Saturday, March 3, 2018

Excerpt: Untitled Vampire Story 1

Excerpt: Untitled Vampire Story

Some of you may know this, others may not. In recent years, I've been more open about it, though I don't speak of it often.

Vampire stories are my guilty pleasure.

I can't remember when it began. Probably with Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a preteen. Either way, the damage is done now. I love vampire stories. Love them.

I love all the different versions of vampires, all the different rules authors make their vampires play by. Everything from "classic" Stoker-era Dracula vamps to Twilight's glittering ones to one version that explained vampirism was the result of nano bites in the blood which ensured the health, vitality, and youth of their host and which fed on blood. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files has yet another take on vampires. I enjoy almost all of them. (I fully admit some versions are better than others. I mean, really, glitter?)

For years and years I've been secretly toiling away, turning out dozens and dozens of vampire stories, some of them good, some of them just for fun. Some of the most interesting characters I've ever written can be found in these stories. But I've rarely told anyone that I've written them, much less had anyone read them.

I'm not sure what's changed, but I have decided to change the game a bit. Not only have I had early readers take a look at this story, but I've got serious ideas of publishing it.

Further, I'm developing it into a trilogy. This is another thing I've never done, never even considered. I'd much rather do a series than a trilogy, hands down. With a trilogy, you're telling one story in three nearly stand-alone pieces. I can think of very few examples where this has been done well. More often the second book is a dud, nothing more than a necessary bridge between books one and three, with no substantial story of it's own. Generally speaking, I avoid reading trilogies for this very reason.

I will not be comfortable moving ahead with publishing this first book until I'm more than certain the same will not happen to me.

This book was a great deal of fun to write. Not all my books are, which means this one was a genuine treat. I just grinned every time I sat down to work at the computer.

This story is about a woman named Neasa (whose name may change) and her discovery of her own magical power. In this book, we begin to see her early explorations into that power, which will become much more focus and productive in the second book.

The story also chronicles the evolution of her relationship with Odin, the Viking vampire she meets and who acts as catalyst to all the changes she's about to experience in her life. I love their relationship, and while it is not a source of conflict to the story, there is pressure and growing pains, problems they must overcome. I cannot wait to get further into this in the next book!

More so than most of the other excerpts I've posted for you, those from this story are very rough, sometimes choppy. This version is the second draft, and the product of a very intense editing process. This version of the story is very different from the first. Some of the edges can't yet be smoothed because I don't have the details worked out that will be pertinent to books two and three, the bigger story arcs that will carry us through.

I'm excited about several of the characters in this story, not the least of which are Neasa and the Viking. In later excerpts, I'll introduce you to some of the others.

I know not all of you enjoy vampire, sci/fi, paranormal stories, and that for those of you who do not, this will not be your cup of tea. Hopefully for the rest of you, you enjoy the story.
_________________________________________________________________________________

After my shift, I asked Leon to walk me to my car, more than a little concerned my stalker would be waiting for me. Under other circumstances, I would not have been concerned, but Mr. Whiskey Sour had managed to not only learn I worked at the hospital, but had been able to find my office. After that, figuring out which car was mine seemed simple.

I was more than a little tempted to ask Leon to see me home, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask. With my stalker out of sight, my thoughts tended to travel down a path of doubt. Had I misunderstood our interactions? Had I exaggerated the whole thing? Shit, had I imagined the whole thing? No one else working in the bar had seen the guy, so I was half tempted to believe I’d just hallucinated him. Of course, the enormous bruise on my right forearm, the swelling there, and the acute ache told me the entire thing had been very real.

Fridays were by far the busiest nights at the bar, with Saturdays running a close second. Again, I worked alone. Rick said he’d hired someone, but I’d heard nothing more and seen no one new. It was payday for most folks, and the place was more crowded than usual. Turned out to be a payday for me too; by the end of the night, I’d pocketed about five hundred bucks.

That night, I’d kept one eye open for Mr. Whiskey Sour. I’d asked the bouncers to do the same, but he seemed able to slip in and out unseen. But he never showed. I hoped that meant his delusions had sent him elsewhere and that he was on to someplace new, or perhaps someone new, though I did not envy the woman.

I made last call nearly fifteen minutes early, something downright unheard of. But my arm was killing me, and by the end, I couldn’t lift a case of beer. The pain was pronounced, and my motor function had significantly diminished. I knew I needed an x-ray, and I resolved to get one the following morning.

As the bouncers cleared folks out, I poured myself a shot of whiskey and tossed it back. I’d need more than one to really dull the pain, but it was a start, and it did make me feel better. In the meantime, I swallowed some more Tylenol and Ibuprofen, then filled a bag of ice. I pulled up the sleeve of the long-sleeved shirt I’d worn that night to cover the horrendous bruise. If possible, it looked even worse, despite the low lighting inside the bar.

I applied the ice pack, wincing at the pain caused by the pressure of it, then pulled my sleeve back down, holding the pack in place.

“Holy shit, Neasa. What happened to you?”

I looked up to see Rex depositing a bucket of dirty glasses on the bar.

“Nothing,” I said, grabbing another such bucket from a shelf under the bar. “Tripped on the stairs.”

“Hell of a fall,” he mumbled, and I wasn’t sure he believed my story.

An hour later, we’d cleaned up and filed out the back door. I locked up and got my car keys out of my pocket.

I had parked deliberately under a light and in such a way I could see the driver’s side door, leaving the car a bit away from the others. I’d never noticed before, but this parking lot didn’t have many lights. My fear of Mr. Whiskey Sour had heightened my awareness and caused me to think more critically about my own safety.

“I’ll wait for you to get in your car,” Leon said, stopping near the bumper of his sleek and shiny Ford Explorer.

“No, that’s okay,” I said, waving him off as I continued on to my car sitting alone farther out in the lot. “Really, I’m okay.”

He agreed, but I noticed he dragged his feet. I smiled at his worry and hurried away. The car was slightly sad looking, sitting there under the ugly gleam of the streetlight. The gold Honda Accord was nearly twenty years old, and looked every day of it. It had a couple of spots of rust and plenty of dings, dents, and scrapes. The windshield was cracked in more than one place and one of the taillights had a short, only working about half the time. I’d thought more than once about buying a new car, but I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money. Especially now that I was considering buying my own bar.

I still hadn’t had the talk with Rick. In the days that had passed, we’d both been busy. I’d picked up a couple rare extra shifts at the hospital, and he was busy with his own thing. I realized I didn’t know what that was and that not knowing didn’t bother me. If ever I needed more confirmation of my decision, there it was.

But I didn’t need more proof. Because in the last week, I’d barely thought about Rick. Really, I’d been thinking about the Viking.

He’d been back to the bar once in the last week. It had been busier that night, and I hadn’t had much time for conversation. And all I’d really wanted to do was talk to him.

He’d asked for my phone number, and I’d given it to him. Against every rule, credo, and bit of advice I’d ever gotten in my years tending bar, I had given him my phone number. That was the number one no-no for those in my profession, and I’d done it anyway, without a shred of hesitation or remorse.

The doubt had come later. It had been three days and I’d not heard from him. I suppose only a small part of me was surprised by that. The guy was attractive, intelligent, articulate, wealthy . . . all the things a girl dreams about. And while I was nothing to sneeze at, I wouldn’t land any modeling jobs or win any beauty contests. Who knew how many women the guy had falling all over him. All he had to do was pick.

Not that I’d been falling all over him, of course. But I did like him. In a way entirely foreign to me. I thought I’d loved Rick once, that I’d even been in love with him at one point, and there had been one other before him, but neither of them had touched me in such a deep place. And that was the only way I could describe what the Viking had done. He seemed to have touched me in a place so deep inside myself I hadn’t even been aware of it before. And what I felt for him was something I couldn’t easily label; it was visceral, something outside my consciousness.

That wasn’t to say I’d gone and fallen in love with the Viking after two encounters and one great conversation. But I was very seriously attracted to him, on a level I didn’t understand. Which made it all the more disappointing that I’d not seen or heard from him.

I used the key to unlock the door because the remote no longer worked, and climbed in behind the wheel. I sat for a moment, waving to Leon, whose SUV still sat in the lot behind the backdoor of the bar. He waved back and left.

Leon really was a good guy. He didn’t like Rick at all. I couldn’t remember all the details of their dislike for one another, but I knew it went both ways. But Leon stayed on. I knew it was because of me. Rick, cheap bastard that he was, didn’t pay the bouncers enough; why any of them stayed I wasn’t totally sure. But on nights I worked, I made sure to share tips with them all. Holly, the only other bartender Rick currently employed, had made more than one nasty remark about how the guys all worked harder and did more when I was on shift then when it was just her. I’d tried to explain reciprocity to her, but had given up almost immediately when it became evident Holly couldn’t even spell the word much less comprehend the concept.

I stuck the key in the ignition and turned it, my foot stamped on the clutch. There were a few clicks, but nothing happened.

“Great,” I said on a sigh. “Just what I need.”

I tried a few more times with the same result. The engine would not start.

I got out and opened the hood, phone in my hand and already looking up the number for the towing company. Nothing looked obviously amiss, but I wouldn’t recognize a problem unless a blown hose stuck up from the engine spewing oil. Before I could make the call, I heard a sound behind me, like a shoe scraping over the pavement. I swung around, and my heart sank.

Mr. Whiskey Sour sauntered toward me, his hands tucked into the pockets of his black leather jacket, his boots sounding heavy on the pavement now. He smirked at me, the madness gleaming more obviously in his eyes now.

I looked around the parking lot and the streets beyond, not bothering to be covert about it. But I saw no one. It was after three in the morning, and this part of town pretty well closed down early, apart from the bar.

Mr. Whiskey Sour saw how alone we were, too, and he chuckled. “Just the two of us now, baby.”

I didn’t even hesitate. I punched 9-1-1 into the phone and dialed. Before I brought the phone to my ear, however, Mr. Whiskey Sour stood directly in front of me, having closed the thirty-foot gap between us in the blink of an eye. His hand closed tightly around my left wrist, and I winced in pain as fear exploded inside me.

“Don’t do that,” he said, snatching the phone from my hand and crushing it.

I gasped in surprise and confusion as the pieces of my phone fell from his hand and clattered to the pavement like so many chunks of sand.

“I’ve been waiting for you all night,” he said.

I don’t know what I’d been expecting, but his breath was cold and somehow sweet.

“Whatever you think is going to happen here, you’re seriously mistaken,” I said, trying for bravado I didn’t feel. The sickening laugh he gave let me know he didn’t believe me anymore than I did.

He stepped forward, forcing me backward until I felt the bumper of the Accord press into the backs of my legs. He leaned forward. I tried to move away from him, going nowhere but down until I sat on the car, the hood raised above my head. He leaned closer still.

He inhaled a long breath through his nose, again as if smelling me. His eyes closed and he shuddered as the breath filled him. When he opened his eyes again, the irises were ringed with red.

“You smell so good,” he murmured. “I can’t wait to taste you.”

Taste me?

I didn’t know what he meant by that, but I did not want to find out. But I thought I stood little chance of opposing him. He was too big, too strong.

The fear that bubbled within me seared white hot, and panic closed in around my mind. Suddenly all I could see was his disgusting form forcing me down and climbing on top of me, forcing himself on me, hurting me, his mouth on my neck.

His mouth on my neck? Where had that image come from? I didn’t know. And in that moment, I could not comprehend how strange it was.

All I felt was panic.

“NO!”

I barely recognized the cry as my own, hardly registered that I’d moved.

But I had. I’d shot up off the car and struck out against him. The heel of my right hand smacked into his chest, and the most bizarre thing happened. A blinding white light exploded from that point of impact, and Mr. Whiskey Sour flew off of his feet. He sailed backward through the air and landed heavily on his back fifteen feet away.

I stood, transfixed, unable to process what I’d just witnessed—what I’d just done.

I’d barely blinked when Mr. Whiskey Sour got to his feet, perhaps moving more slowly than he had been, his eyes wide with something new. This struck me more than anything else. Something very strange had just happened, yet he wasn’t scared or confused or concerned in the least. He was excited.

“I knew it was you,” he said, strutting forward again.

Whatever had been paralyzing me was suddenly gone. As he stalked forward, I ran around the car. I didn’t think I could make it, but I tried to reach the driver’s side door anyway. If I could get there and throw myself inside the car, I could lock the doors. Maybe that would be enough to deter him. Or maybe I could honk the horn until I drew enough attention to scare him off.

I didn’t think much past my plan to get inside the car. And I didn’t think much about the plan itself. After all, the windows were only glass. After what he’d done to my cell phone, what kind of barrier could they really pose? But I didn’t want him to touch me again. So I ran.

I’d just put my hand on the handle when I heard a strange whoosh of air. I fully expected to feel Mr. Whiskey Sour’s hands on me, jerking me away from the car, but they never came. Instead I heard him speak.

“What are you doing here?”

Not truly daring to hope someone had really stumbled upon this little scene, I turned around. I hadn’t been expecting anyone at all, but I certainly was not prepared for what I found.

“Is that anyway to speak to your Magister?” the Viking said, his deep baritone voice rumbling through the deserted parking lot and reverberating in my chest.

Mr. Whiskey Sour pulled up short. I watched around the Viking’s massive shoulder as he faced my attacker. Mr. Whiskey Sour, who had looked so big and strong a few short moments before, now seemed positively tiny standing before the Viking. He looked small and weak and insignificant. And even from behind, the Viking looked deadly.

The madness was still evident in Mr. Whiskey Sour’s eyes, but he had enough of his faculties left to sense the danger radiating from the man in front of him now. I had no idea what their relationship was, but my attacker’s self-preservation kicked in, and he took two steps backward.

“You know what she is,” Mr. Whiskey Sour said, his tone more pleading now than predatory.

“I know you have disobeyed my order in coming here.”

The smaller man swallowed painfully and took two more steps backward. Now he was the one shooting glances around at the empty streets and finding no one. He had gone from predator to prey, and he didn’t like it.

“You cannot ignore what she is. Others are coming. Your orders will mean nothing once they know what she is. You cannot keep them away.”

“Leave,” the Viking said, his voice a dark growl. “And know the next time I see you I will have silver in my hand.”

Mr. Whiskey Sour actually shivered at that. He turned and sprinted toward the street. After four steps, he faltered, looking around and then down at his body.

“What the hell?”

He seemed to push himself harder, and increased speed. Still, he grunted in frustration. A minute later, he’d disappeared from view.  

“This can’t be happening,” I heard myself mutter as I sagged heavily against the car door.

The Viking walked over and stood in front of me. One of his giant hands reached out gently and caught my chin, tipped my face up to his. His blue eyes did not twinkle with good humor tonight; they constricted in concern and worry. The fine lines around them seemed slightly deeper, too.

“Are you all right?”

I loved his voice, loved the way it seemed to slide over me like a caress and fill my chest like a vibration.

I didn’t understand why he was there, or where he’d come from. I hadn’t understood the conversation between him and my would-be attacker. Actually, now that some of the adrenaline had worn off, I didn’t understand much.

“What are you doing here?” I managed to ask as I pulled my arms into my chest. I was trembling. I know now it was from adrenaline letdown, but at the time it had felt a hell of a lot like panic.

The Viking pulled me into him, wrapping his long arms around me. I winced and gasped as pain bloomed in my arm as it pressed against his chest. He immediately drew back.

“What’s wrong?” Before I could answer, his eyes zeroed in on my arm. He gently lifted it away and pulled the sleeve back. Anger filled his face at the sight, terrible, terrifying anger.

I wasn’t afraid of him, though maybe I should have been. Still, I pulled my arm back and drew down the sleeve. “I’m fine,” I murmured.

“He hurt you,” he hissed. “Didn’t he? He did that.”

“I think I did it myself, actually.”

“What do you mean?” His tone and gaze were still deadly serious.

“I tried to knock his arm away. Yesterday. But he was too strong. I think I broke it.”

“Yesterday,” he hissed to himself. “He grabbed you then, put his hands on you?”

“Yes.”

He muttered something in a language that wasn’t English. “It is not broken,” he said, reaching for me again. “At least not all the way through.”

I didn’t question how he could know that; it never occurred to me to do so. And I didn’t resist him as he pulled me into a hug.

His arms once again wound around my back. I wrapped mine around his waist and put my head on his chest. I was dimly aware of the fact that he was slightly cool to the touch, not unlike Mr. Whiskey Sour had been, actually. And while I didn’t register it at the time, I realize now that I heard no heart beating in his chest.

He smelled like elderberry and pine, with a touch of sandalwood thrown in. And I could feel the raw strength in him, feel it around me. I knew I was safe there, and a part of me never wanted to leave that.

The Viking murmured to me, soft words in a language I didn’t understand. Then I felt one arm move to pull a cell phone from his pocket. He spoke briefly, in the same language, then returned the phone and his arm.

“I can smell him all over you,” he said in English, his voice almost like a growl again.

“He was touching me,” I said, the words spilling out of me now. “He grabbed me, smashed my phone. I couldn’t call for help, and there was no one around. He scared me. I thought he was going to . . . do . . . something . . . to me. So I hit him—” I jerked up, staring at the Viking with wide eyes as I remembered what had happened next. “I—I—I—the light—there was light—and he f-flew—” I looked at my hand, as if I’d never seen it before. “My hand. A light—”

Headlights flashed over us as a big black SUV pulled into the lot. I flinched and automatically took a step to the side, putting the Viking more squarely between myself and whoever was in the car.

“It’s okay,” he murmured, stroking my back. “They’re with me. Please, let me give you a ride.”

“But my car—” I turned and looked at it, sitting sadly in the empty parking lot with the hood up. I sighed, tears forming in my eyes. Really, of all the things to cry over, it seemed almost comical to lose it because of the car.

“Please,” he said. “Don’t worry about this. I’ll see that it’s repaired and returned tonight. You’ll have it back by the time you wake. Hmm?”

I thought maybe I should protest or something, but I didn’t. I just allowed him to steer me toward the SUV where a thin man in an impeccable black suit stood holding the rear door open. As he stood there, waiting patiently, his eyes were constantly moving, scanning the area. I found his alertness comforting.

“Thank you,” I mumbled as I got into the backseat.

The Viking said something to the suited man in that same language. A moment later he passed me my bag, which had been retrieved from the car. The Viking climbed into the seat beside me and we were off, the thin man driving.

It might have been ten minutes before I thought to inquire as to our destination.

“Your house,” the Viking answered easily.

I had enough rational thought left to ask, “How do you know where I live?”

He reached over and picked up my left hand. Even in the dark, the bruise that already encircled my wrist was noticeable. The Viking visibly winced when he saw it, but he mastered himself, and pulled my hand to his mouth, kissing it lightly. I felt that same tingling sensation at the touch of his lips. It danced over my hand and up my arm.

“These are questions best left for another time,” he said, holding my hand in his lap. “Let me take you home, where you can get some sleep.”

“Who was that man who attacked me? You knew him.”

“Yes,” the Viking said, genuine regret in his voice. “His name is Slade Curren. And I do know him.”

“He’s stalking me,” I said, tears threatening again. “He found my work, found my office at the hospital. He’s been sneaking into the bar. He probably knows where I live; I can’t go home.”


“He will not bother you there tonight.” He said this with such conviction I found I didn’t doubt him. “And you will not be alone.”

No comments:

Post a Comment