Chapter One

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"Tell me, my young friend, have you ever heard of the Midnight Sentinel? No? Don't worry, I am not surprised. If we've done our job correctly, you wouldn't have.

"What would you say, little mouse, if I told you that nightmares are real? That all of the stories you've heard of things that go bump in the night are true? All things that howl, prowl, bite, and kill—from vampires to werewolves, from wendigos to witches, monsters to demons. Would you believe me? Would you take care?

"Your face tells me that you don't, and you wouldn't. That is why the Midnight Sentinel exists. Though religion is such an archaic notion conceived of by primitive humans...things like Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil... but I can assure you, dear boy, that there is a Hell—and we are living in it."

~ Sebastian Locke, said to Ethan, a go-go boy giving him a lap dance

Same old shit, different day. That was the thought Sebastian Locke had as he walked down a darkened alley in the Lilliputian city of Beltrane. He'd found himself heading to Club Sanctuary for the third night in a row, because he had nothing goddamn else to do. Estranged from his old-money-rich family and harboring a life-destroying secret, Sebastian drifted along the fringes of life, constantly at loose ends.

It was why he took such risks, like walking alone in the deserted alley. It was why he had no fear when the trio of thugs in hoodies approached him slowly, posturing like chained male dogs when someone invaded their territory. Maybe it was his waist-length white-blond hair and pale blue eyes. Perhaps it was the innate arrogance that came from being born into aristocracy, or maybe it was his utter inability to give any fucks about them, but something about Sebastian seemed to instantly provoke these humans into violence.

And Sebastian welcomed it. Watching for the moment they realized the mistake they'd made was the only thing that made him feel alive. Besides, it wasn't like they could kill him. His hackles rose when the thick-necked one on the left advanced on him. He was shorter than Sebastian by half a foot at least, but obviously being a meathead, he had twice the bulk.

"Look, Joe. This one's pretty as a woman."

Sebastian raised his chin a fraction. Joe, the guy in the middle, a mean-looking creature with a neck tattoo and a scar that bisected his brow and slashed across the bridge of his nose, stepped right up in Sebastian's space. He scowled, his low brow shading his glittering, beady eyes. "Fuckin' homos. Why don't you freaks stay the hell out of our city?" He gave Sebastian's shoulder a shove, so he was forced to take a step back.

Sebastian allowed it. This was just foreplay. "If you don't want to see any 'homos,' perhaps you shouldn't do your lurking around the corner from a predominately-gay club." He gave an unconcerned shrug of one shoulder. "Just a suggestion, Joe."

Sebastian could feel the man's anger rolling off of him in waves. It vibrated the very air, stirring the hair on his arms and neck, making his skin twitch with anticipation. He relished that anger. It was life.

Joe lunged forward and wrapped a meaty hand around Sebastian's slender neck, squeezing just enough to hurt a human, but not Sebastian. "I can think of something better to do with that pretty mouth then flappin' it at me." He used that grip to back Sebastian up against a brick wall.

Sebastian grinned, wide and feral. The man's eyes popped, no doubt when he spotted Sebastian's long, sharp upper cuspids. He didn't leave Joe any time to recover from that shock. Clamping down on the man's soft inner elbow, Sebastian dislodged the hold. Moving faster than most human eyes could track, he reversed their positions so that now he was the one with his hand around Joe's neck. Only Sebastian lifted him up off the ground so he was hanging by that grip alone, his feet twitching and dangling a few inches above the ground.

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