The Living Night:Part Two

By: Jack Conner

Part Two of a Paranormal Suspense, Horror and Vampire Series (Vampire Thriller Book 2)




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS



No book comes from a void. In writing The Living Night, I derived inspiration from many sources, including Anne Rice and her Lestat series of vampire books to Clive Barker and his works of epic horror and paranormal adventure. The supernatural thrillers of Dean Koontz and Stephen King played their parts, as well, and so too Charlaine Harris and her Sookie Stackhouse series. The Living Night is the culmination of many influences, and I only hope it lives up to its literary fathers and mothers. Thank you all!





Chapter 1



The Congo was hot and the mosquitoes weren't any nicer than Danielle remembered, but there was a wonderful familiarity here. A wonderful, eternal quality; the Congo was the darkest, thickest, most savage jungle in the world, had been that way since long before she was born and would be that way long after she died. It was the true immortal, a large, seething, and sultry beast. Green and lush, chaotic, and as noisy in its own way as Times Square.

Of course, whenever Danielle thought of the Congo, she always associated its smell with Kharker's cigars, and Lord Kharker himself, who seemed just as immortal and unchanging as the jungle he lived in.

So it was strange that he didn't greet the odd flock as they stepped down from the plane, as was his usual custom. Gavin was there in his place, flanked by a score of Caucasian guards Danielle didn't recognize.

"Welcome," Gavin said, taking first Danielle's hand, then Ruegger's. "Kharker's been looking forward to your visit."

"Then why didn't he meet us?" asked Danielle.

"I think you'll have to discuss that with him. Please, but could you remove all your weapons?"

Ruegger and Danielle exchanged glances, but did as they were asked. Gavin had never been anything but polite with them (although he'd never seen them together), and he wasn't impolite now. Once they'd handed their arms over to the host of soldiers, Gavin led them toward the main building, then veered off, moving toward the jungle as if he expected his guests to follow. Warily, they did.

The clearing around the estate soon gave way to fierce vegetation, but several trails snaked off into the wild and almost impenetrable darkness. Danielle immediately noticed that the jungle life was oddly quiet—the first signal of an ambush—and ordinarily this would've given her a few tense moments, but she heard the sounds of men working and, over them, Lord Kharker giving orders.

When they came upon the man himself, he was standing with the sleeves of his soiled white shirt rolled up past his elbow, the stub of a cigar sticking authoritatively from one corner of his mouth. Judging by the stubble on his face, he hadn't shaved in some time. The men he was ordering about seemed to be digging trenches, and pieces of piping material lay scattered around. When he heard the odd flock approach, Kharker turned and offered a huge smile.

"Ah! It's good to see you again.” He crossed to Danielle, hugging her, then embraced Ruegger roughly and stood for a long moment examining him. "I've missed you, son.” His voice was soft. "Here, let me look at you. Hair's a bit longer, but otherwise you haven't changed a bit, and I don't know why you should. You know, my boy, I thought I might never see you again."

The Darkling lit a cigarette, studying the Hunter. "I vowed never to come near you again, old man."

"I know. I've respected it. And old I feel, too. I celebrated my millennium just a short time ago."

"We heard. Celebrated it with Jean-Pierre."

Was there jealousy in Ruegger’s voice? Danielle wondered. Surely not.

"Indeed," said Kharker. "On safari, of course. That albino's turning into quite a hunter, become even a better shot with a rifle than yourself—soon to outclass even me, I'm sure, but I find that I'm looking forward to that. It's strange. Perhaps I really am just getting old, looking for a successor. But seeing you again ... after all these years ... it quickens my blood. Do you feel it, too?"

It was clear Ruegger did. When he removed the cigarette from his lips, his hand was shaking slightly.

"What are you doing here?" he said.

The Hunter smiled, cigar pointing up. "We're digging irrigation ditches for the alligator swamp I'm going to make."

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