#FirstLineFriday (Patrick)

I got this from Rami Ungar, who got the idea from a facebook group. On Friday you post the first one or two lines from one of your stories, novels, works in progress or potential stories with the tag #FirstLineFriday (with hashtag). He thought it would be fun to see the idea move into blogs (and start a trend), and I agree.

These two lines come from Patrick, a prequel I had shelved but am planning to go through in July (It needs a timeline revision, so that will be a bit of work). Mixed reviews from betas made me abandon the project, but I have decided (partially due to advice from awesome people like fellow author Maegan Provan – check out her blog post encouraging authors to “be themselves” in their writing) that though not everyone will like it, it is a story worth sharing because *I* like it.

 “Okay , Mom. Yeah, yeah, I promise.” Patrick glanced at the clock. It was almost nine, and he was late.

I moved out to get away from this.

Maybe not the catchiest opening, but that’s what you get from unfinished/unedited.

Want to participate in #FirstLineFriday? Just post a blog with that it the title and share your sentences!

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Patrick: Synopsis Revisited

 

I ran the long version the other day but since everyone felt it was too long, here is a much shorter version:

Before Katelina found love in the arms of her vampire Jorick, there was another man.

Patrick’s brother Michael disappears and returns as a vampire. Turned against his will, he begs Patrick to kill his tormentors. When Patrick tries, he is claimed as a slave and forced from one unspeakable act to another.

Then he meets Katelina and falls in love. To be with her, he has to win his freedom, but all victories come with a price, and the cost of this one could be his very life.

The dark, emotional prequel to Shades of Gray plunges into a black abyss of anger and despair without the promise of a happy ending.  Patrick is a spoiler-filled look at what came before and just may be the blackest of the Amaranthine tales.

Better? Worse?

 

 

Patrick: The Official Cover & Synopsis (Maybe)

As for the status I am STILL waiting on my slow poke brother, but then I have three betas lined up – YAY!

Okay, so I posted a thumbnail the other day, but it was just a thumbnail and it wasn’t labeled “official”. So, here is the *official* version:

While the tagline is a bit of a spoiler, my thought was, “If you’ve read page one of Shades of Gray you already KNOW he’s dead, so it’s not going to come as a surprise. If you haven’t read Shades of Gray yet then maybe you should…”

Or maybe not. The writing style is different and I’m not one hundred percent sure it’s going to cross over as well. It’s written more like the short stories than the novels.

And on that note, here’s the *official* synopsis (unless I get suggestions and/or randomly change it) :

 

Before Katelina found love in the arms of her vampire Jorick, there was another man, a human.

When Patrick’s missing brother Michael returns, he brings with him a world of night and blood. Turned into a vampire against his will, Michael is kept as a whipping boy by the coven and begs Patrick to kill his tormentors. Reluctantly, Patrick investigates their creepy mansion. He is captured and claimed as a slave who straddles two worlds: one of light and one of dark.

Hoping to escape their servitude, the brothers find help from the mysterious Jorick, who promises sanctuary if they help destroy the coven. Forced from one unspeakable act to another, Patrick seeks redemption in alcohol, drugs, and the comfortless arms of strangers. When his two worlds collide in a scene of brutal violence, he realizes that he must forsake the light until he is free of the darkness.

Then Patrick meets Katelina. Though he knows he shouldn’t, it isn’t long before he’s falling in love. To be with her, he’s ready to step up his fight for freedom. But, all victories come with a price, and the cost of this one could be his sanity and his very life.

The dark, emotional prequel to Shades of Gray plunges into a black abyss of anger, misery and despair without the promise of a happy ending.  As with all prequels, Patrick is a spoiler-filled look at what came before and just may be the blackest of all the Amaranthine tales.

So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Too long? Too short? How about the cover? Yes, I like to hear opinions!

Do YOU Have a Suggestion?

You probably aren’t wondering that, but I’m going to tell you anyway!

Unless I get complaints/suggestions, you’re lookin’ at the cover 😉

Patrick: A prequel is finished in its rough draft form. Rather than the 50,000 word Novella I had in mind, Patrick clocks in at around 101,000 words. Some of those might get trimmed, but even so it’s going to be a full length novel. For those who have no idea what that means, it’s roughly the same length as Ties of Blood. Not only is it longer than it was supposed to be, but it is darker – lots darker.  I knew it would be sad, but I had no idea how much *&^% poor Patrick went through. I’ll be interested to see who lies it and who doesn’t.

Anyway, the first two beta readers have it in their grubby hands – well, er, on their computers, and then it is off to the next round. (I’ve had one volunteer so far. Who else is brave enough?) I hope to have it through beta stages by the end of September  and finish my last edits in October, which means it should be published by Halloween. Yay!

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While Patrick is floating through beta readers, I’ll spend September finishing book 5: Heart of the Raven. I hope to send it to betas in October and have it back by mid November to do all the last rewrites and final rounds of editing. If all goes well it should be published in December or January. (this means I won’t be around much in September)

(You may notice that the collection covers lack my usual artwork. Call it an experiment. I have a bet going about it, and we’ll see who wins.)

Meanwhile, in September I will release two  Amaranthine Special Edition collections. Book one will feature Shades of Gray & Legacy of Ghosts, while book 2 will have Ties of Blood & Ashes of Deceit. Both will have bonus content.

“Did you say bonus content?”

Yes, I did. Why should DVDs have all the fun? With that in mind, book one has The Lost Chapters from Legacy of Ghosts, a Character Art Gallery/Bios, the special short How to Silence a Human (written for Love in the Kitchen: Flash Fiction & Recipes collection) and links to downloadable content (three wallpapers and a print yourself bookmarker set). Book two has The Amaranthine Character Interviews, the Executioner Character Gallery/Bios, The Legend of Lilith short and links to downloadable content (two bookmarker sets and three more wallpapers).

The question is:

What bonus content do YOU want to see?

Is there some other piece of randomness that I’ve generated over the years that you’d like to have in one, tidy place? Or is there something new you think it needs? As always, looking forward to your feedback!

Vampire Morsels: Sarah

WARNING: Language, some violence

As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time.  so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…

Sarah

(You can find Sarah in Shades of Gray. This story takes place during Shades of Gray – if you’ve read the book, it’s on the same day that Katelina runs into Jesslynn and the baby in the nursery.) 

Sarah sat on the couch, a bright orange pillow clutched in her lap. “I know it’s been hard on Katelina. I really think she needs to talk to someone. I suggested she call you and set up an appointment, but she’s so stubborn.”

The therapist nodded. Her blonde hair moved with her head, like a solid piece of hairsprayed perfection. “Her boyfriend was murdered, wasn’t he?”

“Yes. They still don’t know who did it.” Sarah frowned. “Though the police have been harassing her about it for a month. And now there’s some joker calling her at work.” She sighed again. “I’m sorry. I know this isn’t what we’re supposed to be talking about.”

“We can talk about anything you want,” the therapist assured her. “Why do you think this is bothering you so much?”

“Because she’s my best friend,” Sarah answered without thought. “We’ve been friends since we were kids. She was there for me through a lot of crap.” The therapist nodded, and Sarah went on. “I can’t stand seeing her like this. She says she’s fine, but I know better. And then some jack ass thinks it’s funny to call and say they know who killed him…” she trailed off and shook her head. “I’d like to ring their neck!”

“Did their joke upset her?”

Sarah absently bunched the pillow with her hands. “Of course it did!” Her voice dropped. “She went home early and I haven’t seen her since. I thought I should give her a little time, but I don’t know. It’s been a couple of days. Maybe I should call her?”

“What do you think?”

Before Sarah could answer, the timer buzzed.

“And that’s our session for today.” The therapist stood up and offered a lipstick colored smile. “I’ll see you next Friday?”

Sarah dropped the pillow to the couch and swept to her feet. She shook the doctor’s hand, murmured the usual goodbyes, and headed out into the corridor. The colorful fish photographs and cheerfully painted woodwork didn’t make her feel any better.

Her cellphone went off and she tugged it from her purse. Brad’s familiar, smiling picture flashed on the screen and a silly grin stretched over her face as she answered it. “Hey, honey. What’s up?”

“Hey, sweety. Just calling to see how you’re doing.”

Sarah juggled her purse and let herself out through the glass front door. It was only five, but the October sky was already growing dark and the air was crisp. She wished for her jacket and hurried to her car. “I’m okay. Just leaving the therapist now.”

“Feel better?”

It was a joke, but it made her frown. “No, not really.” She sighed. “I’m worried about Katelina.”

“I’m sure she’s fine, honey. She just needs some time.”

“I know.” Sarah unlocked the door and slid in behind the steering wheel. “I just wish to God she’d never gotten tangled up with Patrick! He was bad news from the get go!” It was a familiar speech, but she launched into it, anyway. “He was a drop out – we went to school with him, though he was older than us – you’d think that would have clued her in, you know? A guy who can’t even graduate isn’t going to get anywhere. And he wore eyeliner – eyeliner! What kind of responsible guy wears eyeliner? I’ll tell you – none!”

The tirade continued as she started her car and pulled onto the road. Brad made little noises of agreement until she paused for a breath and then he threw in, “I’m sure it will be fine. Are you coming in tonight?”

His question momentarily confused her. “What?”

“To the bar? Hello! Earth to Sarah! I work tonight, honey, and I thought you were going to come in and keep me company. Unless you’re too busy?”

Her cheeks flushed. “No, of course I’m not too busy.”

“I wasn’t sure. Your Patrick tirade can go for hours, after all.”

She could hear the smile in his voice and she responded with a sheepish laugh. “Okay, okay, I get the hint. I just never liked the guy.”

“Me either, but he’s dead now. It’s so long and good riddance, and time for everyone to move on, huh?”

“I know, I know. My therapist says I have trouble with letting things go.”

“I think she’s right.” His voice turned to innuendo. “Maybe later tonight we can see if you have trouble letting me go?”

Sarah giggled. “Oh, you! All right, let me just change and call Katelina real quick, and I’ll be right there.”

“Okay. I’ll be missing you until then.”

They exchanged their kissy-sounds and goodbyes, and then Sarah dialed Katelina’s phone. It went straight to voicemail. Undeterred, she tried twice more, as though it would magically ring through if she only called enough. As she pulled into the driveway of her little rental house, she surrendered and left a message.

“Hey, it’s Sarah. Just wanted to make sure you’re okay. They said you didn’t call in today, or yesterday. I know you kind of flake sometimes, but I just wanted to make sure everything is all right. Call me.”

There was nothing to do but wait.

 

Sarah took a shower and changed into the little red dress she saved for special occasions. Tonight wasn’t really special, but she knew Brad felt neglected. On their last date she’d spent the whole night fretting about Katelina. He’d joked about it, but it was obvious it upset him.

“I’m going to show him just how important he is”, she thought as she spritzed on his favorite perfume.

She checked her phone as she headed out the door, but there were no missed calls. Damn. Where the hell is she?

She called Katelina – got voice mail again – and made up her mind. She dialed Brad’s phone and he answered on the second ring. “Hey, whatcha need?”

“I called Katelina but she didn’t answer.” She heard his sigh, and she rushed on quickly. “I’m just going to stop by her place for a little bit, to make sure she’s okay, and then I’ll be yours for the whole evening.”

“Sarah-”

“I promise! I just can’t enjoy myself while I’m worried about her, you know? I swear, it won’t be five minutes and then I’m all yours. No more distractions. Just you, me, and a few dozen drunks hanging around the bar.”

He laughed lightly. “As long as they’re a few dozen drunks who are tipping.” He sighed. “All right, though I think you’re worried over nothing. Every time that girl breathes wrong, you’re fussing and fretting. Sometimes I just feel like you love her more than me.”

“Of course I don’t! You know I love you and Mr. Winky-boo.”

She could feel him cringing. “I wish you wouldn’t call it that.”

“Why not? Oh, come, on, lots of guys have names for it.”

“Cool names. Not something like that. It sounds like a puppet from a kids’ show or something! For Christ’s sake, we’re not in junior high.”

She couldn’t stop the giggles anymore. “All right, all right. I’ll stop calling it that if you stop dogging me about being a worry wart.”

He gave an exaggerated sigh. “Deal. Now go check on your air headed friend and I’ll see you later.”

“She’s not an air head.”

“Really? And how often is she completely irresponsible?”

“Well … maybe once in awhile…” she trailed off. “Okay, she’s a fruit cake, but so are you.”

“I’ll pretend that means I taste good. See you soon.”

They repeated their kissy-ritual and hung up.  Sarah started the car and backed into the street. Just a few minutes, she promised herself.

 

The street was crowded and Sarah had to park her car two blocks away. Most of the shops on Main Street were closed, but the ballet studio was letting out and the street was thronged with parents picking up their little princesses in time whisk them home for a late dinner.

Must be nice, Sarah thought bitterly, then just as quickly she chided herself. Her therapist had told her that when she started to feel like that, she should count her blessings. It didn’t matter where she’d come from, only where she was going.

Easier said than done.

The street lights tinted the evening orangy-pink. Sarah hurried down the sidewalk to the book store. Katelina’s apartment sat above it and her living room windows looked out on the street. Light blazed from them and a person shaped shadows flitted across the blinds.

Good. At least she’s home.

A cheery red door led to a steep set of stairs. Sarah hurried up them and froze at the top, one hand on her purse and the other on the stair railing.

Katelina’s door sat at the end of the hall, wide open. A slice of the front room was visible; the coffee table was overturned and the floor was heaped with books and other items, including what looked like the couch cushions.

Eyes narrowed in determination, Sarah marched through the door, her cell phone in one hand as though it was a weapon. The disarray was even worse inside. The two large bookcases had been emptied and the armchair was overturned. From where she stood, she could see part of the kitchen; the cupboard doors were open and broken dishes littered the floor.

Fury swept through her. After everything that had happened, how could someone do this?

Glass shattered and she stormed towards the sound. Inside the bedroom she found two men. One had long black hair and chestnut colored skin. He’d have looked at home wearing feathers and buckskin. A scar across one cheek only made him look wilder. The other had short red hair and dark eyes. His skin was pale white, and something about the way he stood, perfectly still and staring, seemed wrong.

She refused to let them intimidate her. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” She brandished her phone. “I’m calling the cops!”

The Native American took a step towards her, his eyes narrowed and his hands loose fingered fists at his side. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

She jabbed the icon for the phone app. “Just watch me!”

With a snarl he leapt at her, and she ran. She pounded down the short hallway, the intruder behind her. Her purse fell from her shoulder and she let it go. Maybe he’d trip on it.

She made it to the front room before he tackled her to the floor. She kicked and flailed, but he was too strong. A thousand panicked thoughts raced through her head, each one culminating in the certainty that she had to escape.

A voice floated from behind them, “Did you get her, Joseff?”

The reply came through clenched teeth, “Obviously.”

“Good, then let’s get out of here.”

Her captor stood and pulled her to her feet. She tried to swallow down her terror and remember what she’d learned in self defense class. She knew the first step was to remain calm.

Easier said than done!

Joseff jerked the cell phone from her hand. Impossibly, he crushed it in his palm and dropped the pieces to the floor.

“My phone!” Sarah shrieked. That’s it! She slammed her fist into his surprised stomach and followed it with a sweeping kick to the back of his knee. He didn’t fall, but the moment of surprise gave her an opening and she took it.

She was just to the front door, one foot in the hallway, when he grabbed her arm and swung her around. Her face smashed into the door frame and pain exploded from her nose. She stumbled backwards and Joseff knocked her to the floor.

Something warm and wet ran down her face; blood. The familiar sensation flung her back in time. Suddenly she was a little girl again, crouched in the closet, hiding from her father’s beer scented fury. She trembled and terror crashed through her. Help me! She begged silently. Save me. Someone, please.

No!

She wasn’t a little girl, she was a grown woman, and the only person who was going to save her was herself.

She took stock of her surroundings, looking for a weapon. A broken-spined book lay next to her. Useless. A pair of dice was near her left hand. Useless. There was a bottle of nail polish – useless – and half of a broken glass ashtray.

Useful.

She slowly wrapped her hand around it, the jagged edge out, and readied herself.

“She’s going to be trouble,” the red head quipped.

“Brilliant observation, Lennon!” Joseff jerked her to her feet. He shoved his face in hers. His dark eyes snapped like fire that left her breathless. “Listen here Kate, or whatever your name is. You can cooperate or you can die. The choice is-”

His words shook her out of her momentary trance and she struck.  The broken glass tore at his check, but did a fraction of the damage she’d hoped for. He roared in surprise and fury and then punched her in the face. She fell backwards over the armchair and lay stunned.

Joseff loomed over her, his face twisted and lips pulled back from his teeth – No, fangs! Jesus! He has fangs! He grabbed a handful of her curly hair and lifted her by it. “Enough games, you stupid human!”

She had a nanosecond view of his fist crashing towards her face.

The world went black.

 

When she opened her eyes she was greeted by the same suffocating blackness. Her face throbbed and, though she tried to move, she couldn’t. It was as if she was tied up.

Oh, God!

She took a deep, exhaust scented breath and choked. She could feel the hum of a motor, the vibrations of movement.

I’m in the trunk of a car.

Which could only mean one thing: she was being kidnapped.

But why?  If they wanted money they’d have just taken her discarded purse. If they wanted to rape her, they’d have done it back at the apartment. If they wanted to kill her, she’d already be dead. She didn’t know them, so why-

“Listen here Kate, or whatever your name is…”

“Oh my God, they’re after Katelina!”

The realization jolted her. Why would a pair of thugs be after her best friend? What in the hell was Katelina mixed up in?

Patrick. It had to be something to do with him. Probably drugs. No doubt, that was what he’d been killed over and now – and now what? And now they were after Katelina, only they’d grabbed her by mistake?

In her mind, she ran through scenes from movies, lectures from her self defense class, random reality TV shows. None of them had any advice for this scenario. Not even Cosmo had a “What to do if you’re locked in a trunk” article. Like usual, she was on her own.

You can do this, she told herself. Just hang on until we get wherever we’re going. Then they’ll open the trunk. But how long would that be?

 

Minutes ticked past, or maybe they were hours. Trapped in the dark without her phone, Sarah had no idea how much timed had passed.  The car thrummed along at a steady pace. She was jostled over bumps, but for the most part the ride was smooth. Probably an interstate, she told herself.

Her mind wandered. She thought of Brad. She could picture him leaning on the bar, his sandy blonde hair glinting in the row of colored lights, and his blue eyes twinkling with mischief. Only, they wouldn’t be. They’d be ringed in worry and impatience, while he checked the clock and wondered what was taking her so long.

Hopefully he’d go to Katelina’s when he got off work, and when he found it in shambles… what? He’d call the police? And just how would that help her, when she was God knows where?

The car slowed and then the road suddenly got bumpy – very bumpy. She could hear something pinging into the bottom of the car: rocks. They were on a gravel road.

Gravel?

It felt like an eternity, but at last the car pulled to a stop and the engine fell silent. Sarah heard the car doors open and footsteps crunch across gravel. They stopped nearby and someone banged loudly on the trunk.

Lennon’s voice sounded tiny and distant through the metal. “You sure she’s not dead?”

“I’m sure.”

Someone slotted a key into the lock and then the trunk sprang open. Sarah squinted against the onslaught of artificial light; too bright after the blackness.  

Joseff grabbed her by her shoulders and pulled her out of the trunk. With her ankles bound, she couldn’t stand on her own, so he flung her over his shoulder and carried her towards a small brick building that sat seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Several cars were parked in the gravel parking lot, and a security light threw harsh, strange shadows.

The metal door of the building scraped open and a blonde man appeared. His hair was longish and tucked behind his ears. His eyes held neither hatred nor pity; the expression of someone who was simply doing what they were supposed to.

“You got her?”

“Yes,” Joseff answered smugly. “She walked right in and practically asked us to take her.”

The blonde moved aside so they could enter. As they passed through the door, Sarah missed banging her had against it by mere inches.

They walked down a brick hallway and the blonde asked, “Was Jorick there?”

Jorick? Who’s Jorick?

“Nope,” Lennon answered from behind. “She was all alone.”

“Hmmm. The way that Michael and the others talked, she left with him.”

Michael? Who the hell were these people?

Joseff made a noise of agreement. “I know, but he wasn’t there and it’s not our problem. Let Michael explain it.”

“He can’t. He’s dead.”

Sarah felt a stab of icy terror at those words. Michel was a stranger to her, but that they could be so nonchalant that someone – anyone – was dead…

“Claudius kill him?” Joseff asked as they came to a door in the far wall. The blonde opened it and they started down a set of stairs.

“Yes. He had him burned, shortly after you two left.”

Lennon made a noise in his throat and Joseff grumbled, “I always miss the entertainment.”

Burned? Oh my God, it’s the mafia, isn’t it? There was no other explanation. But the mafia doesn’t have fangs. She still remembered her captor’s flashing teeth. Maybe it was my imagination. It had to be.  

The trio of men fell silent as they reached the bottom of the stairs and Sarah concentrated on her surroundings. The room was large and open, like a big basement, with gray walls and floor. A chandelier, strangely out of place, hung from the center of the ceiling, and beneath it sat a large, wicker chair.

A door to the right opened up and several people trailed out. Among them was a bald guy, two scantily clad women, and a sulky blonde teenager.  Sarah didn’t recognize any of them, but there was something about them, something that seemed… wrong.

If this is the mafia, then they don’t look like they do on TV!

The group moved to the center of the room and the teenager dropped into the chair. His cold eyes surveyed them and Sarah shivered.

Joseff dropped her to the cement floor. With no hands to catch herself, she landed painfully on her shoulder. She bit back a cry and told herself to stay calm. Work on the rope on your wrists. Try to get your hands loose. You can still escape.

The Native American propped his foot on her hip and declared, “We’ve brought her, Master.”

“Have you?” The teenager stood and moved to her, absently rubbing his hands together. She froze as his gaze moved from her feet to her head and back again, so intense that she could almost feel it, like fingers gliding over her. “She is interesting. I could see why they might fight over her.”

The bald man made a noise in his throat and walked towards them. He stopped a few feet away and broke into rough laughter.

The teenager’s head snapped up and his cold eyes narrowed. “And what do you find so amusing, Troy?”

“It’s not her,” he answered, his smile wide and fanged.

Fanged?  No, that had been her imagination. People didn’t have fangs. The mafia did not have fangs!

The teen frowned. “Are you certain?”

Joseff growled low in his throat and stepped harder on her hip. “Who else would it be?”

Troy shrugged. “Damned if I know, but Patrick’s girl is a bit of blonde fluff who looks like she might crawl under the bed at the slightest provocation.” He broke into harsh laughter again. “This one’s kinda cute, though. I bet we could find something to do with her.”

His leering tone made her stomach twist. And his fangs continued to taunt her; shiny, sharp, real. How could he have fangs?

The teenager’s face clouded and he glared at Sarah, as if it was her fault. “If you’re not Katelina, then who are you? Speak!”

Joseff ground his heel into her and she yelped, then choked out, “Sarah. Sarah Townsend.” She could tell from their expressions that more was expected, but she refused to play their game.

“And just what do you have to do with anything?” the teenager demanded.

She summoned up all of her courage and stared back. “Untie me and I’ll tell you.”

The teen motioned with his hand. “Joseff.”

The Native American leaned down and grabbed her by her throat. She choked as he lifted her off the floor, crushing her windpipe in his hand. The same hand that had broken her phone to bits. Oh God.

“I’m- I’m Katelina’s friend,” she gasped out.

“What? I didn’t hear you.” The teen motioned to Joseff again and he released her. She landed on her face and rolled over, still coughing. “I’m Katelina’s friend,” she repeated, her voice raspy.

“Her friend, hmmm?” The young man’s eyes glittered like daggers. “Then tell me, where is she?”

“I-I don’t know.”

He leaned down, though not close enough to actually touch her. “You don’t know, or you refuse to tell?”

Her voice rose, though she didn’t know if it was from anger of terror. “I said I don’t know!”

“Hmmmm.” The teen straightened, turned on his heel, and stalked back to the chair. He draped himself over it and stared at her with bored disdain. “I imagine you don’t know where Jorick is, either?”

Jorick. They’d mentioned him earlier. “I don’t know who he is.”

He snorted. “Of course, play innocent. But, we’ll see how long you can keep it up for.” He snapped his fingers. “Troy! Have you heard from Peter and Javier?”

“No, Claudius – Master,” he corrected quickly.

Claudius drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. “They should have reported by now, unless they’re dead.” He narrowed his eyes at Sarah. “Are they dead? Did Jorick kill them, perhaps?”

When she didn’t answer, Joseff kicked her in the back. “He asked you a question.”

 Though she knew they weren’t playing, she shouted, “I don’t know who they are, or who Jorick is, and I don’t know what happened to any of them! Let me go now and I won’t call the police!”

Troy’s grin seemed to grow even wider, if that were possible. “Let me have her, Master. I’ll make her talk.”

Claudius nodded disinterestedly. “Very well, Troy. Do as you please.” He glanced back to her and added absently, “If she knows anything, I would appreciate the information while she’s still able to speak.”

A terrified scream strangled itself in Sarah’s throat and she struggled against her bonds. This had to be a joke. Wasn’t there a TV show where they tried to scare people? Maybe she was on it. Or maybe it was a nightmare. Or maybe-

Troy bowed low, and then pounced, like a cat with a mouse. He snatched Sarah up by the front of her dress and smiled into her face; that wide, toothy, fanged smile. She could see herself reflected in his eyes, feel the heat of his breath.

Oh God, maybe it’s real.

Troy snickered and glanced to her captors. “Stand back, boys, and watch how it’s done.”

Joseff snorted contemptuously and the other two remained silent. Sarah tried to catch their eyes and send a silent plea to them, but they didn’t look at her. Her gaze swung wildly to the group clustered around Claudius’ chair. Surely one of them would help her. One of the women, maybe?

Help me. Save me. Someone, please.

Troy laughed again, and she told herself she wouldn’t scream, no matter what.

Easier said than done.

 *************

Only two left and then some editing and the Vampire Morsels collection will be done. Yay! next up is Troy, then Velnya. 

Vampire Morsels: Michael

WARNING: Language, mild sexual content and violence

As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time.  so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…

Michael

(You can find Michael in Shades of Gray. This story takes place roughly two and half years before Shades of Gray starts) 

 

Michael’s mother shoved a piece of paper into his hand. “Call them.”

He muted the TV and glanced disinterestedly at the phone number scrawled in hurried ink. “Who is it?”

“It’s a about a job, Mikey. You’ve been out for two months and all you do is lay on the couch and watch TV. Pat’s more productive than you, and that’s saying something. I told you the only way you’re staying here is if you work!”

“What kinda work is it?”

“Yard work.”

Yard work? What did his mom think he was? “I don’t know shit about yard work and I’m too smart for that crap anyway. I’m not some manual laborer.”

“No, you’re so clever, aren’t you? So clever that you landed yourself in jail! For God’s sake where else are you going to get a job with two drug convictions?” She tossed a cell phone onto his chest. “Call.”

There was no point in arguing when she was in one of her moods – not for him anyway. His brother Patrick could have sweet talked her, but hell, he could sweet talk a harpy if he put his mind to it. “Fine, whatever. I’m callin’, I’m callin.”

He dialed the number and waited. The rings peeled off, one, two, three, four, five –

“Hello?” The voice had an accent that made Michael think of Mr. Belvedere.  “The Durand residence. How may I help you?”

“Um, yeah. My mom told me to call about the lawn job or whatever.”

There was a pause and then, “Are you enquiring for the sake of employment?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Mr. Belvederedrew an audible breath through his nose. “Name please?”

“Michael Mullins.”

“Mr. Mullins, please come to the manor tonight after dark. The master will wish to speak with you.” He gave him a handful of directions, then bid him a crisp goodbye.

 “Well?”

At his mother’s question, Michael snapped the phone closed and tossed it back to her. “I have to see ‘the master’ tonight.” He tried to add the right snooty inflection, but failed. “Sounds like a pain in the ass.”

 

Michael found the ‘manor’ easily enough – it was the only set of iron gates in the county. He drove through them, his eyes wide. The house was huge.  Made of stone, it was decorated at seemingly random intervals with angels and gargoyles, like something from a horror flick. Bright light shone from its many windows in yellow patches.

Michael wasn’t sure where to park, so he pulled the Geo off to the side. On his way to the front porch, he paused at a large carved fountain ringed with cherubs. On closer inspection, he discovered that the seemingly innocent angels had bat wings and fangs.

“Man this place is whack!”

The front door was large and made of polished wood and frosted glass. The sound of music and laughter leaked out through it and he wondered if they were having a party.

He knocked and the door was opened by a tall thin man in a suit. “Yes?”

The accent and attitude were the same as the man on the phone.  “Um, yeah, I was supposed to come about the yard job?”

“Of course.” The butler – Michael was sure that was what he had to be – looked down his nose. “This way please.”

He led Michael into a grand entrance hall. A set of sweeping staircases filled one wall and glittering chandeliers hung from the ceiling. At the far end, between the staircases, a set of French doors opened onto a room full of people. Michael caught a glimpse of glittering jewelry and swishing skirts before the butler led him away.

He followed the man down a long hallway to a small white office. “Wait here.” And then the butler shut the door and disappeared.

Michael moved uncertainly to a green velvet chair and sat down in front of a large desk. His eyes roamed the room; a suit of armor stood in one corner. Jeweled medieval weapons hung on the walls and glinted from glass fronted display cabinets. Above the desk hung an old portrait of a mustached man, and a well polished silver sword.

The door suddenly opened and the butler walked in, followed by a young sneering man who might have been eighteen. His blonde hair was pulled back and he was dressed in a ruffled shirt and vest like someone from one of the PBS shows Michael’s mother watched.

They must be having some kind of costume party.

The young man moved behind the desk and glared at Michael as if he expected him to do something.

“Hello?” he suggested.

The young man looked ready to shout, but instead he drew a deep breath and sat down. Without a word, he gestured to the butler.

The servant quickly took his place next to the desk. “The master would like to welcome you.”

The master? Fuck he’s just a kid! Must be fucking nice to get born into all of this!

The butler explained the job. It was basic grounds keeping; mowing, hedge trimming, cleaning out the creepy fountain. Basically, he only needed to worry about the front and side lawns. The extensive gardens in the back of the property were under the domain of the gardener.

When he finished, Michael asked, “How much does it pay?”

“Two hundred dollars a week.”

For two hundred dollars Michael wanted to say no, but he thought of his mom. She was right. Where the hell else was he gonna get a job with no references and no questions asked?

There were no contracts to sign, only the instructions to be back the next morning. The master glared at him with searing eyes. At the first chance, Michael stood and gave a quick, “Okay, thanks. I’ll be here tomorrow.”

He made it to the door before a cold voice drawled, “There is one more thing.”

Michael turned around to find the blonde kid staring at him. “Uh, what?”

“We value our privacy. At no time are you to be in the house, unless you are invited in. Do you understand?” A thousand terrible threats glittered in his eyes and suddenly that house was the last place Michael wanted to be.

“What if I have a problem or something?”

“Then you will knock on the door and wait for someone to answer it and address your problem.”

Michael managed to nod and with a gesture he was dismissed.

He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

 

The next morning, Michael’s mom kicked him off the couch and out the door. The manor was only slightly more friendly in the sunlight. The fanged cherubs in the fountain seemed to leer at him as he parked the Geo and made his way to the door.

The butler showed him to a shed where the tools were, including a brand new lawn mower. He gave him a set of basic instructions and waved towards the collection as if their actual functions were beneath him. Then he left.

What the fuck did I get myself into?

 

Michael was sweaty and out of sorts by the time he got home. His brother was on the porch, a beer in his hand. “Have fun at work?”

“Ah, fuck you, Pat.” Michael dropped next to him and groaned. “My back is killing me.”

Patrick snickered. “So how’d the first day go?”

“Like shit. The fucking butler is a prick. After I got done he walked around the yard pointing out everything I missed and said next time I should do a more ‘thorough job’. I’ll give him a thorough job, ass hole.”

Patrick laughed. “You gonna quit?”

Before he could answer, his mom leaned out the door and quipped, “No, he’s not!” She leveled her gaze with Michael. “If you quit this job, then you can find somewhere else to live. And you-“ she jabbed Patrick in the back “-if you encourage him you’ll be out on your ass, too. It’s time you both grow up and take responsibility for your lives.”

She went on and Patrick mimed a chattering mouth with his hand. Michael snorted and snagged his beer. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t heard this before. It’s like some kind of periodic ritual.

 

The job didn’t improve; it got weirder and worse. He hadn’t seen the master – or anyone for that matter – since his interview. It was like the whole place was deserted, except for the butler. The asshole of a butler. The man was too picky. Every time he inspected Michael’s work, he’d add something new that Michael needed to do. By the third week it took so long to get everything done that he was working into twilight.

Michael slammed the shed door closed and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The night bugs were already screaming in the trees and lights were popping on in the manor’s many windows. This might only be three days a week, but it ain’t worth this shit for two hundred bucks.

He clomped towards the house and banged on the door – the side door, they couldn’t have the lowly help accessing the front entrance, now could they? – and waited for the butler. If that jackass finds something to criticize tonight I swear to God I’ll fucking quit. He can do his own fucking weed whacking!

The door opened, but instead of the sneering, suited man, there was a bald guy with cold gray eyes. “What d’ya want?”

“A million dollars, what do you think? I just finished the yard and I’m going home.”

“Oh, you’re the yard guy. You better come in and tell Miguel. This isn’t my deal.”

Michael wanted to argue, but there was something about the man’s eyes that made him shiver. Like that master guy.  “Yeah, okay.”

He followed the bald guy into the house. He led him through a pair of paneled rooms and into a large, sparkling kitchen. The butler stood next to a table, supervising a pair of women who were frantically packing ice into what looked like a giant punch bowl. He looked up and narrowed his eyes at Michael. “What do you want?”

The bald guy answered for him. “He’s done with the yard and he looks pretty worn out.” He clamped a hand on Michael’s back. Though the gesture was supposed to seem friendly, it made Michael shiver. “I thought we might invite him to the party.”

The butler winced. “As you wish, Master Troy, though perhaps you should ask the master’s permission?”

“Ah, Claudius won’t mind. He was moaning last night about how bored he was.”

Though Troy stood behind him, Michael could almost feel his smile. It made his skin crawl. “That’s okay. I should probably get home, anyway.”

“Nonsense. It’ll be great. The best party you’ll ever go to!” With a little too much force he steered him towards the door and through the house to the entrance way.  Michael was surprised to see several people, all dressed to the teeth, loitering near the stairs. In the center of the group was the blonde haired kid – the master, again dressed like something form a historical.

He turned to the new arrivals and his face turned dark. “What are you doing in the house?”

Troy answered for him. “It’s okay, I invited him in. We need some new blood at these things.” He broke into a boisterous laugh that was taken up by a few of the others.

The hilarity melted away as a group of young women came down the stairs. Michael had to forcibly hold his mouth closed. Holy shit! They’re fucking’ hot! Though hot didn’t do them justice; they were beautiful, like something off of TV or a glossy magazine page and he couldn’t look away.

It was the girl in the middle of the group who knocked the breath from his chest. Her hair was long and pale blonde and she wore a midnight blue dress that fell to her feet. She came to a stop before them and Michael choked. Her eyes matched her dress and they were like staring into an endless ocean. For a wild moment he wanted to drown in them and forget everything else, but the reality of her age pulled him back. She couldn’t have been a day over fifteen.

Too fuckin’ young for you. That’s jail bait right there.

Claudius caught her hand and brushed his lips across it. As he dropped it, he looked to Troy. “Should your joke go amiss, you’ll take his place mowing the lawn.”

Joke?

Troy’s demeanor changed for a moment, like slipping from one shirt to the next. “As you command.” He gave a stiff, formal bow and then tugged Michael away. “Come on boy, those aren’t the ones you’re looking for.”

Michael followed, still wrapped in the spell of her ocean colored eyes. It was only the giggles of a threesome of women that pulled him out of it. He blinked at them stupidly. Man, more hotties? What is this place? Like the playboy mansion?

The darker of the three grabbed him by the front of his tank top and pulled him towards her. “It could be,” she murmured, her breath cool on his face. “Why don’t you come with us and find out?”

Warning bells went off in the back of his mind, but they were muffled by another thought. When am I ever gonna get a chance at something this hot again? The answer was never and he wasn’t about the throw away his one shot.

Troy seemed to evaporate. Michael looked from the spot he’d been standing in to find he was in a ball room. One wall was made of shining mirrors and, as he watched, one of the panels opened in the shape of a door – a secret door – and a well dressed couple slid out. The woman dripped with jewels and the man-

“Are you coming?”

Michael looked to the girls, and managed to nod. With a chorus of giggles, they led him through a maze of glittering rooms. His eyes strayed from their breasts to the opulent surroundings long enough to think, Holy shit, this guy’s got more money than I thought, but then his attention was pulled back to the ladies, almost against his will.

The room they stopped in was a bedroom, or it had the air of a bedroom, but there was no bed. Only a chaise lounge and a scattering of other furniture. The girls pulled him to the lounge and knocked him back onto it. He laid back, a stupid grin on his face as the darker girl hitched up her skirt so that she could climb on top of him, straddling him with a pair of long, tanned legs.  She leaned close to him. Her lips moved down his jaw and to his throat, where they stopped. She flicked out her tongue and licked him, as if testing the flavor. He moaned and shifted, arching his back and grinding his hips into her. Over her shoulder he could see the other two girls, holding hands and licking their lips.

“Are you ready for the night of your life?” she asked, her voice a whisper against his skin.

 

Patrick let out a lungful of smoke. “And then what?”

Michael shook his head and snagged the joint back. “I dunno man, it’s all a blur after that.” He took a hit and held the smoke, though it leaked out with his words. “I’m tellin’ ya though, whatever it was, it was fuckin’ wild.”

“Yeah, no shit. I can see the hickies.” Patrick took the joint back and balanced it in his fingers. “It looks like they chewed on your neck.”

Michael exhaled the smoke and ignored his comment. “I been thinkin’ about something. I mean, shit they got a lot of stuff in that house. I mean a lot of stuff that has to be worth a fortune.”

“They’re rich man, that tends to happen.”

“No, you’re not getting me. Think about it. They got all this really rich stuff, right? But there’s no one there all day. I mean no one.”

“So?”

“Are you listening to me? Man, you’re like ignoring me. You’re always ignoring me.”

Patrick giggled, “Okay, say it again. I’m listening.”

“There’s no one there and they got all this stuff. There’s just that fucking butler, Miguel hanging around. I hate that prick. I hate that fucking smarmy master kid, he thinks he’s so clever. I know he does. He sat there are smarmy mouthed and shit like he was better than me, but he ain’t, and he ain’t smarter. I’m smarter. I’m smarter and I’m gonna use my brains. I hate that job but I need money.  We go in, we take the shit, and we sell it for money. And if that prick of a butler catches us we fucking kill him.”

Patrick exploded into laughter. “Are you fucking serious?”

Michael frowned. “Yeah, I’m fucking serious. We could be rich. Rich enough to get outta this place and buy a real life.”

Patrick exhaled a thick cloud of smoke and eyed his brother. “Man, money don’t buy a life. You want a life, you gotta do something with it.”

“And you gotta have money to do that.” Despite his buzz, Michael felt suddenly sour. “You in or what?”

“Come on Mikey-”

“Don’t Mikey me. Are you fucking in or out?”

Patrick’s good mood flickered. “You’re just fucked up. When you sober up-”

“In or out?”

All signs of amusement disappeared. “I’m out, Mikey. It’s a stupid plan that’s gonna get your ass back in jail.”

“Fine. Who needs you anyway? You know what? Fuck you.” He jerked to his feet. “I’ll do it on my own.”

Patrick snorted. “Only a moron would do it.”

Angry words stuck in Michael’s throat and his only response was a strangled noise of fury before he slammed out the door.

 

The sun was high in the sky when Michael stopped. He dropped the weed whacker to the ground and leaned against the house. I don’t give a fuck what Pat says. I’m sick of this shit.

He reached into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around the cool metal of the gun. It was just a Colt Junior, snagged from his mother’s purse, but it was enough to take care of Miguel if he needed to. Part of him hoped the fucking butler got nosey. He could picture the self-righteous prick with a hole between his eyes.

He kicked the weed whacker for good measure and marched towards the house. Instead of knocking on the side door, he threw it opened and charged inside. He paused in the doorway to the next room, waiting, the gun drawn and ready in his nervous hand.

When Miguel didn’t appear, Michael lowered the weapon and tried to come up with a plan. He hadn’t brought a bag and since he was alone he couldn’t carry much. It would be better to find a couple of small things that were worth a lot.

He thought of the bejeweled weapons in the office, and hurried through the unfamiliar house, opening doors. When he finally found the office, he also found the butler.

Miguel was hunched over the desk, a drawer opened and his eyes bulging with guilt and surprise. He was going through ‘the master’s’ stuff, but Michael didn’t care. He raised the gun in a single motion and, before the startled butler could react, he pulled the trigger.

The sound was loud; louder than Michael had expected. He stared, dumbfounded at the butler, who stared back. Then Miguel looked down to where a red spot blossomed against his white shirt. With a strangled gasp, he clutched his bleeding chest and exclaimed, “Oh my God!” before he tumbled backwards and fell over the chair.

Michael held the gun out and noticed that the barrel shook. Holy fuck. I shot him. I fucking shot him. Oh my God.

He staggered back and dropped the gun. He could hear the butler moaning. Why is he making so much noise? Shut up! Shut up!

He hurried around the desk and stared down at him. Miguel lay half on his side, clutching his chest. Blood leaked from between his fingers. Michael’s hands clenched and unclenched and he looked around wildly. What should he do? Should he hit him in the head with something? His eyes landed on the silver sword on the wall and he thoughtlessly pulled it down.  

He turned back to Miguel and raised the sword like a baseball bat. The butler choked and grabbed his leg. His blood smeared on Michael’s jeans. He stared ta it; at the bright red against the pale blue denim. Miguel gasped out, “Help me.”

Michael slammed him in the head with the flat of the blade. Miguel cried out and he did it again and again and again. The room blurred and he lost track of it; lost track of himself. When he came back to reality he was shocked to see Miguel’s face and head beaten and sliced into a bloody pulp.

He backed away and dropped the sword to the floor. His arms were speckled with blood. Miguel’s blood. Somehow this didn’t feel like he thought. It had all gone wrong.

He ran from the room. His feet pounded down the corridor until he saw a bathroom. He ducked inside, his stomach heaving, but there was no toilet; only a sink and a bathtub. He turned in helpless circles. Bile gagged into his throat and mouth and he lurched for the tub. The vomit hit with enough force to splash back. Just like Miguel’s blood. The thought made him wretch harder.

When his stomach was empty he fell back on the floor, exhausted. He had to fix this. It was all fucked up and he had to fix it.

Wash away the blood, he told himself. He stood on shaking legs and turned on the sink. Fancy hand towels hung nearby and he wet them down and savagely swiped at the blood that speckled his arms, chest and face. Just get rid of the blood. It’s okay. It’s okay.

He dropped the ruined towel in the sink and stared at himself in the mirror. Wild blue eyes stared back; eyes that didn’t have a plan. He needed a plan. He’d killed someone and if he got caught it wouldn’t be jail this time, but prison. He’d have to get out of the country. Maybe Mexico? But to do that he needed money.

Fuck!

He took a deep breath. Come on man, you’re smart. You can do this.  And he could. He was in a fucking mansion surrounded by money. He just needed to grab something and get out. But what? He couldn’t stand the thought of going back to the office. Fuck, there’s stuff everywhere. Just grab something.

When he could walk with steady steps he followed the corridor back to the entrance hall. His eyes fell on the double French doors and the ballroom beyond He thought of the mirrored wall and the secret door. If the stuff upstairs was worth a fortune then what would be down there?

He felt along the wall, desperate fingers scrabbling at the smooth glass. “How the fuck do you open this? Come on!”

As if by command, something clicked and the door sprang opened. He gave a soft cry of delight and ran down the dark narrow stairs.  The light gave out before he reached the bottom and he stumbled when he hit the floor. He flicked his cigarette lighter to life and examined the room by its wavering flame. Candles in massive golden holders stood on either side of the door. He hurried to light one of them, then turned back to the room to find ten large wooden boxes neatly arranged in rows. Excitement coursed through him as he thought about what must be inside. He envisioned gold, like treasure from a long forgotten children’s cartoon.

He hurried to the first and pried open the lid. There was no gold inside, but a man with a pale face and closed eyes.

Holy shit! He’s dead!

Michael jumped back and knocked into the candleholder. It fell with a clatter and the candle went out.  In the dark he scrambled for his lighter and flicked it to life in time to see the figure leering over him, mouth opened, fangs gleaming.

He grabbed the fallen candlestick and swung it. It slammed into the guy’s head and sent him sprawling. Michael scrambled to his feet and raced up the stairs, his heart pounding in time to his footfalls. He skidded through the ballroom and out the double back doors to the sun drenched veranda. He cast a look back and saw the guy burst through the secret door, half of his head bashed in and bleeding.

Oh my God! How is he still walking? He should be dead!

The man saw him, and with a fanged, inhuman snarl lunged towards him, but stopped just before he reached the pool of late afternoon sunlight that spilled through the doors.  He gave a wordless cry of fury, and then turned and shouted, “Miguel! Where the hell are you, you worthless piece of shit? Miguel!”

Several more men appeared, storming through the secret door, fangs bared. Just as the first had done, they skidded to a halt at the edge of the sunlight.

Michael was frozen in place by terror, but when no attack came his muscles began to uncoil. What the fuck? Why aren’t they coming out here to get me?

And then he decided he didn’t care why. With a final, horrified look at the snarling crowd, he ran.

 

He took a shower and changed his clothes. His mother came home from work. She made dinner. He ate. Patrick came shuffling in the door, smelling like alcohol and cracking jokes. Despite the fact there was a dead butler at the manor, the police didn’t come. The world moved on just as it always had and Michael floated above it in a surreal bubble of confusion. 

Maybe I dreamed it? He ducked into the bathroom and fished through the hamper for his jeans. Speckled and smeared with blood, they matched his memories. Something had happened at that house.

 He had a word for what they were; what he thought they were, but it felt ridiculous on his tongue.  Vampires weren’t real. They couldn’t be. And yet, there they’d been, or something very like them. He’d seen their fangs. He’d seen them stop at the patch of sunlight. There was no other explanation and, despite the absurdity, so many things made sense now. Why the house was deserted in the daytime, why there was a secret door, and coffin-like boxes in the basement. Why they hadn’t gone to the police yet. It was because they couldn’t risk an investigation!

With that realization, Michael relaxed. He was safe. They couldn’t do anything to him because he knew; he knew what they were and if they so much as breathed wrong he’d tell everyone. He’d take the police to the manor in the daylight, show them the secret door and lead them down to the basement. He’d tell the whole God damned world! And then what would they do?

The more he thought about it, the more he realized his silence was worth something. They had plenty of money. They could afford to give him some. No, they should give him some! He deserved it!

He jammed the jeans back in the hamper and strode through the house. His mom and Patrick were on the couch, he tossed “I’ll be back,” at them and headed out the door. As it shut behind him he heard Patrick laughingly call, “Have a happy journey!”

 

The lights were blazing in the manor windows when Michael parked the Geo. He climbed out, straightened his shoulders and marched to the front porch where he pounded on the door. Fuck having to slink in the side entrance.

The door opened and Troy stared at him. “Well, well, you came back.” He grinned, his fangs clearly visible.

Michael flinched back from the teeth. His cowardice embarrassed him, and he snapped out, “Damn straight I came back. I want to talk to Claudius. Now.”

Troy moved back so he could enter, “Then come on in.”

Michael walked into the entrance hall. People – no, vampires – stood around in tiny clusters, holding glasses of red wine. No, not wine. I bet that’s blood.

At that thought Michael suddenly wasn’t so sure of himself, but he’d be damned if he let them know it!

He followed Troy past the curious stares and down the hallway, towards the office. As they walked, they passed the three women from the other night. The ladies giggled and waved at him. Their full lips curved into fanged smiles and they laughed when he winced away.

Troy stopped and held the office door opened. “In here. I’ll go fetch Claudius.”

Michael hesitated. Behind his eyes he pictured Miguel lying on the floor in a pool of blood, his face and head mutilated. He couldn’t face that room, but he didn’t have a choice. Without waiting for a response, Troy walked away and there was nothing for him to do but go inside.

Come on, you can do it. Just go in there and get this shit over with.

He forced his feet to move over the threshold and then into the room. The silver sword he’d used on Miguel was clean and hanging on the wall above the old portrait. What did you expect? Did you think they just left the mess?

He sat in the green velvet chair in front of the desk and waited. When Claudius swept through the door, Michael’s heart froze in his chest. He took his place behind the desk and crossed one leg over the other.  Troy followed and stopped next to the desk, an amused twinkle in his eyes.

When Michael didn’t speak, Claudius snapped, “What do you want?”

This guy is just a kid, Michael reminded himself. I’m older than he is. He’s just a stupid kid and I’m smarter. I’ll show him. He cleared his throat and announced with as much bravado as he could muster, “I know what you are.”

Claudius arched a single brow and tapped his fingers on the desk. “Do you, now? Somehow I doubt it.”

“I do,” Michael insisted. “You’re-” the word stuck, as if it was too silly to say. “You’re vampires.”

“Well, well. It seems you’re more intelligent than I gave you credit for.” Claudius leaned back in his chair. “So, we’re vampires. What of it?”

Shit. Michael had expected him to deny it. Some rational part of himself had even hoped Claudius would simply laugh and churn out another explanation – an explanation that made more sense.  His voice turned hard to hide his discomfort, “So if you want me to keep quiet you’re gonna have to make it worth my while. I want one million dollars, in cash, or I tell everyone I can find.”

Claudius made a strange noise in his throat and stood, his back to Michael and his eyes on the portrait that hung over his desk. “Do you know who this is?”

Michael blinked at the non sequitur. “What?”

“The portrait.” Claudius turned to face him, his eyes cold, blue fire.  “He was my father.” Claudius fetched the silver sword down from the wall and Michael shifted uncomfortably. The young man held it at arm’s length, as if checking the edge. “Do you know what happened to him?”

The atmosphere in the room changed perceptibly, and Michael looked to the door, only to see that Troy now stood in front of it, that fanged smile on his face. “No.”

Claudius’ tone was emotionless. “I killed him, with this sword. And do you know what I learned?”

Beads of sweat popped out on Michael’s forehead. “Uh, no?”

“I learned that it’s all rather pointless. Even a worthy foe is not so worthy once they’ve fallen at your feet in a pool of their own blood. And an unworthy foe… Well…” He looked to Troy. “Deal with him.”

Michael yelped and tried to get out of the chair, but Troy was too fast. He pinned him back, fangs flashing as he bit though his throat. Michael screamed and fought, hands and arms flailing. He managed to pitch himself, chair and all, backwards, and scrambled away, his neck torn and screaming in pain. He pressed a hand to it and came away with a palm full of blood. His own blood.

Oh fuck.

Troy lunged at him again, Michael dodged, but only barely. The bald vampire grabbed him and threw him across the room. He smashed into one of the display cases in a flurry of glass and bits of wood.

“Watch the furniture!” Claudius shouted.

Michael tried to scramble to his feet, but his leg wouldn’t work right. He looked to see it bent at an odd angle. Oh fuck, it’s broken. Oh fuck. Oh-

Troy grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him up. He shrieked as his weight landed on his leg. He had a momentary glimpse of Troy’s flashing fangs before the vampire ripped into his throat again.

The pain was more than Michael could stand. It radiated out from the bite, like fire under his skin. He twitched and tried to scream, though the sound was more a gurgle than a cry. The edges of his vision turned black and the room smeared; shiny white walls, shiny metal weapons.

“Stop!”

Troy obeyed Caudius’ command and dropped Michael back to the floor in a bloody heap. He choked on his own blood and reached a hand to his neck to try to stem the flow. Oh God.

Claudius stood over him, a self satisfied smirk on his cold face. “You thought you could get the best of me? You, a petty mortal! Where is your cleverness now? You’re out of your depth and now your fear flows out behind you in crimson rivers. Death stands behind you in the shadows, ready to drag you to hell. Was it worth it?”

Troy leaned casually on the desk. “Death is too good for someone like this. I got a better idea.”

Claudius snapped his attention to his subordinate, no doubt angry that his poetic scene had been interrupted.  “And what would that be?”

“We should keep him. Since he killed Miguel we’re short handed.”

Claudius clucked his tongue and looked over Michael’s bleeding, broken form. “We have enough humans, I don’t want any more. Especially one we can’t trust.”

Troy’s cruel eyes turned crueler. “Then don’t leave him human. Have someone turn him.” His gaze shifted to the group of vampires who stood in the hall, peering in, no doubt drawn by the noise. Among them was a young woman in a red dress, her eyes on the floor. “Elsa’s a fairly new vampire and since Lennon turned her she doesn’t have any powers to pass on. Of course, you could just kill him, if you think that would be a better punishment. I just thought that dragging it out might make him think twice.”

The room tilted and Claudius’ answer turned into an ocean of unintelligible words in Michael’s ears. He tried to concentrate on what was happening, but it slipped through his grasp. Not like this. I can’t die like this.

“-turn him.”

Though Michael missed the beginning of the sentence he knew those words were a command. He looked up to see Elsa standing near him. Like all the other women there she was beautiful. Hell, even the men were beautiful. He was dying, surrounded by the beautiful people.

Elsa looked down at him, pity in her eyes. The command was repeated and her shoulders slouched with defeat. She knelt down, her knees in his blood. It was red, like her dress, like her lips, like the ring that was slowly expanding around his vision; a red circle slowly expanding to blot out the world.

Elsa wrinkled her nose at the mess on his neck and lifted his arm to her mouth. He felt her breath on his skin as she hesitated and then, with a last look to Claudius, she bit.

Michael gave a gurgle; a gurgle of blood, death, fear. Pain radiated from the bite, hot and burning, then morphed to something else; cool, soothing ocean waves that lapped over him. He looked at her, looked at her red lips wrapped around his arm, the curl of hair that fell in her face and those deep, brown eyes; eyes filled full of pity. Pity for him. Pity for her and pity for the new life he would lead.

A life of punishment.

Who’s the clever one now?

 

  • Tales of the Executioners

    Short stories from the world of Amaranthine; a universe of blood and darkness where vampires don't sparkle and night is eternal. Each is about a member of the Executioners squad; the special vampire "police" force. Members both past and present share stories of assignments, origins, and more.

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    Joleene Naylor

    An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com

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