curl her hair, Rosemary. Wait—do you think that will look good?"

"Of course. Her dark hair slightly curled with the dark dress…yes, ma'am."

Adrian slid the dress over her head. Olivia smoothed it down and began tying the back. It was a dark red color and stuck to all of her womanly curves. It had a low, squared neck. The sleeves dropped over her shoulders and rested on her upper arms.

"Get the ruby necklace, Rosemary."

Olivia took over the hair while Rosemary retrieved the necklace and clasped it about her neck.

"I look like a prostitute, mother."

"You do not. If I were to smear the blush about, then you would. But only a little blush goes far on you, dear…for you do blush enough."

"Are you ready yet, dear?" William called.

"Rosemary, delay the Master, please."

"Yes, miss."

"What has he told you about calling him that? He's your father, for goodness sake!"

"Master." Adrian argued.


William bowed to all four females.

"Adrian." He breathed. "You look stunning."

Adrian left her mother's side as soon as she could without seeming rude. Her father made her a bit jumpy.

She wandered out, onto the terrace. Many people were there already and it was just beginning to darken. Of course, it was darker here because of the many trees surrounding the Border mansion.

"…Oh yes. A rich man, for sure, that Roald Border. Any girl would be quite the lucky one to have him."

"Of course. But he's dreadfully old. She'd be a widow within the first ten years!"

"Rose! That's an awful thing to say. Roald is catching up with his years but he is in perfect shape."

Adrian looked over to see Rose cooling her face with a fan.

"But if your ten year predicament is true…who knows how many sons he'd make you have?"

"Who knows? But I'd rather di—"

"Good evening, ladies."

"Oh, good evening, Roald."

"Yes. Grand party you have."

Adrian rolled her eyes at them and left. It was girls like those two that made her want to physically harm them.

She snapped her fan open and waved it at her face furiously as she walked down the steps to the garden. Many guests were roaming the gardens, chatting. Most were with their partner or spouse. Almost all the men had cigars.

Adrian roamed the gardens for over an hour. When she reached the end she could hear the music coming from inside, through the open patio doors. Most couples had gone in to dance and those that hadn't went in now, because of the dancing or the darkness—Adrian did not know.

"What are you doing out here, alone?"

Adrian gasped and turned out. A young man—about her age, maybe older—stood there, grinning.

"I—I was just about to go in."

"Then allow me to escort you."

"Not if it troubles you—"

"No trouble at all. I was about to go in, myself."

He held his arm out for he, smiling slightly. "Please. I assure you I don't bite."

She chuckled nervously and put her hand in the crook of his arm.

"May I ask your name?" He said quietly.


"Ah. Beautiful name. Not so classic, eh?"


He led her up the stone steps in silence. At the doors, he turned to her.

"Thank you for accompanying me up here."

"Would you like to dance?"

"D-dance?" Adrian asked, with a laugh. "Oh. Not me. I'm afraid I do not excel in that area of womanly expertise."

"Nothing will be expected." He soothed. "I'm not good, either."

Adrian found herself compelled to accept. His dark, handsome features…and that warm smile.

"Of course. But just one."

"Just one. Unless you change your mind."

He led her to the mass of turning bodies and took her right hand, then placed his left hand on her waist. Pulling her closer, he led them in a twirling, fast paced dance. Adrian, at one point, lifted her dress slightly—so it would not cause her to trip—and placed her full one on the one that held her hip.

"What do you want?" a guy asked, looking at her. Adrisa's eyes went from his face to the face of the female he had pinned against the wall.

"Let her go and I'll show you." Adrisa replied seductively. He slapped the woman and pushed her from him.

"Take her spot, love. I'll have just as much fun with you as with her."

"Oh…that's not quite what I had in mind."


"Not at all." she hissed, a strange lisp to her voice. The man started back as he saw her teeth. Adrisa reached out, grabbed his collar, and slammed him up against the wall.

She made sure he was dead before sinking her teeth into his neck. At least she was that merciful.