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Courtney Cole


  A NOCTE Trilogy novella (2.5)

  Courtney Cole

  Lakehouse Press, Inc.


  Every story has a beginning.

  Author’s Note


  1. Chapter One

  2. Chapter Two

  3. Chapter Three

  4. Chapter Four

  5. Chapter Five

  6. Chapter Six

  7. Chapter Seven

  8. Chapter Eight

  9. Chapter Nine

  10. Preview of LUX

  About the Author

  Every story has a beginning.

  * * *



  Noun; beginning

  * * *

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  * * *

  Copyright  2015 by Courtney Cole

  Names, characters and incidents depicted in this novel are products of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.

  Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental and is beyond the intent of the author or publisher.

  No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the author or publisher. If you are reading this book and you did not purchase it from the author/publisher, or it was not given to you directly by the author/publisher, then this book is pirated.

  Piracy is a crime.

  Please delete any pirated book and purchase it through an authorized distributor.

  Author’s Note

  Dear Reader,

  In life, things are often not what they seem and most certainly, sometimes storylines are not.

  The musician/songwriter Andrew Bird might’ve summed it up the best: “Words have the capacity for deception. They're all full of subtext, and some of them are cliché and overused and vernacular. They're tricky. All I can say is, words are tricky.”

  Words are tricky. Life is tricky. Perhaps even I am tricky.

  The Nocte series is almost over, the story is almost finished. But before the finale, before all is revealed, you need more of the story, a glimpse, a slight pull-back of the curtain.

  That is what this is.

  A glimpse.

  A hint.

  Pay attention.

  Words are tricky.


  I never knew what the consequences would be.

  I say that like it’s a defense, an excuse.

  It’s not. It’s simply the truth.

  I never knew what he would become to me.

  Through everything, he’s become everything.

  My rock, my air, my love.

  My everything.

  And then….

  Things changed.

  Because it was wrong.

  Because sometimes, our sons must pay for the sins of their fathers.

  Or their mothers.

  I’m afraid that I’m lost,

  that I’m damned.

  After you read this, you’ll probably agree.

  Really, it doesn’t matter.

  All that matters is that I save him.

  Because he shouldn’t pay for my sin.

  Judge me if you like.

  But keep reading.

  This is our beginning.

  This is where the darkness truly starts.

  Chapter One

  Sussex, England

  21 Years ago

  I sniff the clean English air as I leave the café, pausing for a minute to let the rare sunshine drench my face, warming it. As I do, I glance over my shoulder as discreetly as I can.

  He smiles at me.


  Phillip DuBray is still seated at our table, waiting a few minutes before he gets up to leave in his slim-fitting black slacks and dark turtleneck. His smile flashes in the sun and warmth pulses through me, rushing into all of my corners, and God, how was I lucky enough to meet him?

  I live each day to see his smile, to hear the soft words he murmurs in his exotic accent as his breath tickles my neck, his fingers buried in my hair. I feel as though I can’t breathe unless I’m with him.

  But Fate has a terrible sense of humor.

  I’m promised to someone else, and my word must be my bond.

  A lump forms in my throat as I hurry away from the café, from town, from Phillip, and I rush back to my real life. As I hurry down the street, I can hear the whispers as people glance at me.

  Such a Cinderella story.

  Rags to riches, you know.

  She’s the most fortunate girl alive.

  I almost choke on that one.

  Fortunate? If they knew the truth, would they really think I’m so lucky?

  I tread lightly on the path to Whitley, the enormous estate on the outside of town. Acres of rolling moors surround it with fog wisping from the ground like fingers beckoning me.

  Come home, it seems to say.

  Only Whitley isn’t my home. Not really.

  It’s my prison.

  Desperation breeds obedience, though, and I obediently make my way through the gates and along the cobblestone until I reach the massive wooden doors. I only pause for a moment, to take a deep breath of the cool wet air, and then I disappear inside.

  I try to hug the outer halls so that I can pass through to my bedroom without being noticed, but of course my efforts fail.

  Eleanor Savage herself bumps into me. Dressed in stern black with her hair in a severe bun at the nape of her neck, she is the picture of a tyrannical matron.

  The apple never falls far from the tree.

  “Olivia,” Eleanor greets me with a single nod of her head.

  “Eleanor,” I answer, and I can’t help it that my palms get sweaty. She glances at me, a slight hint of humor in her steely eyes. It must amuse her to intimidate everyone.

  “Have you been out?”

  The answer is obvious, as my feet are wet, and I nod.

  “Yes, I was in town for a bit.”

  Her mouth is pinched in disapproval. “Richard has been hunting for you.”

  A wave of dread floods me at the mere thought of my betrothed.

  Pale, with icy eyes and cold hands. The only thing colder is his heart.

  His bitterness pulses through his veins and chills his blood with unhappiness.

  “Very well,” I tell Eleanor. “I’ll find him.”

  I turn and head toward Richard’s wing, the wing I’ll have to share with him when we marry. I must force my feet to move because they don’t truly want to carry me even one step closer to him. But before I know it, I’m standing in front of his door, and I knock with a cold, cold hand.

  He answers with a voice even colder.

  “Come in.”

  My heart is heavy as I approach him, and when he turns to me, I have to force myself to meet his gaze.

  “Olivia,” he says curtly, without sparing me even a simple glance. I think this might be what I hate the most about him. He acts as though I’m so unimportant, as though I don’t matter. He can’t spare a second to look at me.

  I wait, and he continues, all the while re-arranging the ties in his closet.

  “What do you think of this one?” He holds up a paisley green. I hate it, so I nod.

  “It looks perfect.”

  “I think so too.” He laces it under his collar and steps to me. “Tie this, please.”

  My fingers do his bidding and he examines my handiwork in the mirror.

  “A bit crooked, but it will do.”

  Of course he would say that. The knot is perfect, but he will never acknowledge something good in someone. That’s not his way, or his mother’s.

  He final
ly glances at me for a scant moment.

  “You’re wet. Have you been out?”

  I nod, and I feel like a meek mouse, awaiting punishment.

  His face clouds over, but he contains it. “Why?”

  “I needed a walk,” I offer.

  Richard rolls his eyes. “Then walk on these grounds. Lord knows we have plenty of them. There is no need to walk into town, Olivia.”

  Of course not. I must be kept secluded here, away from normal people.

  I nod once, because that’s all I can bring myself to do.

  “We’ll be married soon,” he adds over his shoulder as he disappears once more in the closet. “You need to act like a Savage, Olivia.”

  Imminent doom chills my heart and I fight to control it. Our wedding has been arranged, by his mother and mine. I get the respectable and feared Savage name, and he gets a wife who will allow him to be who he is without asking questions or having expectations.

  I won’t expect him to be a real husband to me, because I already know the truth.

  He’s a monster.

  Nothing can change that, and he knows that I know.

  It’s probably why he can’t bring himself to look at me.

  “You may go,” he adds as an afterthought while he ties his shoes.


  I don’t look back.

  * * *

  Dinner is a refined and uncomfortable affair at Whitley.

  The dining room table can seat thirty, yet only three of us are here. Richard, Eleanor and me.

  My fork accidentally scrapes my china plate and Eleanor glances up at me in disapproval. I flinch.

  She swallows her bite of chicken, then stares at me.

  “The wedding date has been set.”

  My heart pounds.

  I don’t want to ask, I don’t want to show my panic, but when Richard doesn’t inquire, I have to.

  “And when is it?”

  I hate how small my voice sounds, so weak.

  “Thirty days. Everything is being arranged. You won’t need to do anything.”

  Anything other than shackle myself to Richard, that is.

  “Will Mr. Savage return for the wedding?” I don’t know why I’m curious, other than the fact that Richard Savage I is the only friendly person in the family. His eyes are warm, his smile is genuine. He’s a person I think I truly like, an ally, almost. He’s always kind to me.

  Eleanor’s eyes are icy.

  “Perhaps. It’s hard to say.”

  Mr. Savage has been away on business for a week already. Surely he won’t be gone for another month.

  A month.

  One month.

  Thirty days.

  That’s how long I have before I’m condemned to a lifetime with Richard.

  It gives me a permanent lump in my throat that I can’t swallow, and as soon as I can, I excuse myself and flee to my mother.

  As soon as I arrive, she opens her arms and I collapse into them, and she holds me as I cry.

  “There, there.” She pats my back and strokes my hair. “It will be fine, Liv. It will be fine.”

  But it won’t be. It won’t ever be. I know that.

  She lets me cry and holds me tight.

  “I wish I could take this from you,” she says finally, and her voice is so sad. I look at her and she looks frail in the moonlight. “You don’t have to do this for me, girl.”

  But she knows that I do.

  If I marry Richard, they’ll take care of my mother for the rest of her life. She’ll never want for food, she’ll never go without medical care, she’ll always be okay. Since she’s alone now that my father is gone, I have to do this for her.

  I have to.

  I pull myself together and I swallow the persistent lump.

  “I’ll be okay,” I tell her resolutely, and I mean it. I’ll be okay. I have to be.

  “You mourn for the dark haired boy,” she tells me knowingly and her eyes are troubled. “You mourn for what cannot be, my love.”

  I look away because I won’t give Phillip up. They can make me marry Richard, but they can’t make me give Phillip up.

  “I love him,” I tell her flatly, unable to meet her eyes. “I’ll be discreet. No one will ever know.”

  I hear her sharp intake of breath and I don’t look at her.

  “Olivia! That’s not who we are. You cannot be with him. You’re going to give your vow to Richard Savage, and that’s how it has to be. You are only as good as your word, child. Your word is your bond.”

  I know that. I do. But the idea of not being with Phillip takes my breath away. I don’t want to breathe without him.

  I don’t tell my mother that, though. Instead, I visit with her a little bit longer, and when I leave, I feel her eyes buried between my shoulder blades as she watches me go.

  It’s like she knows.

  And she probably does.

  Chapter Two

  His fingers tangle in my hair, and his breath is sweet on my cheek.

  “Livvie,” he whispers, and his voice is the moonlight. “How you complete me.”

  He strokes my arms, my chest, my belly. He trails his soft lips along my collarbone, then brings them to mine, softly, softly and his words taste like honey. I breathe them in and inhale his kiss, and try to memorize his face with my fingers.

  “I love you,” I tell him, and there is pain in my words, a true heartache that I could never communicate with a mere sentence. His eyes are soft and black as he stares into mine, and they shimmer in the moon.

  “You are my heart,” he answers simply.

  His body is hard and lean and long as he slides over me, and then into me, again and again in the night. I cling to him as if my life depends on it, because in an uncertain way, it does.

  Phillip anchors me. He completes me. He fills up my empty places and makes me feel alive. Without him, I am dead, like wood or stone. I tell him that, and he lifts me up, my hips held to his, my neck to his mouth.

  “Mon petite lapin,” he murmurs. “You will live, and I will live, and we will always be.”

  “But I want to always be together,” I tell him limply, and even though his hands are everywhere and his mouth is soft as the clouds, I can only think of that, I can only focus on the imminent loss of him. “Please don’t leave me.”

  He draws his head back and looks at me, and he looks deep into me, into places I didn’t even realize existed.

  “I’ll always be with you, Livvie.”

  He is so firm, so assured, that I allow myself to believe it. I collapse into him, absorbing his warmth and his security and his strength. The sinewy muscles of his chest throb with heat and my fingers trace the striations, finding the beat of his heart.

  I press mine to his, and take pleasure in the way they unite.

  It makes me feel like we’re one, like we’ll always be one.

  I open my arms and he comes to me, holding his head against my breast, lapping at them, caressing me. There’s a flash of silver, skin pressed to skin, bone against bone. My thighs fold around his hand, squeezing him into me, holding him close. He palms me, strokes me, ignites me.

  I gasp, he swallows it. I moan into his mouth, he smiles against mine.

  “You are lovely,” he tells me as he slowly slowly slowly takes me again, and in his eyes, I know that I am. In the reflection of his gaze, I see my long dark hair, lush and shiny. I see my curves and my angles, my smile and my woe. I see it all the way he sees me and I am lovely.

  It is empowering and I tremble with it.

  He smiles.

  “See what you do to me, Livvie?”

  He wraps my white fingers around his manhood and it pulses and hardens, again and again and again. When we’re finally spent, I fall against him and sleep in his arms, sleeping the sleep of the sated…until I begin to dream.

  My dreams build, black, black, blacker, like storm clouds rolling in from the horizon. Phillip rides the storm and his face is thunderous.

  “Don’t b
etray me,” he booms, and his mouth is contorted and angry.

  “What do you mean?” I ask, and I’m confused because I’d never. I’d never in my life betray him. He has to know that. “I’d give my life for you.”

  He pauses amidst the storm and looks down at me, his gaze pensive and black.

  “Would you?”

  I reach for him, but he dissipates into the mist of the clouds and then he’s gone. I feel his absence immediately and I wake up screaming, clutching Phillip, pulling him close.

  “What is wrong, Livvie?” he asks quickly, caressing my hair. I shake my head, still terrified to the bone.

  “I lost you,” I tell him. “In my dream you were gone, and I was so alone, and you were angry with me.”

  “I could never be angry with you,” he tells me and his voice is a song that I am desperate to believe.

  I am unsettled and restless, but his fingers stroke my back and lull me into relaxation. I lie with him all night, in his small bed in his small cottage.

  We bask in the moonlight from the open window, and I inhale the cool English breeze. I smell the roses and the greenery and the scent of Phillip’s skin and it’s a combination that I know I’ll never forget.

  Time and time again he reaches for me and his fingers are soft and his breath is hot.

  Over and over, he makes me his and over and over I take it. I take him in, I accept him as mine. If only that would be true forever.

  There is a spark in the air tonight, though. Something different, something that crackles in the way I breathe, that electrifies every touch. Perhaps it is because I know our time is limited. Perhaps it is because my heart is breaking.

  I don’t know.

  All I know is that when I leave my beloved Phillip in the morning as the sun rises over the moors, I feel different. I feel heavy, I feel sad. I feel ravaged and ever alone. But thoughts of my helpless mother assail me, and drive my feet toward Whitley, because without me, she’ll flounder and perish. I must do this. I must provide for her, as she has provided for me since the day I was born.