101 Tips for Traveling with a Vampire Free on Amazon

Get 'er while she's free!

Amazon sent me a notice about this a few days ago and I completely forgot.  So, fast forward I hopped onto Amazon tonight to check my sales and had over 3,000 for 101 Tips. Considering I haven’t sold any of those for the last two months, I immediately though “this is a mistake”, and then I remembered the mail from Amazon and it made sense.

Of course, free means I’m not making any royalties off those sales, but I don’t mind since it’s already a free book at Smashwords, anyway, and would have been free on Amazon if they allowed for it.

Right now you’re asking yourself “WHat’s the point of this post?”  It’s to tell you that if you haven’t gotten 101 Tips for Traveling with a Vampire from Amazon, now is the time to do it coz it’s a freebie, and we all love a freebie!

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still get it for free on Smashwords as a document or PDF. it’s only about 9,000 words total, including the preview of Legacy of Ghosts, so it’s not too bad to read on a computer screen.

Interview with Jorick

Hello! My name is Katelina, and welcome to Character Interviews. I spend a lot of time in the Amaranthine series quizzing vampires on what they’re doing, where they’re going and why, so Jo thought I would be the perfect interviewer.

The first victim – erm – interviewee is none other than my very own Jorick! If you’ve never met him I can sum him up for you in a few words: Dark, sexy and crabby. Oh, and he’s one of those vampires I mentioned earlier. You can find him in Both Shades of Gray and Legacy of Ghosts, as well as the upcoming Ties of Blood.

Katelina: So, hello Jorick! Welcome to the first Character Interview!

Jorick: Hello.

Jorick

K: Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?

J: I believe you already know everything important.

K: I doubt it. Besides, the people reading this don’t. *jabs Jorick in the ribs*.

J: *sighs* fine. I’m Jorick.

K: Well that was informative. Okay, moving right along, would you say the book series you’re in should be classified as romance or thriller?

J: I think you modern people are far too concerned with classification. It has romance. It has vampires ripping one another to shreds. It simply is. Accept it, and move on.

K: That sounded surly. What’s the deal? Do you object to being the hero in a romance? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you objected to romance in general. *pauses* But of course, you’re the one who went to the trouble of finding me, not to mention all those old mementoes you saved of you-know-who-

J: *glares* What’s your point?

K: Only that you must be a romantic. But, you have a pretty violent streak, too, don’t you? I mean, you’re always fighting someone. There was Claudius, and then there was Kateesha and now Oren wants to fight The Guild (the vampire government).

J: If you haven’t noticed, there’s a common denominator behind all of those, and it starts with an “O”. Though, I’ve already told both of you I’m not fighting The Guild with him. If he would use his brain he wouldn’t, either.

K: You said that last time, too, remember? You’re always making absolute statements and then retracting them.

J: No, I don’t. Occasionally I change my mind given the circumstances. For example, I had every intention of ignoring Kateesha until her pathetic goons hurt you. After that I owed her.

K *giggles* That’s kind of romantic, you know. And since we’re on the subject, would you say I’m your girlfriend?

J: *clears throat* I’d say you’re ridiculously obsessed with labels. (Katelina narrows her eyes). For crying out loud, Katelina! I’ve rescued you, held you while you cried, risked life and limb, bled, and killed for you, and I’m even going to go meet your mother! What more can a woman want?

K: All right. I’ll take that. My mother’s really not that bad, you know. Where would you rather go?

J: Go? Nowhere! Why in heaven’s name must we always be “going” somewhere? Can’t we just stay home and have some peace and quiet once in a while? Is it really that boring?

K: You don’t even own a TV. You really need to catch up with the rest of the world. Sometimes, you’re like hanging around my great-grandfather and that’s kind of creepy.

J: *sarcastic* Thanks a lot. You know, sometimes you’re like spending time with a spoiled child, but I don’t point it out to you. If you think trying to adjust to having someone around the house after a hundred plus years isn’t difficult, the you’re much mistaken. Especially someone who is as fond of noise as you are.

K: Are you saying I’m noisy?

J: is that an official interview question? The answer is yes, by the way. *mumbles* like your great-grandfather…

K: Fine, I’m sorry. I retract that statement. But, you are, erm, crotchety. Why is that?

J: I’m not crotchety! I just have no patience for stupidity. It was always annoying, but after a few hundred years, I find it tedious and infuriating. You’d think people would learn but, no, they’re exactly the same now as they were four hundred years ago! They still do the same stupid things, make the same stupid mistakes and spend all their time either trying to get more or else trying to escape the fact they don’t have enough!

K: When will the third book, Ties of Blood, be out, and do you think it’s better than the previous ones?

by me

J: Hopefully this summer. I believe our… lovely… author is waiting on editing at the moment, or at least that’s her excuse. As for being better, who can say? There’s less violence than Shades of Gray, and there’s less romance than Legacy of Ghosts. I’d venture to say that there is more world building in this one, especially since readers will get to see The Guild’s Citadel and meet some characters that have only been mentioned before, like Malick, as well as some new characters . As far as what it’s about, some… beautiful, but insane little human decides we should go visit her mother. I am dragged against my will and, just as I predict, it is a disaster that ends at the police station. If that isn’t bad enough, there’s a red headed idiot that shows up and won’t go away! That clown is like a bad penny! Everywhere I look, there he is!

K: Yeah, yeah, Verchiel. Move on.

J: And then we go see Malick. *shrugs*. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

K: You didn’t mention Oren and his plans for the stupid war, or about that Traven guy who shows up. I know he’s up to something. And what about Senya? She’s still as evil as it gets! And-

J: Why don’t you just post an outline? Wouldn’t that be faster? You’re supposed to make it sound mysterious.

K: Like you did a good job of that! “And then we go see Malick”! What is that? Something like, “And then we are summoned by Malick, the most powerful vampire alive-“

J: he’s not, though. He’s just the most powerful one in the Americas.

K: Fine! “And then we are summoned by the most powerful vampire on the continent and taken to The Guild’s Citadel against our wills. Will we ever discover what the ancient master truly wants, or will his insidious scheme remain veiled in shadows until the next book?”

J: A little melodramatic, but it’s better than anything our author has bothered to come up with. I don’t think she’s even started to write up a blurb.

K: And with that we are out of time! Thanks so much for being my first unwilling victim, Jorick. As I mentioned before, you can find both Jorick and myself in Shades of Gray and Legacy of Ghosts, available as an ebook from Amazon, Smashworda, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and many other places, or as a paperback through Amazon.com.

  

If you’re an author and would like your character(s) to be interviewed by me, then check out this very cool page that has all the details:

https://joleenenaylor.wordpress.com/character-interviews/

And now, as a special treat, here is a (tiny) extract from Ties of Blood chosen by Jo’s brother:

(working cover)


“No!” Jorick shouted. “If it weren’t for you and your wife and your sister! We’re here because of your war with Claudius! Your sister started that war, if you’ll remember, because she couldn’t keep her hands to herself! And when the Executioners came, they killed your wife because of the Laws she broke! She trapped your son into eternal childhood and the youngest as a baby for eternity, Oren! A baby! How many hundreds of years would you want to live, trapped like that? It was Jesslynn and Torina’s self centeredness that’s landed us all here! I’ve stood by you because no one else would, but by God, Oren, I’ve had it with your inability to see your own faults! You’re so quick to blame someone else when the person you should be angry at is the one who looks back at you in the mirror! You allowed Torina to be out of control! You allowed Jesslynn to turn the children! You let the war drag on and on, and when Torina derailed your second war to fight Kateesha, because of a feud over yet another of her bedmates, you went along! It was your choices, and your choices alone that have landed you here and I suggest you use the time until we’re released to come to terms with that!”

Katelina stared at the wooden door, her eyes wide and her mouth open in shock. As if her hand acted of its own accord, she opened the door wide enough to see the pair. Jorick stood over the couch, his dark eyes flashing fire, his hands on his hips. Oren was still seated, his face white, his jaw clenched and his fists shaking at his sides. His earlier anger was nothing compared to what she saw on his face now.

Who Art Thou…

Did you know that:

  • I’ve never killed a vampire?
  • I’m obsessed with anime?
  • I once wrote an 800 page book that some of my friends hidden in it as reworked characters?

You can find this and more on Reena’s blog, including who I think my top four fans are!  Author and blogger Reena Jacobs is kind enough to host different author interviews on her Who Art Thou Thursday , and this week I’m making an appearance! So go check it out!  And check out her work while you’re there!

On a side note, David Kubicek’s novel In Human Form is now available in Paper back. Check his blog for the details, and don;t forget to look for his short story collection, Moaning Rocks!

Taking Over Reena’s Blog!

Okay, I haven;t really taken it over, but Reena Jacobs, author of the intriguing Shadow Cat, has been kind enough to feature and excerpt from Legacy of Ghosts on her blog.

pooling blood

By me

“It was a nightmare.

Blood; there was blood everywhere -“

To read the rest check out her blog and be sure to leave a comment! 

Also, look for an interview with yours truly on the fifth of this month!

Vampire Morsels: Elsa


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…

Elsa

 (You can find Elsa in Shades of Gray. She is the one who turned Michael. This story takes place in the early 1980’s.)

Elsa stared at him and he stared back. A long moment dragged past and then he gave what amounted to an apologetic shrug and strode away in the rain. She watched him go; watched him climb into his black car and disappear into the night, and then she went inside and cried.

She hated him, but she hated herself even more.

When the tears stopped coming she wiped her face and went to the kitchen. In movies people always splashed water on their face, but what was the point? It was damp enough. Though, that would be a good excuse if her parents saw her.

“Why is your face wet?”

“Because I just washed it.”

Yeah, right.

She opened the refrigerator and stared inside. Her eyes skipped from item to item again and again, as if they might conjure something new and infinitely delicious, but they didn’t.  There were vegetables and fruit and cold iced tea. None of it would help settle a broken heart.

But what would?

She closed the door and dropped into a kitchen chair. The coffee pot light blinked in the darkness and the rain splattered noisily on the window. It was just the kind of night to be miserable, wasn’t it? The kind of night that practically screamed for the company of the depressed and lonely. Even if it was their own fault. Which it was.

She knew he didn’t want anything serious. She knew he had a life that was as different from hers as night was from day, not to mention a girlfriend he’d never leave. Still, she’d hoped anyway, hadn’t she? Deep down she’d believed that he’d stay. That was why she was so shocked when he said goodbye.

“Bye, babes. It’s been fun.”

What fantastic parting words. Those were the kind of words you could frame and hang on a wall. As if. Couldn’t he come up with something better? He had enough practice that he should have a little speech memorized just for the occasion. Did he say that to all the girls, or was she just the one lucky enough for such a poetic verse. Didn’t immortality require something better from him?

Damn him.

She ran her fingers through her brown hair and took a deep, cleansing breath. She wished she could wash him away, the way she’d washed the blood from her skin after their first night. He’d shown her what he was and she’d accepted it; welcomed it. He was beautiful and charismatic, and when she looked in his eyes the world jumped.

And now he was gone.

She abandoned the kitchen and her silent coffee pot companion. The front room was awash in whispery shadows. She stopped by the tv and turned it on, but there was only static. It was too late for programming. It was as if the station managers were all saying in unison “Go to bed!”

She threw herself on the couch and absently picked up the phone from the stand. She stared at it. Nothing happened. With a sigh she snatched up the receiver and tapped in Jennifer’s number.  She was her best friend and this was the kind of situation best friends were supposed to be for.

Elsa counted off the rings. One. Two. Three. Four. They rang on and on, until she ticked off number eighteen.  That was when the line clicked and a sleepy voice muttered, “Hello?”

Elsa gripped the phone in a strangulation hold and tried to find words. “Jen-“ A thick sob cut her off and she broke down. “Tristan. He- he’s gone!” she wailed.

“What? Who’s gone?” Jen yawned and slowly came to terms with the conversation. “Elsa, is that you?”

“He’s gone!” she sobbed again. “He just left! God dammit, he just left!”

“Oh, that dude who thought he was a vampire?” Jen was suddenly awake and her voice dripped sarcasm instead of sympathy. “Look, he was hot – maybe not bringing back sexy hot, but still hot, I admit that. But, Elsa, he thought he was a vampire.”

“He was!” she cried. “Goddamit! He was! And he left!”

“Yeah, I get that he left. But you’re better off without the psycho. What would your parents say?”

Elsa watched the streaky shadows the rain threw across the carpet. This was all wrong. Jennifer was supposed to tell her it was all right. She was supposed to understand . She wasn’t supposed to lecture her. “I’m twenty. I can do what I want.”

Jen imitated her father, “Not while you’re under my roof.” When Elsa didn’t so much as giggle she sighed. “Okay, look. I’m sorry, all right? But there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.”

Elsa caught her breath and held it. Plenty of other fish. That was a line straight from the annals of cliché comfort, and so she quit listening, though Jennifer kept talking. And talking.

Elsa cleared her throat loudly, and cut into the rambling spiel.  “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Elsa, wait-“

She didn’t. She hung up the phone and then, for good measure, she unplugged it.  Tears dripped down her cheeks like the rain on the window. She wished she’d done something besides stare at him. She wished she’d thrown herself at his feet – her pride be damned! Never, never give in. Never, never let something so important slip away.  Don’t just sit there and cry about your lost paradise. Get up and do something about it.

That was what she needed to do.

Elsa stopped in the bathroom and splashed water on her face. As she thought, it did nothing to help, and soaked her shirt. She changed, threw on her raincoat and, without leaving so much as a note, she slipped out the door and into the storming night.

She slid into her car and started it. The heavy engine roared to life and she wished for the millionth time that she could afford one of the cute cars. The radio crackled and Madonna bled through the static. Her tiny, high pitched voice was no comfort, so Elsa turned the radio off.

She turned on the lights and the wipers, put the beast into gear and backed out carefully. Under the streetlights the road was a glare of slick reflections that made it hard to see.  She navigated slowly, though she was only half focused on the task.  Most of her attention was turned on where to go.

Twenty minutes later she parked outside of the Roockwood Inn where Tristan had been staying. The vacancy light flickered eerily, and the raindrops echoed off the car; ping, ping, ping.  The darkness seemed to watch her like a tangible, malevolent creature. She shivered at the thought and climbed out of the car.

Room 622, around the back. That was where he’d been, but no one answered her knock. She pounded again and again, until someone in room 623 shouted at her to be quiet. She couldn’t give up, so she hurried through the rain and into the shabby motel office. The walls were stained with tobacco and smoke hung thick in the air. The bell was broken, so she banged on the counter impatiently.

A voice came from behind the nicotine tatty blanket that served as a makeshift door between the office and the back rooms. “Yeah, yeah, hang on.”

She didn’t have time. Each second might be taking him farther away from her.

The blanket was thrown aside and a short fat man dressed in a horrible Hawaiian short waddled out. He took a puff from his cigar and eyed her critically. “Yeah, what can I help you with?”

“I’m looking for someone. Tristan Shelby. He was in room 622.”

The attendant shrugged. “Room 622 checked out earlier. Sorry, sister.” He looked her up and down again. “Just as well. I’d let that one go, if I was you.”

“I can’t!” she cried passionately. “Do you know where he went?” Tears trembled at the edges of her eyes, ready to drop.

The attendant scratched his stomach thoughtfully. Indecision flickered over his face, but finally her tears swayed him. “I don’t know where he went for sure, but he was runnin’ with a local crowd. They hang out at the old fair grounds most nights, so he might be down there. But-“ he lowered his cigar and met her eyes. “I wouldn’t go lookin’ for any of them, if I was you. They’re not what you think they are.”

Hope blossomed inside her. The old fairgrounds were a popular hangout for teenagers and, having grown up there, she knew them well. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”

“Remember I warned you!”

His words were lost as she dashed out the door into the rain. If she could only catch Tristan and say all those things she should have said earlier, then maybe she could stop this.

The drive was short. The fairgrounds were on the edge of town, and had been abandoned since the late 70’s.  She parked in the overgrown lot and got out. The tall, wet grass wrapped around her legs like grasping hands. She shook it off and forced her way through it towards the peeling gates. A wooden sunshine cut out still hung above them. Its toothy grin was faded and chipped, and the colors were bleached almost gray. “Have a Happy Day” was just visible on the reverse side in faded rainbow letters.

The ticket booth was dark and silent. The windows were a spider web of cracks that told stories of bb guns and rocks. Scattered beer bottles glittered in the flashing lightning and weeds grew through the cracked pavement. The rusted Ferris wheel hulked to her left. Vines covered it and hung down in long, thick tendrils like something from a nightmare scape.

She could feel eyes in the darkness again; feel the night watching her. She forced the silly superstition away and told herself to grow up. There was nothing to be afraid of. She’d been there before.

But never alone.

Am I alone now?

“Hello?”

No one answered her except the rain. She pulled up her courage and walked deeper into the fairgrounds.  The carousel loomed ahead of her. The dirty mirrors still tried to glitter on the canopy, and the silent horses stood in a frozen circle, waiting for riders that would never return.

She stopped next to it and waited as a bolt of lightning sliced through the sky. In the instant of light, she looked around madly, but didn’t see anyone. Her heart sank as she realized that she’d missed him. It was too late. Tristan was gone.

Her body sagged and she used the nearest carousel horse to hoist herself onto the large, disc-like base. She felt too morose to do more than sit on the edge and stare at her dangling feet. What was the point? Maybe she’d get lucky and the carousel would get struck by lightning.

She glanced up to her silent, painted companion. Dark streaks ran down the horse’s face, like old tears.  Oddly, that made her smile. “You know what it’s like, don’t you? With no reason to go on anymore?”

Thunder snapped and she sighed. She should go home and have a cup of coffee. She should change into her pajamas and go to bed. In the morning she should get up and put on her make up and go to work. Again and again the same routine. Meanwhile, he would be doing what? Or who?

She heard something. Her head snapped up and she looked around, but there was nothing. Only rain and dark and rusted rides. It was probably just a rat, anyway. Yeah. A rat.

A rat with fangs.

A man stood in front of her. To her terrified mind he was only a black shape with snarled lips and long, pointed teeth. A vampire, like Tristan. But, it wasn’t Tristan. It was someone else. Someone she needed to get away from.

She gasped and tried to throw herself backwards, but the carousel horse blocked her escape. He was too fast and she was suddenly pinned down on the old carousel. He held her by her wrist and growled into her face. His eyes were strange, not human but more like a wild dog; a wild starving dog.

He didn’t ask who she was, or what she was doing. He only stared into her eyes for an agonizing moment and then tore into her neck.  She screamed, but the sound was drown out by the rolling thunder. Lightning sliced across the sky and in the brightness she could see the rain drops, suspended in midair and the sad, weather stained face of the carousel horse, watching with chipped eyes. The darkness crashed back, but the image stayed in her head, like a still frame. Perhaps the last thing she’d ever see.

With her last breaths she screamed for Tristan.

There was a blur of motion and suddenly she was free of her attacker. She tried to move, but she was too weak to do more than roll her head to one side. The carousel horse and its neighbors were broken and strewn in the mud. The dark vampire lay nearby, hanging half off the carousel, his face covered in blood.  From the shadows a second man stepped forward.  He had bright red hair, like a punk rocker, and though he was soaked he brushed at the mud on his long coat as he approached them.

“Sorry, Lennon.  But I think I need her alive.” The new vampire hopped lithely onto the carousel platform, stepped over the bloody and angry Lennon and came to a stop next to her. He peered down at her like a vulture, his brow puckered. “You are alive, aren’t you?”

Her answer was a gurgle. Terror engulfed her. She tried to raise her hands to her gaping neck, but her arms wouldn’t work. All she could do was plead with silent eyes.

Lennon stood and wiped the blood from his chin. “What do you need her for?”

The red head arched a single brow. “Unless I’m much mistaken, she was shouting for our friend Tristan who, if you’ll recall, I am trying to locate. It seems that if she knows him, she may well know where he is.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Or maybe not.” He shrugged as if it was suddenly of no consequence. “It appears she’s useless to me, after all, so you can do what you want with her. Either kill her or turn her.”

“Turn her?” Lennon stared at him as if he’d gone crazy. “Why would I do that?”

The world shifted into shades of gray and Elsa choked. She tried to concentrate, but the conversation slipped through her fingers like tears.  Tristan. Where is he? Why isn’t he here?

“Why not?” the red head asked cheerfully. “She seems to know all about us already. That’s hard to come by in a fledgling, and it’s not like you have any, yet-“

Tristan.

“- Besides, it might be fun-“

Where are you?

“-Of course, it’s up to you. I don’t care one way or the other-“

Tristan.

“-better decide before it’s too late-“

Goodbye babes, it’s been fun.

The thunder cracked, but the sound was muted behind a wall of black. There was something in her mouth. The taste was bitter and sharp, like sucking a knife blade. She swallowed. It burned like fire. She swallowed again. And again.

It was an hour or more before she could move.  The first thing she did was sit up and touch her neck. The wound was gone. Even the blood had been washed away by the steady drum of rain.

Lennon sat nearby, his knees up and his eyes on her. “I’m Lennon,” he said pointlessly.  Then he half-lifted a hand in greeting. “Hey.”

Her eyes skipped around, but they seemed to be alone. “Where’s-”

“That red haired guy?” She nodded and Lennon shrugged. “Went back to work, I guess. He’s hunting them. Tristan and his partner. “

“Hunting them?” she echoed.  “He’s not going to – I mean he won’t…”

“Kill him?”

The words were too horrible to contemplate, but there they were, just the same. Lennon didn’t explain further, so she forced the question out, “Will he?”

Lennon’s expression softened. “Were you guys, you know?” The answer was in her eyes, and he suddenly looked away. “I don’t know. It depends, I guess. If he just goes quietly then probably not.”

Despite his attempt at reassurance, it was impossible to combat her panic. “But why is he after Tristan?”

“I don’t know. They’re wanted for something. Hard to tell.” Lennon fished a soggy pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He tried to slide one out, but it crumbled in his hand. With a mournful sigh he tossed it away. “Maybe because the guy’s obviously telling humans about us.” She opened her mouth to ask what he meant and he added, “You are – were – human, and he told you.”

Elsa couldn’t argue with that, though the word “were” disturbed her.

Lennon threw the ruined cigarettes away and stood up. “We better go. I’ve got to find my brother, then we need to get back to the den before sunrise.”

“Where’s that?” she mumbled, still lost in the intricate twists of the night’s events.

“New York.”

Her attention snapped to him. “I can’t go to New York!  I have to go to work tomorrow-” The sentence died on her lips as the full realization of her new status crashed down on her. She struggled to come to terms with everything that had in the last few hours. Hours. Was that all it had been? A few hours had taken Tristan away and changed her?

Changed her like she’d once asked Tristan to do.

“Have fun with that.” Lennon stood and offered her a hand. “I hope you don’t act this stupid when you meet Claudius.”

A mixture of panic and elation coursed through her and she fought to master it. “Is Claudius your brother?”

“Hardly!” He snickered. “He’s the coven master. We’re supposed to get permission before we make fledglings.” He frowned. “I’m not really sure what to tell him.  I’m not really sure why I did it.” he squinted ta her. “You’re not bad looking, I guess, but we need to work on a better story that this.” He waved his hand around the abandoned grounds as if to indicate the truth.

She had no answer for him, though he didn’t seem to expect one. He tugged her to her feet and led her through the rainy fairgrounds towards the exit.

Vampire.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she could hear Jennifer’s voice echoing, “He thought he was a vampire.”

That’s because he is, and now so am I.

Vampire.

The sign over the exit made her giggle softly. “Have a Happy Day”. Bizarrely, she would never have another day again. There would only be night after night from now on. But it was all right; or it would be once she found Tristan. Never, never give in. Never, never let something so important slip away.  Don’t just sit there and cry about your lost paradise. Get up and do something about it.

And now she had an eternity to do it in.

**********

Next up is either Herrick or Jeda, depending on my mood. (Herrick is so minor that his only contribution is he dies and Jorick and Katelina inherit his coffin, so he may get skipped.)

Vampire Morsels: Claudius

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…

Claudius

(You can find Claudius in Shades of Gray. This particular story takes place in France in the early 1500’s.)

The blood pounded through his head like white hot noise and he screamed. He fell to his knees, though he didn’t feel it. He was numb to everything but the pain that seared through his veins. Cold hands grabbed him. They held him down to stop him from thrashing. He kicked and fought, but the hands were too strong.

Then darkness came.

The black swirled around him but gave no comfort. It was like the dark inside a furnace; too hot and too dry. There was no escape.  He choked on the air, or was it his own throat? Something flashed behind his eyelids. It was an image and, though he recognized the face, the colors were too bright. He tried to call to her, but no sound came. There was only the dry, hot rasping of the damned.

How long it lasted, he couldn’t tell. As the agony sliced through him he forgot everything; his hopes, his dreams, his past, even his own name. There was only one thing that he could remember and that was the too bright face with eyes that shied away from him.

Then, it was over.

He blinked and tried to focus on the face bent over him. It wasn’t her, but it was a woman just the same. Francoise had dark hair and creamy skin, full lips colored in blood and long, pointed teeth. He gurgled; an attempt at speech, and she smiled at his efforts.

“So you have survived, le petit Claude.”

With that greeting his memories suddenly slammed into his skull in a heated rush. He could see her; dark and coquettish. She batted her eyes like a virgin, but took him in the stables like a common whore.

He didn’t love her, and she knew it, but she didn’t care. He was a game for her, a new toy to play with. That suited him fine.  Her offerings were sweet enough. Then, they got sweeter. She showed him her immortality and let him taste it. It was a prize like no other, one that would give him everything he deserved.  He craved it like he craved the girl in his pain smeared visions and now that he had the one he would soon have the other.

Francoise watched him with keen interest. When she’d met him she had called him young.  He told her he was sixteen and she laughed and said he was just a babe, but she could see the revenge that burned in his heart and it intrigued her. She said that she could taste his hate; hate for the one who had sired him, but turned him away. Other noblemen claimed their bastards, and without an heir there was no reason for him not to.  So desperate for a child was he that he laid claim to his only niece, but refused to foster the one who shared his blood. Or so he said. Claude suspected it was not a daughter, rather a future bride he raised in those stone halls, and that was something he would not allow. The Écuyer would never touch her.

He sat up slowly and the world tilted. He caught himself on a rough hewn stall. The smell of horses filled his nose, suddenly too strong and too organic. His stomach lurched and his tongue burned. He needed a drink.

With great effort he climbed to his feet and propped himself up. “I thirst.”

Her smile grew. “Yes, you must feed, but first you must be able to walk.” She took his arm and helped him take an uncertain step. “Yes. Yes. Come, now.”

They stopped at the opened door and he stared at the world beyond with new eyes. People bustled about their business in the late evening hours, some to bed, some to the taverns, and others to appointments of a more carnal nature. His legs felt stronger and he started forward, but Francoise held him back and shook her head. “I shall find you one, mon enfant.”

He scowled and pulled his arm free. “I am no child of yours. I will do it alone.”

She laughed but let him go. He could feel her eyes on him as he stumbled into the street, and her scrutiny straightened his spine.  The strength returned to his legs only to leech out again in an instant. He grabbed the wall of a nearby building to keep from falling in the mud. He heard her silvery laughter but he refused to succumb.

The ally was dark but a man stood at the end of it, no doubt a thief waiting for some unlucky prey. Claude stalked towards him, his every sense alive as if for the first time, but the man only offered a too friendly greeting. He did not know it was his death that approached.

It was over quickly. The man’s knife flashed and then his scream shook the night. The blade clattered to the ground, and Claude tore through his throat. Blood sprayed his face and shirt and filled his mouth. He gulped down mouthfuls of crimson. The burning agony in his throat eased, and the thirst was silenced. But there wasn’t enough.

The blood stopped coming and he stared down at the limp body in his arms with a mixture of disappointment and confusion.  Francoise was suddenly next to him. She took the corpse and cast it aside. “Come,” she said softly.  “We must quit this place before an alarm is given.” She tugged the dark cloak from around her shoulders and used it to mop his face. He flinched away at first, but settled and let her clean him. “You are hardly in a fit state to be seen and not accused of murder.”

Murder. The word rang through his mind and he looked at the corpse on the ground. He’d never killed a man before but, if he wanted his due he would have to kill many more. None would he enjoy so much as him.

Oblivious to his thoughts, Francoise threw her ruined garment aside and pulled his cloak closed over his shirt. “We are stronger than they are, but we are vulnerable to the sunlight. Never forget that. Besides, tonight you are weak, mon enfant. Your full strength will not find you until tomorrow’s sun sets.”

He sneered at the new endearment, but let it go. There would be time to deal with it later.

As dawn approached, Francoise finished the letter with a flourish. “I am coming,” she read back. “I will take what is mine and neither you, nor all the demons in hell, can stop me.” Claude nodded and she held the quill towards him, but he pushed it aside roughly. There had been no time in his previous life for things such as writing. He could do no more than make his mark, and more was needed here. His cheeks flamed in anger and shame and he determined that he would learn. He had all the time in the world now, and he would learn everything. He would put them to shame.

Without comment she dipped the quill into the pot of blood again and signed his name to the end.  “Are you sure that you wish to give him warning? Would it not be better to sneak upon him on the ‘morrow?”

“No,” he rasped. His throat was tight and hot again. “He will have the rest of this night and all the day to panic and then to posture and boast to himself. He will not run, but hide away like a rat in his hole.  When we come upon him tomorrow I want to watch the confidence in his eyes melt into terror. I want to feel his fear.” He broke into a wide, sharp smile.

Francoise’s eyes gleamed as she surveyed him. “And that is why I so enjoy you, mon enfant.” She glanced to the darkness and shouted, “Henri! Send a messenger to the castle!”

Claude woke the next night, the weakness and trembling gone from his limbs. Francoise was right; his full strength had only now come to him. He marveled at the things he could see in the shadows and at how the darkness, which he knew to be complete, seemed only to be early evening gloom to his new eyes.

He rose and found the others in the next room. He counted the pale faces. There were five, including himself and Francoise. The other three were her friends, if friends they could be called. They were more like a wild pack of dogs that hunted together for safety.

Francoise laid out the night’s plans. Claude listened in silence. He had spoken more than once to her of this after he’d discovered her secret and he knew it by heart. They would storm the castle on the hill. They would kill the soldiers and he, he would murder the Eucyer with his own hands and then take the pale beauty for his bride.

Francoise finished and asked them, “Do you understand?”

Henri, the vampire nearest to her, snickered. “We bring the girl alive and kill everyone else. What could be simpler?”

His too casual attitude infuriated Claude. This was the epoch of his entire life, not some moment of amusement. “No!!” he shouted and swiveled towards Henri with burning eyes. “You will kill only who you’re told – and you will not touch the Écuyer. He is mine.”

The others drew back at his fury, but rather than acknowledge their discomfort they looked to Francoise as if to ask, “Why should we follow him?” A dark smile curved her lips and she nodded, leaving them to grumble their assent.

With that settled, she met Claude’s eyes and smiled. “Do not fear, you will have your wish tonight as I promised, mon enfant.”

The night wrapped around them like a cloak, and they moved through it swiftly. Claude smiled to himself as the air rushed past his face and through his long, blonde hair.  He could smell the men on the wind. Though, to his inexperienced nose they were just blood, Francoise could read much more.

“There are at least six of them,” she whispered to her companions. “But they will be no trouble.”

They weren’t.

The two at the gatehouse fell to Francoise companions, and another ran for the keep. Francoise, Claude and Henri chased him. It was the latter who snapped his neck and ripped into his veins. Claude pushed past, Francoise on his heels, and took the steps of the keep two at a time. It was a small château-fort, and the keep was little more than a tower with a winding stair. How could He think it would protect them?

Two more guards stood on the stairs. Claude grabbed one by his shoulder and ripped through his neck with his fangs. His blood was hot, and for a moment he could have been lost to it. The memory of his quest pulled him back and he flung the gurgling man down the stairs. Francoise barely dodged out of the way. Though her eyes flamed, her voice was calm, “Remember, you are not alone. Do not be careless or your allies may turn on you.”

He dismissed the lesson and left the other guard for her. He heard the man scream, but he didn’t look back to see what happened. He was too close.

Two final guards stood before the wooden door at the top of the stairs. They brandished swords and one of them shouted to the occupant of the locked room, “A demon is here, my lord! All blood and fangs! God save us!”

Claude laughed at the description and wordlessly grabbed the first of the guards. He fought back, and his sword cut into Claude’s side. He roared at the surprise pain, and then grabbed the man by the arm and flung him down the stairs. His armor clanged and his bones crunched as he rolled out of sight to where Francoise waited.

The other dropped his weapon and cowered against the door, making the sign of the cross and jibbering. “Please, do not kill me. God, protect me! Please!”

“There is no God,” Claude sneered. Then he grabbed the discarded sword and slammed the blade into the man’s face. The guard screamed and raised his hands to his ruined head, as though trying to hold the blood in. It poured between his fingers, regardless, and he gurgled on it.

Claude left him on the floor in his agony and stepped over him. The wooden door was bolted from within. He raised his foot to kick through it, but stopped. No, he wanted to savor the fear. Gently he rapped on it and purred, “I’ve come. Did you get my message?”

The Écuyer swore loudly and shouted to his guards, “How can he be here? Kill him!”

“I must apologize,” Claude answered and carefully combed back the loose hair from his face with a bloody hand. “I’m afraid they cannot answer you.”

The Écuyer cried something unintelligible, then dropped his voice so that Claude had to strain to hear, “Go. Hide in the back.”

He was talking to her. He was telling her to hide. It would do no good.

Claude broke the door in with a single kick. He marveled at his new strength, but knew there was no time to be amazed. That would come later. After he had killed Him.

And there he was. He stood in the center of the room, his sword raised. He was dressed in all his glory, as if his finery would make him more intimidating, but his shaking hands and terrified eyes ruined the illusion.

“What do you want?” he demanded, though his voice trembled. “Be gone or-”

“Or what?” Claude strolled into the room, the dying guard’s sword still in his hand. “You’ll set the dogs on me, perhaps? Or have your men run me off in another shower of stones?”  His smiled grew. “Or perhaps you’ll kill me this time, is that your plan? Be done with me once and for all?”

“I should have done so,” he snapped back, his voice gruff even as he retreated a step. “The sisters at the abbey should have strangled the breath from you when you were born.”

“You should have done it yourself,” Claude answered. The amusement in his eyes flickered and died. “It would have been the only contribution you made, beyond bedding my mother.”

The man opened his mouth to reply, but stopped. Claude willed him to speak; willed him to say something, anything, but no words came. Where was his superiority now? It had fled with the lives of his soldiers, and that knowledge only swelled Claude’s fury.

He lunged at him, slashing the sword wildly. In his untrained hands it was nothing more than a sharp club that was easily deflected. It bounced across the room, but the metallic clangs did not give the Écuyer any comfort. There was no light of victory in his eyes; only fear. Claude had wanted that fear. He’d wanted to taste it, savor it, breathe it in. But he’d wanted to watch as the old man’s eyes shifted from gloating certainty into terror. He wanted to break him – but he was already broken.

Claude roared a wordless oath and threw himself at the man. The noble man dodged, but his mortal reflexes were too slow and the pair crashed to the floor noisily. Over the clang and crash Claude could hear a sharp sob from the room beyond.  His attention flew to the door that he knew she was listening at. The Écuyer saw the shift and took advantage of it to break loose and roll away. He jerked to his knees and summoned that last ounce of courage Claude had been waiting for.

“You won’t have her!”

Claude snatched up the man’s discarded sword and walked towards him. “Yes,” he said with certainty. “I will. I will have this castle, I will have the land and I will have her. I will have everything that should have been mine. Everything I was entitled to. Everything you denied me!” He pointed the sword like an accusing finger. “You left me to be raised an orphan.  You claim her as a daughter and deny the one who shares your blood! A better man than I would hate her, but,” A strange smile flickered over his lips. “I do not hate her. I will take her, and your life will be her dowry!”

The Ecuyer rose clumsily to his feet. His mouth worked with fury, though words seemed hard for him to locate. Claude didn’t wait. He lunged at him with the sword, but then cast it aside at the last moment and grabbed him by fistfuls of his hair; the fine blonde locks so like his own.  The nobleman cried out in surprise and tried to pry his hands loose, but Claude wrenched him to one side too quickly, and the Eucyer lost his footing. He’d have fallen to the floor, but Claude caught him. He held the struggling man in his arms and stared down at the face, the pitiless face of the man he despised. His hatred and fury rose like black bile in the back of his throat and, with a savage howl, he lost himself to his anger. Like a mad creature he set upon the nobleman with flashing, rending fangs; ripping and tearing at his neck, his face, even the hands he tried to shield himself with. His blood was hot; hot and bitter and it burned, but Claude wanted more. He latched his mouth around the man’s bleeding neck and drank the life from him, gulp after gulp.

And then, it was over.

Claude was seated on the floor and the torn, bloody Eucyer lay across his lap. Claude stared at the ruined face and the glassy, blue eyes and suddenly he didn’t recognize him anymore. This wasn’t his father, the lofty lord in his mighty castle, it was just a slab of dead meat that smelled of blood and piss and wine. The odors were overpowering. They choked him and, in disgust, he flung the body aside and backed away until his back met the stone wall.

The reality of the universe slotted itself into place inside his mind. His eyes drifted to the motionless body. What was it now but a corpse, like so many others? And before, what was it then? A man? A weak creature who cowered in his crumbling castle, on his tiny hill in his little county, counting his coins and jealously guarding his niece as though she were his wife.  And to what end were all those struggles? What had it gained him but a shabby, dreary little world veneered with the false delights of court and riddled with the worms of fear and weakness. Fear was all he’d known, the only thing any of them knew. They knew the deaths their futures held, and they feared it.

Their futures.

Claude was no longer one of them. Francoise’s blood had lifted him above their petty existence and away from their mad scramble for one more breath. He would have all the breaths that he could desire, all the life he could ever crave, and it would be at their expense. And why shouldn’t it? They were now the weak and he was the strong. He was the lord in the castle, only, unlike the feeble, fleshy thing that came before, he was a true lord. Better in every way than they were.

Francoise was suddenly in the room. She looked approvingly at the body, and her dark eyes shifted to her pupil. “And does your revenge taste sweet, mon petit Claude?”

He jerked to his feet and straightened his clothing. “Don’t ever call me that name again!” His cold, gray eyes landed on her and with his new clarity he saw her for what she was, as well. An immortal, yes, but not deserving of it. She was a simple whore, like so many others, and she would feast on humanity until she grew too swollen and slow and then, in the shadows, her death would find her.

“From this moment on I am Claudius.” His eyes flamed and a smile flickered over his lips. Yes, a fitting name. The name of long ago emperors. As they were above the masses, so now was he. And like they, he would rule.

Francoise laughed softly. “If it pleases you, then so be it. But where is your prize?”

He didn’t deign to answer her, only strode to that final, locked door. He kicked it in, no longer childishly amazed by his own strength, and stepped inside.  Against the far wall, before the narrow window, stood a young girl of fourteen or fifteen. Her large blue eyes were wide with terror and her long blonde hair, pale like the moonlight that wrapped around her, fell loose past her shoulders. Her thin frame trembled in the night breeze, covered only by a thin white shift.

“Father?” she whispered, though she already knew the answer.

“He was no father of yours,” Claudius answered. Though his words were harsh his tone was soft, as though he spoke to a fairy that might flee if he was too loud. Something subtle shifted in his eyes and he stepped towards her, but stopped just out of reach.  “Arowenia.” He held out his bloody hand to her. “Come with me.  I can give you youth eternal, and life everlasting. You need never fade or whither, but always be beautiful. You will want for nothing. Come.”

She swallowed hard and her luminescent eyes skipped from him to the window and the drop beyond.  She looked back and forth more than once, as if to decide which death was the crueler. Tears dripped down her pale cheeks and, as her shoulders sagged in defeat, she looked back to him.

Without a word she had surrendered and Claudius scooped her up in his arms and, equally silent, carried her through the bloody rooms and down the steep, spiraling stare into the darkness beyond. At last, he had lain claim to what was rightfully his, but it was only the beginning.

**********

Thanks God. now I can edit Arowenia to upload to Smashwords and get on with life.

Next up is Elsa (who, if you’ve read the first book, is the one who turned Patrick’s brother, Michael)

Six Sentence Sunday

it’s time again for Six Sentence Sunday, the awesome blog event where writer’s share six sentences from something they’ve written.

This week I am taking a break from Ties of Blood to share a snippet from Adam, a short story available for Free on smashwords

He’d heard something, but he didn’t know what, only that it had been something; something that shouldn’t be there. The tiny hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and a sudden, unexplained chill danced down his spine.

He walked towards the end of the alley where he instinctively felt the noise had come from. A row of weather stained garbage cans shone dully under a flickering light. The effect was eerie, but there was nothing there.

And then the light went out.

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out the other great participants!  Also of note, if you missed the announcement, sign ups will now start Tuesday instead of Wednesday because of the number of participants! That means lots of good reading!

Six Sentence Sunday

It’s time again for Six Sentence Sunday. Every week participants post six sentences from something they are writing – or have written. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to meet new writers!

This week’s are from my WIP Ties of Blood – again.

(working cover)

The idea filled Katelina with terror. She didn’t want to be a vampire, let alone one under Malick’s infamous tutelage. Jorick had been clear enough at the horrors that entailed.  She struggled uselessly and bellowed, “I’m not going anywhere!”

“Sorry,” he repeated. “But we are.”

 

No, not Jorick talking to her, but someone else.

Be sure to check out the other great participants, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Now on Smashwords….

The final version of the short story Adam, the first of the Vampire Morsels, is now available as a freebie on Smashwords. Check it out!

Vampire Morsels: Ashton

*warning – violence, bad language*

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…

Ashton

(You can’t actually find Ashton anywhere, except as a mention in Legacy of Ghosts, but I wanted to see what he and Loren were like before, so he got a story. This takes place in the mid 1990’s.)

“Hey, dickhead, get up!”

Ashton jerked awake to find his younger brother Loren glaring at him from the doorway. “Huh?”

“I said get up, dude. It’s after six. We need to get some shit from the store-”

Loren went on, but Ashton ignored him and swung into a sitting position on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. God, I’m tired. I’m so fuckin’ tired! I thought I was supposed to feel like fucking superman now?

“Are you listening?”

He wanted to Loren to go to hell, but he held back and muttered, “Yeah, sure. Look, go to the store and get whatever we need, a’ight? I got some shit to do.” With too much effort he climbed to his feet and rifled through the rubble of his bedroom for something to wear, his back carefully placed to his brother.

“You’ve always got shit to do!” Loren snapped. “How about look for a fucking job? We’re almost out of money and-”

“And you’re still in school, blah, blah, blah.”  Guilt washed over him the moment the words left his mouth, and he forced his voice calm. “Look, I’m sorry, a’right? I know this shit’s hard on you, it’s hard on me, too. If we run out before I get a job we’ll just pawn some of Mom and Dad’s stuff.” He turned and met his brother’s dark eyes for a moment, then turned away again. “A’ight?”

Loren seemed to shrink from the idea. “I don’t wanna pawn their stuff.”

“I know, but they don’t need it anymore, and you need to eat.” He shrugged and went back to dressing. “I’m gonna go up and see Jessie and the guys for awhile.”

There was a moment of silence and then Loren said quietly, “You’ve been off with them every night for like a month. You’re different since they showed up. I never see you anymore. It’s like you’re avoiding me.”

“You’re seein’ me now.” Ashton tried to sound casual. “Don’t turn all girly on me.”

“I’m not turning all girly! I was just saying, you know…” he trailed off.  When Ashton didn’t fill in the silence he sighed with resignation. “All right. I’ll go get the stuff. But, I’m taking your bike.”

Ashton cringed, but didn’t argue.  When Loren sensed his victory, he disappeared, but Ashton didn’t relax until he heard the door shut, and the motorcycle roar to life.

“Fuck,” he muttered to thin air, as if he thought it might answer him. “What am I gonna do?”

It was a good question, and one he’d been working on for three weeks. Loren was right, he was avoiding him, but how could he face him – really face him – now? How was he supposed to explain that he really was different?  Fuck, how did he tell his kid brother that he was a vampire?

Vampire. Yeah, that’s a word that makes a lot of sense.

“Fuck.”

The moon hung heavy in the sky, and a chilly wind blew across the beach. Ashton took notice of neither as he tugged open the torn screen door and slumped inside the dilapidated house. The rooms were cluttered with broken furniture and old junk. The floors crunched under foot with a mixture of garbage, bits of plaster, mouse droppings and the occasional hardy roach.

He paused in the doorway of what had once been the living room. A single hurricane lamp splashed wavery light over a stained mattress and two ratty chairs, and threw twisted shadows across the walls. Despite the gloom, Jessie sprawled in one of the chairs, as though he were the king of a grand castle, and warbled a terrible attempt at a song.

“Well if you feel the wanderlust, just grab a car or hop a bus. In every town there’s excitement to be found, so much is happening-”

Ashton flopped into the other chair sand snickered. “What the fuck are you singing?”

Jessie’s head snapped around instantly. “Spring Fever.” When Ashton only blinked, he nearly exploded, “Elvis Presley, man! The King! What’s wrong  wi’ you, huh? You never heard a’ it?”

Ashton’s hands went up and he drew back involuntarily. “Sorry, dude. Sorry.”

“Yeah, sorry. You always sorry. You come in here, interruptin’ my vibe, man, wit’ your dumb ass questions. Don’t you know nothin’? And call me Master, fucktard. Remember your place, huh?”

Ashton rolled his eyes, but let it go. Jessie was in one of moods again. Great.

Jessie went back to his song, and the other guys started to trickle in. They were all smarter than to comment on the music, even as Spring fever gave way to Teddy Bear. But Wesley, Jessie’s “right hand man”, didn’t have a problem kicking Ashton’s chair and snapping, “Hey, get outta my chair, loser.”

“Fuck you.” The words were brave, but all it took was one fanged snarl from Wesley and he stood up. “It’s fuckin’ uncomfortable, anyway. And it smells like cat piss.”

“That’s you, man.” Wesley laughed and smacked him in the back of the head, then dropped in his newly claimed chair.  “Yo, Jess, cut the concert and let’s do something, huh?”

Ashton moved away to slouch in a shadowy corner and glare. This was why he didn’t want to tell Loren about what he was. The first time Wesley smacked his little brother in the back of the head like that, he’d have to break his wrist, and then he’d be in the shit.

The singing stopped and Jessie slowly rolled his head over to face the newcomer. “And what we gonna do, huh? You got any ideas?”

Wesley smirked as if he’d been waiting for this. “Yeah, I do.” He raised his voice and shouted to unseen vampires, “Yo, bring her in!”

The screen door banged open and closed, and feet shuffled through the house.  Ashton peered around the others curiously as someone whimpered; a soft, high sound, and then two of the guys appeared through the doorway, lugging a fourteen year old girl between them. Her hair was strawberry red and hung around her face like it had just fallen out of a ponytail. Her clothes were rumpled and dirt stained, and she had only one shoe. Tears and dirt streaked her face, and traces of blood were smeared under her nose. It would have been bad enough if Ashton hadn’t known who she was, but knowing made it worse.

The guys dumped her on the floor in a heap in front of Jessie. He gave Wesley a look of surprised approval, and caught the girl’s head under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “Well, look at this.”

The girl’s eyes darted fearfully around the room and Ashton hid in the shadows. Don’t see me, Jenny. Don’t see me.

It seemed to work.

“Please,” she whispered, her voice tiny, even as she begged the whole room. “Please, just let me go home. I won’t tell. I promise. I won’t. Please.”

“You won’t tell, huh?” Jessie mused. “I tell you what, honey. You be a good girl and maybe you can go home in a little bit. How’s that sound, huh?” His lips curved into a smile and his fangs glittered in the light.  At the sight, Jenny’s eyes grew wide, and then she screamed and tried to get away. Wesley grabbed her and hauled her up into the air, her legs kicking furiously as she shrieked.

Ashton shuddered and tried to disappear into the wall. If he just closed his eyes this would all go away. Go away. Go away. Oh God, make it go away!

But, when he opened his eyes, he was still there. Wesley had Jenny pinned to the floor and Jessie and a couple of other guys were hovering over her, their lips drawn back from their fangs as she flailed and pleaded.  Goddammit  He had to do something.

“What the fuck?”

At his words the room went silent, and everyone turned in unison to look at him. He suddenly wished he’d stayed quiet, but it was too late, so he pressed on. “What the fuck are you guys doing?”

Jessie straightened up and eyed him with semi-amusement. “What’s it look like to you?”

Ashton forced back the fear and took a step forward. “Christ, man, she’s like fourteen. That’s just sick.”

“You think so?” Jessie asked in what seemed like a reasonable tone, though something in his eyes was off kilter. “Anyone else think that’s sick? Huh?”

No one moved.

“Looks like it’s just you, loser.” Wesley snickered, but Jessie silenced him with a gesture.

“Maybe he’s right.”

No one knew what to say, Ashton included.

“Maybe he’s right,” Jessie repeated. “Let her go.”

Wesley started to argue, but then he held up his hands and backed away, smirking. Jenny jerked to her feet quickly, swaying in place as she stared uncertainly from one face to another. Her gaze brushed over Ashton and he saw recognition in her eyes; recognition and fear.

Jessie laid a hand on her head, ignoring her whimper. “I say you’re right, man. She’s just a kid. A fucking little kid!” He snapped her around and put her in head lock. Her eyes went wide with terror as he shouted. “Just some fucking little kid you’re soft on. You too soft to watch, huh? You too soft to join in and have some fun? You know what? You piss me off. You always comin’ around here, ruinin’ the vibe, man! The vibe! You’re such a buzz kill, and I’m fuckin’ sick of it. We’re all fuckin’ sick of it, man!”

He paused for them to agree, but everyone was speechless, so he bellowed, “You don’t want us to have some fun wi’ her, then we gonna have some fun wi’ you, you get that, shit face? You get that?”  There was a loud crack as he snapped the girl’s neck, then he flung her aside. “You got a five minute head start, then we comin’ after you. We gonna hunt you down like a dog, and if we don’t find you, then we gonna hunt down your brother instead. You read me, man? You better get runnin’. Run, bitch! Run!”

It took Ashton a moment to digest the words, but once the meaning slammed home, he did just what Jessie said: he ran.  He pounded out of the house, and across the beach as fast as his legs could carry him. But, no matter how fast he ran, he couldn’t get the picture out of his head of Jenny standing there, her eyes wide with accusing terror.

He got to the house just as Loren was pulling in. He climbed off the motorcycle and unstrapped the bag from the back. “Hey, I thought you-” but Ashton grabbed him.

“We gotta go. We gotta go now.”

Like the ever annoying sidekick in an action movie, Loren blinked stupidly and asked, “What?”  But, unlike the movie, Ashton didn’t have time to explain.

“Just get on the fucking bike!”  And before Loren could argue he was in the saddle and pulling his brother on behind him.  He turned the key, flipped the kill switch, and kicked the bike into gear while Loren grabbed onto him.

They pealed out of the driveway, Loren clinging to him and screaming, “What’s going on!” but Ashton still didn’t have time to answer – or was it that he didn’t have the words?

The road sped away beneath them, and the dark trees were a blur in their peripheral vision. Loren soon traded questions for screaming at him to slow down, but he ignored that, too. As he drove, one thing became apparent to him: he was going to have to tell Loren. No, not only tell him, he was going to have to change him, too. It was his only chance. There was no way he could fight them like he was. The change would take a full twenty-four hours to finish, but after that he’d be better. He’d be stronger. Faster.  They just had to get through those twenty-four hours.

Ashton pulled off the road into an abandoned lot and parked the bike behind a dilapidated shed. The skeleton of a burned house squatted nearby, but it offered no protection.

He swung off the bike and Loren did the same.  His brother stared at him, eyes wild and his curly mop of hair a windblown mess. “Can you tell me now what the hell’s going on?”

Ashton glanced over his shoulder, paranoid, but there was no one there. “Look, I gotta do this the fast way. Jessie and the others… they’re not what you think.”

“You mean they’re not a bunch of asshole tweakers?” Loren asked sarcastically.

“Okay, they’re a bunch of assholes, but they’re not tweakers. They’re not… they’re not even human.” Loren started to interrupt, but Ashton went on quickly. “Look, Loren, I’m sorry about this, a’ight?  I never meant to get you involved. You know I’ve done my best since Mom and Dad got killed, but I fucked up. I fucked up bad.” He shifted from one foot to the other, and sought for words. “Jessie and the others, they’re-”

“Holy shit! What’s with your teeth?”

Ashton froze, his eyes wide. His first reaction was to hide it, but he knew he couldn’t. Not this time. “It’s part of what I’m trying to tell you. Jessie and the others – and me – we’re vampires.” The word sounded much sillier than it felt. It failed to pack the punch of cold terror that was twisting in Ashton’s gut when he thought about them.

“Vampires?” Loren echoed cautiously. “Dude, what are you on?”

“I’m not on anything!” Ashton insisted. “You have to listen. You know Jenny Willinger from down the road? They got her, dude. They got her tonight and they fucking killed her. I told them not to. Jessie was already pissed at me, and now he wants to kill me, and he wants to kill you, too.”

Loren didn’t believe him. “Seriously? Look, let’s just go home and you can sleep this off.”  He reached for his brother, but Ashton didn’t have time to convince him. No time, No time. No time!

With a roar that was half anger and half impatience, he grabbed Loren and spun him around, so his back was against him, then he forced his head to one side, exposing his neck. His brother shouted something, but he didn’t listen. He couldn’t. He had to act.

Loren screamed when he bit him. He struggled, at first, but slowly he grew still and his body sagged back against Ashton. His blood was hot and coppery, and Ashton gulped it as though his life depended on it. He was doing it fast, maybe too fast, but he didn’t know, and he didn’t have the time to find out.

No time. No time. No time.

He lowered Loren’s slack body to the ground and quickly searched his pocket for a knife. Fuck! He didn’t have one! And then he thought of his teeth. It took him a moment to work up the courage, but then he tore into his own arm.

“Fuck!”

It hurt more than he thought it would, but there was nothing else to do. He tried to duplicate what Jessie had done to him; what he’d seen Jessie do some of the other guys, but Loren was too out of it to take his arm willingly, so he crammed it in his mouth.

“Fuck,” he muttered. “Come on Loren, drink. Fuck, drink! Drink!”

Like he’d done before to the family cat when he’d given it pills, he pressed down on Loren’s adam’s apple, forcing him to swallow. Forcing the blood down his throat.

Loren’s eyes popped open, like someone on the cusp of a seizure. He gasped around the arm in his mouth and choked on the mouthful of blood. Something shifted in his eyes, something that made Ashton think of Jessie, and suddenly he clutched his brother’s arm and sealed his lips around the wound.

Like the bite, it hurt more than he thought it would, but he endured, until he started to feel light headed. He had to wrestle his arm away from his brother, but it had been the same with everyone else when they were turned. After that first taste you never wanted to stop.

Loren fell back to the grass and lay, gasping. His eyes slowly cleared and then he murmured, “Oh shit.”

Ashton dropped into a sitting position next to him. “You alright?”

Loren wiped his face, and stared at the blood on his hand. “I don’t know. What – what just happened?” he swung his gaze to his brother.  “What was that?”

“You’re one of us now,” Ashton said with a sick sort of finality. He pulled off his flannel shirt and used it as a makeshift bandage for his wounded arm and stood. “Just rest for awhile. They’re a lot slower than the bike, so they’re probably not even halfway here. We’ll wait awhile, then we’ll head back the long way, grab our stuff, and then we get the hell outta Dodge.”

Loren nodded and rolled over onto his side, too tired to argue. Time was short, but they couldn’t move now. He had to wait.

Fuck.

They pulled into the driveway two hours later.  The house was dark and the bag of groceries still lay on the pavement, the contents scattered. Ashton shut off the bike and motioned to Loren to stay put. He approached the house cautiously, but didn’t hear anything.  It’s okay, he told himself. They’re not here.

The front door was locked and he’d left the keys in the bike, so he went for the attached garage. He threw up the door and took two steps inside.

He never saw what hit him.

Ashton opened his eyes slowly. The light was bright and made his head hurt. He tried to raise a hand to block it, but he couldn’t. His hands were tied uncomfortably behind his back. Tied?

“Hey, shit face is waking up.”

The voice belonged to Wesley, and so did the face that leered over him. The rest of the room came into focus, and Ashton realized he was in his own garage. Jessie was there, as were some of the other guys and Loren, who was covered in blood. Ashton didn’t know if it was fresh, or if it was left over from the turning. Regardless, his brother stood on shaky legs, held upright by two others.

Shit.

Jessie stood over him, something large and bulky in his hands. “Good evenin’ sunshine. Nice job wit’ your brother.”

Ashton spit blood out of his mouth, and tried to sound brave. “Just leave him out of this.”

“Maybe, maybe not.” Jessie nodded to someone and the thing in his hands sprung to life, whirling and roaring.  It was an electric drill. “Now it’s your turn to entertain us.”

Ashton screamed and bucked as the drill chewed into his leg. Shreds of his jeans wrapped around the bit and burned. He thought he heard Loren screaming, but he couldn’t be sure. There was too much noise in his head. Too much noise. Too much pain.

Then it stopped.

Jessie stood back, a frown between his eyebrows. “Nah.” He threw the drill aside and it landed on the floor with a clatter. “What else you got?”

Wesley answered him from further back in the garage, probably at the work bench. Dad’s work bench. “We got a sander?”

Jessie snorted. “Nah. Fuck that. Fuck this pussy shit. We want something heavy duty, man.”

“Chainsaw?” Before Jessie could answer Wesley suggested, “Lawn mower?”

Jessie’s face lit up. “Oh yeah, man. That’s the fucking ticket. That’s just what we want. But not in here.” He motioned to the others. “Bring ‘em outside. We gots to do this right. Time to mow the yard!”

Someone grabbed Ashton under the shoulders and dragged him outside, leaving behind a trail of blood from his damaged leg. He struggled, but he was too weak to really fight them. If he hadn’t changed Loren he might have been strong enough but, if he hadn’t changed him, Loren would be dead already.

They threw him to the ground, and he caught a glimpse of his brother. They’d dropped him in a heap on the ground. Too weak to stand, he wasn’t a threat to them, or they didn’t think he was. Maybe he could get away and get help.

The others were busy trying to get the old lawn mower to start, so he took the opportunity to catch his brother’s attention. Loren started to crawl towards him, but he shook his head no. Run, he mouthed. Run. Loren shook his head, but Ashton just repeated it and added, find help. Though where he could find it was the million dollar question.

Reluctantly, Loren started to crawl backwards towards the beach.  Yes. Yes. Go. Get the fuck outta here! Go! If he could just save his brother then it wouldn’t all be a waste, would it? If only he’d been more like Loren after their parents died and put himself into something productive instead of running away and hiding out in drugs and alcohol.  Jessie and his crowd seemed so extreme. They were the ultimate high: blood, danger, death.  Like the death that was waiting for him. Fuck. If something didn’t happen soon he was gonna get the biggest high ever. That one that ended in a bright light.

The mower choked and he felt hopeful, but then it roared to life, amid cries of surprise and rough laughter. Wesley ran it over the grass a couple of times and then he and Jessie exchanged a meaningful look.  It only took one of them to lift it up. Ashton squinted up at the undercarriage, but there was no high. He was just numb. Odd bits of grass stuck to the inside and the blades spun so fast that they were a blur. They whipped up a miniature hurricane that blew his hair and threw old clippings in his face. No high, just grass in his mouth and in his eyes. Just the taste of dirt and fear. Just the sight of Loren slowly backing away on his hands, his eyes wide and terrified.

And then they lowered the mower.

No! God, No!

Ashton screamed.

Help! God, help! Help!

And then everything went black.

There was no light.


  • 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

    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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