Dark Designs

Dark Designs

Luisa Prieto

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When an enigmatic tattooed woman approaches freelance journalist Kyler Withers, he begins remembering a past life as a mage. Once known as Etherwolf, he served a sentient evil known as the Darkness.

Horrified, Kyler fights to keep his humanity. Against him are growing memories of the monster he previously was. Aiding him is the love he rediscovers he had for a powerful mage artist named Sorin. If Kyler cannot overcome his past, he's afraid he'll help the Darkness destroy everything, starting with his lover.

 

 
PUBLISHED BY: Aspen Mountain Press
ISBN: 978-1-60168-199-7
PUBLICATION DATE: 2010
WORD COUNT: 106000
SEXUAL CONTENT RATING: 3 3 3
EBOOK READER RATING:
CATEGORIES: ManLove, Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Fantasy, Paranormal
KEYWORDS: manlove, gblt, urban dark fantasy, contemporary,
 

EBOOKS BY Aspen Mountain Press

EBOOKS BY Luisa Prieto

 
EXCERPT
COPYRIGHT Luisa Prieto/2010

Kyler Withers decided it was safe to teach journalism again when he stopped dreaming of dead children.

He celebrated his decision by leaving his townhouse and driving downtown to pick up a few things. San Jose had grown since he'd lived there as a teenager. The lush orchards that had once dotted the landscape were gone, replaced by a foliage of glass and steel.

Kyler lost himself in this man-made jungle, passing corporate hunter-gatherers and potted trees. It reminded him of the green twilight of South America, where people lived and died under the shadows of...

South America.

He was doing it again.

Kyler focused on the afternoon, the light traffic, the people around him. Summer had died, leaving this October day cool and mourning. The wind whispered over him, tugging at the end of his leather duster as he went from shop to shop, picking up a new briefcase, some notebooks, and, in an alley between two buildings, a knife camouflaged like a pen. The notebooks he placed in the case; the knife, an inner pocket of his duster. He found it ironic that such a deadly thing could look so innocent.

The brooding thought followed Kyler back to his black Scion. He toyed with calling his old college roommate. They could have an early dinner, watch Citizen Kane, and try to convince themselves they loved the movie. Old times. It could be fun.

He couldn't do it.

Kyler started the car. He would be replacing Owen in the spring, and while Owen looked forward to starting his life over, Kyler feared his gloomy nature would taint his friend's hopes. Life, he knew, could twist in a moment. Owen might change his mind. The San Jose/Evergreen Community College hiring committee might have another look through Kyler's last book and become uneasy. The dreams might return.

In this moment, the fears were just ephemeral things. Owen was happy. The District Board was fond of him. No one was dead.

His car got awesome gas mileage.

Laughter blossomed inside of him. Mileage. He was at a place where that was a concern. He was lucky.

Fifteen minutes later, Kyler and his awesome mileage car pulled in front of a two-story townhouse.

The house was too new to really feel comfortable, but the trees in front hid it from the street, and the red brick façade gave it a subtly elegant look. Anyone could live here. A new teacher. A Pulitzer-winning journalist. A rumored murderer.

Kyler told himself no one thought that. It was just a house. He was just another man.

Murderers could look like anyone, though. They could live anywhere. He might not remember what happened, but it didn't make the people who were killed less dead. They...

The memories he'd spent the afternoon running from had found him.

Kyler frowned and headed for the house.

In all honesty, there were parts of the last two years he was proud of. He'd originally gone to Colombia to investigate the effects of the government's crackdown on drugs on a small town, and ended up substituting for a former lover in his school. When people began disappearing around the area, Kyler stayed, first to investigate, then as he got to know the students, to protect.

And he had protected them, hadn't he? He might not remember what happened the day the guerrillas came into his classroom, but he knew that some of the children got out alive. The scar that crept from the corner of his left eye to his hairline told him he'd been in danger, but it proved…

It proved nothing.

An ache threaded out from his stomach. It crept through him, tightening his chest and stealing his breath. He didn't know what had happened but the surviving children did. They never spoke against him but whenever he approached, they crossed themselves.

And trembled. They were afraid of the dark. They were afraid of shadows. They were afraid of him.

Kyler unlocked his door and slipped inside, snapping the bolt shut behind him. Until that realization, until that afternoon, he'd wanted to remain there. Let others chase stories. He'd found himself.

Well, others had found him too, and they'd rather he be several thousand miles away. So Kyler had left and, being him, wrote.

Kyler dropped his briefcase on the coffee table. He thought the words would give him closure. Instead, they sharpened his nightmares and got him the Pulitzer.

He'd dreamed of the award. Now that it was his, he dreamed of it still, only now the neat black print on the certificate was crimson. The world recognized him. Fucking great. He didn't.

Kyler shoved the thoughts back. Tearing himself apart over what had happened hadn't helped in the past. If he didn't force himself to move on, he was afraid it'd kill him.

The ache in his stomach changed, reminding him that he hadn't eaten since that morning. The quiet pain comforted him, giving him something to focus on. Pizza, he decided, and maybe some coffee.

Kyler walked across the library/living room. When he'd moved in four days before, this room had been unpacked first, and now bookcases lined the walls.

At the entryway, he took two steps down to what he was currently calling the Valley of the Kings, for most of the kitchen was still in boxes. Three miniature pyramid-stacked structures set around the hard wood floor. Somewhere, hidden within one of the cardboard sarcophagi, was his Pulitzer.

The award had been his dream for years. Now it was just a slip of paper, a physical representation of missing time.

It had allowed him to pretty much choose his next place of work, though. Kyler could have approached any university or newspaper in the area and been fairly certain they would offer him something. He could've tried his hand at Stanford, San Jose University, anywhere.

Instead, he chose San Jose City College. Or, to use the vernacular, Silly College. Ghetto College.

His choice had surprised many. Despite the new tech building on the corner of Bascom, the small campus was an old place, one that had little funding and had to do the best it could with the resources it had. Its students were a varied mix of race, gender, and age, its teachers and administration at once working together, and yet apart. When Kyler was there, he felt… something. Alive. Needed.

It was a Colombia thing, he suspected. Whatever might or might not have happened that afternoon, he'd liked the man he had been. Since he'd left, he had been living a half life. Perhaps, once he returned to teaching, he'd be whole again.

 

 
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