Kiss of the Night (Page 1)

Kiss of the Night (Dark-Hunter #5)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

Prologue

"Thrylos Atlantis"

Fabled. Mystical. Golden. Mysterious. Glorious and magical.

There are those who claim that it never was.

But then there are also those who think they are safe in this modern world of technology and weapons. Safe from all the ancient evils. They even believe that wizards, warriors, and dragons are long dead.

They are fools clinging to their science and logic while thinking it will save them. They can never be free or safe, not so long as they refuse to see what is right before their very eyes.

Because all ancient myths and legends are rooted in truth, and sometimes truth doesn’t make us free. Sometimes it enslaves us more.

But come, fair ones, and listen to me tell a tale about the history of the most perfect paradise that ever existed. Beyond the mythical Pillars of Heracles, out in the great Aegean, was a once proud land that nourished a race of people far more advanced than any who came before or since.

Founded in the ancient mists of time by the primordial god Archon, Atlantis took her name from Archon’s eldest sister, Atlantia, whose name meant "graceful beauty." Archon conjured the isle with the help of his uncle, the ocean god Ydor, and his sister Eda (earth) to give the land to his wife Apollymi so that they could populate the continent with their divine children, who would have all the room they needed to romp and grow.

Apollymi wept with such joy at her gift that her tears flooded the land and made Atlantis a city within a city. Twin islands ringed by five channels of water.

Here she would birth her immortal children.

But it was soon discovered that the great Destroyer, Apollymi, was barren. At the request of Archon, Ydor spoke to Eda and together they created a race of Atlanteans to populate the islands and to bring joy again to Apollymi’s heart.

It worked.

Golden and fair in honor of the god-queen, the Atlanteans were far superior to any other race of man. They alone gave Apollymi pleasure and made the great Destroyer smile.

Peace-loving and just, like their ancient gods, the Atlantean people knew no war. No poverty. They used their psychic minds and their magicks to live harmoniously within the balance of nature. They welcomed all foreigners who came to their shores and shared with them their gifts of healing and prosperity.

But as time passed and other pantheons and peoples arose to challenge them, the Atlanteans were forced to fight for their homeland.

To protect their people, the Atlantean gods came into constant conflict with the upstart Greek pantheon. To them, the Greeks were children fighting for possession of things they could never understand. The Atlanteans tried to deal with them as any parent would an angry toddler. Fairly. Patiently.

But the Greeks wouldn’t listen to their ancient wisdom. Zeus and Poseidon, among others, were jealous of the Atlantean riches and serenity.

Yet it was Apollo who coveted their island the most.

A ruthless, cunning god, Apollo set into motion a means to take over Atlantis from the older gods. Unlike his father and uncle, he knew the Greeks could never defeat the Atlanteans in open warfare. It was only from within that one could conquer the ancient advanced civilization.

So when Zeus banned Apollo’s warring race, the Apollites, from their native Greece, Apollo gathered his children together and led them across the sea to the shores of Atlantis.

The Atlanteans sympathized with the psychic, godlike Apollite race that had been persecuted by the Greeks. They looked to the Apollites as cousins and welcomed them so long as they abided by Atlantean law and caused no strife.

Publicly the Apollites did as they were told. They made sacrifices to the Atlantean gods while never breaking their covenant with their father, Apollo. Every year they picked the most beautiful virgin among them and sent her to Delphi as an offering to Apollo for his kindness in giving them a new home where they would one day reign as gods.

In the year 10,500 B.C. the beautiful aristocrat Clieto was sent to Delphi. Apollo fell instantly in love and sired five sets of twins on her.

It was through his lover and her children that he foresaw his destiny. At long last, they would lead him to the throne of Atlantis.

He sent his mistress and children back to Atlantis where they married into the Atlantean royal family. As Apollo’s older children had intermarried with the native Atlanteans and blended the two races together, making his children even stronger, so would they. Only he would keep the royal bloodline pure to ensure the strength and loyalty of the Atlantean crown to him.

He had plans for Atlantis and his children. Through them, Apollo would rule the entire earth and cast down his father as his father had cast down the old god Cronus before him.

It was said that Apollo himself would visit the queen of every generation and father the male Atlantean heir on her.

As every eldest son was born, Apollo would then go to his oracles to find out if this son would be the one to overthrow the Atlantean gods.

Every year he was told no.

Until 9548 b.c.

As was his custom, Apollo visited the Atlantean queen whose king had died more than a year before. He came to her as a phantom and fathered his son on her while she slept dreaming of her dead husband.

It was also that year that the Atlantean gods became aware of their own destinies. For the queen of the Atlantean gods, Apollymi, found herself pregnant with Archon’s child.

After all the centuries of aching for a child of her own, the Destroyer at long last had her desires granted. It was said the island of Atlantis flourished that day and knew more prosperity than ever before. The god-queen celebrated joyously as she told all the other gods of her news.

As soon as the Fates heard her announcement, they looked at Apollymi and Archon and proclaimed that Apollymi’s unborn son would bring about the death of them all.

One by one, the three Fates each spoke a single line of prophecy.

"The world as we know it will end."

"All our fates will rest in his hands."

"As a god, his every whim will reign supreme."

Terrified of their prediction, Archon ordered his wife to slay the unborn infant.

Apollymi refused. She had waited too long to have her child to see him needlessly dead over the words of the jealous Fates. With the help of her sister, she birthed her son prematurely and hid him away in the mortal world. To Archon, she delivered a stone baby.

"I’ve had enough of your infidelities and lies, Archon. From this day forward you have hardened my heart toward you. A stone baby is all you will ever have from me."

Enraged, Archon trapped her in Kalosis, a nether realm between this world and theirs. "There you will stay until your son is dead."

And so the Atlantean gods turned on Apollymi’s sister until they forced a confession from her.

"He will be born when the moon swallows the sun and Atlantis is bathed in total darkness. His queenly mother will weep in fear of his birth."

The gods went to the Atlantean queen whose son’s birth was imminent. As predicted, the moon eclipsed the sun as she struggled to give birth, and when her son was born, Archon demanded the baby be slain.

The queen wept and begged for Apollo to aid her. Surely her lover wouldn’t see his own son killed by the older gods.

But Apollo ignored her and she watched helplessly as her newborn son was slain before her eyes.

What the queen didn’t know was that Apollo had already been told what was going to happen and it wasn’t his son she bore, but another child he had switched in her womb to save his own.

With the help of his sister, Artemis, Apollo had taken his son home to Delphi where the boy was raised among Apollo’s priestesses.

As the years passed and Apollo failed to return to the Atlantean queen to father another heir, her hatred of him grew. She despised the Greek god who couldn’t be bothered to give her a child to replace the one she had lost.

Twenty-one years after she had witnessed the sacrifice of her only child, the queen learned of another child fathered by the Greek god Apollo.

This one was born to a Greek princess who had been given to the god as an offering in hopes of swaying the god’s benediction toward the Greeks, who were at war with the Atlanteans.

As soon as the news reached the queen, her bitterness swelled deep inside until the tide of it overwhelmed her.

She summoned her own priestess to ask where the heir to her empire would be found.

"The heir to Atlantis resides in the house of Ancles."

The same house where Apollo’s new infant son had been born.

The queen screamed in outrage at the proclamation, knowing Apollo had betrayed his own children. They were forgotten while he forged a new race to replace them.

Calling out her personal guards, the queen sent them off to Greece, to make sure that Apollo’s mistress and child were killed. She would never allow either of them to sit on her beloved throne.

"Make sure to rip them apart so that the Greeks will believe it was done by a wild animal. I want nothing to make them look to our shores for this."

But as with all acts of vengeance, this one, too, was uncovered.

Heartbroken, Apollo, without thought, cursed all of his once chosen race. "A plague to all who are Apollite born. May you reap all you have sown this day. None of you shall ever live past the age of my precious Ryssa. You shall all perish painfully on the day of your twenty-seventh birthday. Because you acted as animals, you shall become them. Let you find your nourishment solely in the blood of your own kind. And never again will you be able to walk in my realm where I will see you and be forced to remember what it is that you did to betray me."

It wasn’t until the curse was spoken that Apollo remembered his own son back in Delphi. A son he had foolishly damned along with the others.

For once spoken, such things can never be undone.

But more than that, he had sown the seeds for his own destruction. On his son’s wedding day to Apollo’s most treasured high-priestess, Apollo had entrusted his son with everything in life he valued.

"In your hands, you hold my future. Your blood is mine and it is through you and your future children that I live."

With those binding words, and in one fit of anger, Apollo had damned himself to extinction. For once his son’s bloodline died, so then would Apollo and with him the sun itself.

You see, Apollo isn’t just a god. He is the essence of the sun and holds in his hands the balance of the universe.

On the day Apollo dies, so dies the earth and all who dwell here.

Now the year is a.d. 2003 and there is only one Apollite child left who bears the blood of the ancient god…

Chapter 1

February 2003

St. Paul, Minnesota

"Oh, honey, major stud alert. Three o’clock."

Cassandra Peters laughed at Michelle Avery’s lust-filled tone as she turned in the crowded bar to see an average-looking, dark-haired man facing the stage where their favorite local band, Twisted Hearts, played.

Swaying to the music’s beat as she sipped her Long Island Iced Tea, Cassandra studied him for a minute. "He’s a Milk Man," she decided after a thorough scan of his "attributes" that comprised his looks, his carriage, and his lumberjack attire.

Michelle shook her head. "No, ma’am, he’s a Cracker for sure."

Cassandra smiled at their rating system, which hinged on what they wouldn’t toss a man out of bed for. Milk Man meant he was attractive in an unusual way and could bring a glass of milk to bed anytime. Crackers were one step up, and Cookies were gods.

But the ultimate in masculine desirability rated a Powdered Donut. Not only was a powdered donut messy, it violated their perpetual diet mentality and begged a woman to bite into it.

To date, none of them had ever met a Powdered Donut in the flesh. Still, they were ever hopeful.

Michelle tapped Brenda and Kat on their shoulders and inconspicuously pointed to the man she was eye-balling. "Cookie?"

Kat shook her head. "Cracker."

"Definitely Cracker," Brenda confirmed.

"Oh, what do you know? You have a steady boyfriend," Michelle said to Brenda as the band finished their song and took a break. "Jeez, you guys are tough critics."

Cassandra looked back at the guy, who was talking to his buddy and drinking a longneck beer. He didn’t make her heart pound, but then very few men did. Even so, he had an easy, open manner and a nice, friendly smile. She could see why Michelle liked him.

"Why would you care what we think anyway?" she asked Michelle. "If you like him, then go up and introduce yourself."

Michelle was horrified. "I can’t do that."

"Why not?" Cassandra asked.

"What if he thinks I’m fat or ugly?"

Cassandra rolled her eyes. Michelle was a very thin brunette who was a far cry from ugly. "Life is short, Michelle. Too short. For all you know, he might be the man of your dreams, but if you stay back here, drooling and not acting, you’ll never know."

"God," Michelle breathed, "how I envy you that live-for-today attitude. But I can’t."

Cassandra grabbed her by the hand and hauled her through the crowd, over to the man.

She tapped him on the shoulder.

Startled, he turned around.

His eyes widened as he looked up at Cassandra. At six feet one, she was used to being a freak of nature. To his credit, the guy didn’t appear offended by the fact that she was a good two inches taller than him.