Saturday, April 14, 2018

Excerpt: Untitled Vampire Story 4

Excerpt: Untitled Vampire Story

Viktor is my second favorite character. He emerged late, beginning to blossom in my mind well after I'd begun writing. As a result, in the earlier scenes he was little more than a placeholder. Later, he differentiated himself from the others, with his own distinct personality and objectives. His character has required much editing of the story, and requires more still.

I haven't yet worked out what will become of Viktor. Obviously, my original ideas were voided when Viktor finally stepped out from the background and began to assert himself, demanding a more significant place in the story. And it was justified; my earliest efforts made poor use of him indeed.

Sometimes characters materialize in my mind and become fully fleshed and three dimensional almost instantly, revealing themselves to me through and through in one go. Others take their time, taking shape slowly, revealing themselves to me layer by layer. Viktor very much fell into the latter category. Frankly, I suspect there are many more layers yet to go, and that only once he has fully made himself known to me will I be able to understand his place in the story and get about the business of editing the manuscript to reflect it.

This scene is near the end of the book. In fact, this is early in the climax. Neasa and Viktor have already forged their new relationship, and it has solidified significantly. This is another relationship I'm really excited to explore and develop in the next book.

I anticipate the ultimate disposition of Viktor will be made known to me only shortly before the final book is written, and will be determined by Viktor himself. He is proving to be a quiet demanding character with his own ideas for his destiny. We may be required to enter into negotiations. If it comes to that, I am not at all confident I'll walk away with anything I want.

Hope you enjoy.

I slid sideways and collapsed heavily, gratefully to the floor, unable to halt my fall. My entire body was on fire now, and I felt the white-hot poison closing around my mind. I couldn’t breathe, and soon I wouldn’t be able to think.

“Take this. These are silver.” A male voice, prim, proper, very calm. I recognized the voice.

“Where’d you come from?” Ranulf asked.

“I saw the assassin slip into the house. I followed. I’m sorry, I was but a moment too late. How’s your wound?”

“Insignificant. Neasa’s hit. One of the bullets is still in her.”

I heard some clicking, some metal smacking together. I would learn later Viktor had recovered the assassin’s gun and given it to Ranulf, providing him with a magazine of silver bullets, which Viktor had collected from the armory. He also had his own weapon.

“Madam.” Viktor’s voice was smooth and sure, calm and pleasant. “Madam, you must heal yourself. We cannot remain here; it’s unsafe. Can you hear me?”

He was right. In the part of my mind not consumed with the pain of the iron poison, I knew he was right.

I’d healed myself twice now, and I still wasn’t sure how I’d done it. Both times I’d been with the Viking, had felt completely content and consumed by what I now acknowledged was love. In those moments, the healing had just happened, without any effort on my part.

The white light, my destructive power, came from somewhere deep inside. I could now tap into that at will. The same was true for my healing power. Those two wells of power seemed to be side by side, deep in my core. But the ability to heal myself was different.

I had to try. I tried to shove the pain away, as far as I could, and concentrated on the well of healing. That stemmed from love; I was sure of that. I’d never known much love in my life, either from others or for them. This part of my being had lain dormant for most of my life.

But I liked this part. And I realized now it made me who I am, was who I was meant to be. I plunged myself into it now, feeling the warmth of it rise and spread, different than the searing of the poison, combatting it.

“Whoa,” Ranulf said. “Viktor, you feel that?”

“Yes. Remarkable.”

“What’s she doing? What’s happening?” Esmeralda’s voice actually quivered with concern.

“Drawing in power,” Viktor said. “Absolutely remarkable.”

There was a quick scrabbling sound and Esmeralda said, “No! No, get her away! She’s taken enough of my power!”

“She’s not taking anyone’s power,” Ranulf said.

“No,” Viktor agreed. “She’s drawing in ambient power, latent power, from the atmosphere, the Earth. It’s . . . unbelievable.”

I felt it the moment the iron slug was expelled from my body and fell away from my skin. Suddenly, the heat of the searing fire cut in half, and I could draw in a real breath. It took several more breaths, but it was easier now, faster.

I sat up as the last of the wounds closed, finally opening my eyes.

Ranulf crouched in the open closet door, gun raised, scanning for threats. Viktor knelt beside him, holding his own gun, his perfect suit dirty and bloody.

“Madam Neasa?”

“I’ll be okay, Viktor. Thank you.”

His relief was briefly obvious. Then he set his face. “We need to move.”

I had to concentrate and deliberately lower the shield I unconsciously held around myself. Then I got my feet under me, still crouched low.

“Where is everyone?” I asked.

“I’m really not certain. Master Odin and many of the Council members are out front. The assassins have the place surrounded and have closed in. I’ve lost track of many of our number.”

“What about the prisoners? The trackers?”

“I couldn’t say. Is that where you were coming from?”

“Yes. But we got separated during one of the explosions.”

Viktor looked disgusted. “Yes. There really is no need for all this destruction. Honestly. Very over done.” He shook his head. “The repairs.”

Ranulf scoffed. “Let’s just pray we live long enough to see the repairs, huh, Viktor.”

Viktor began to reply, then stopped, listened, then calmly raised his rifle, sighted the opposite balcony to the right, waited, then fired three deliberate shots. The last struck a vampire dressed in black fatigues in the chest, obviously piercing his heart. He abruptly fell, his body disintegrating to ash. 

“We should move,” Ranulf said.

“I need to get out front,” I said. “Where the Council is.”

Ranulf and Viktor exchanged a look, but said nothing.

I hovered a hand over Edward’s mangled leg again, and before Ranulf could say anything, I began to heal him. From my experience with Theron, I knew the only way his leg would be repaired was if I restored his vampire power. By doing so, I did indeed restore him as a threat, but I did it anyway.

Ranulf rolled his eyes and resumed his vigil.

“Let them tell this story,” I said. “That’ll really confuse everyone.”

With a gasp, Edward sat up, eying all of us warily. Then he settled on me, and his gaze turned half predatory, half confused. He shot a glance down at his leg.

“What have you done?” He had a grating voice.

“You’re welcome,” I said, moving to the doorway. “Come after me again and you’ll dream of this night, when a severed leg and two gunshot wounds were the worst of your problems.” I glanced at Ranulf and Viktor. “Let’s go.”

We rose together and hurried from the ballroom, returning the way we’d come. Balo and the Greek guy were still were we’d left them. Asian guy was gone. Balo had come around and had tried to either break his bonds or scrabble away, making little progress on either.

“What about these guys?” Ranulf asked.

“Bring them. Which way to the front door?”

An explosion knocked me off my feet, hammering my already battered, ringing eardrums. I landed on the floor, sandwiched between Ranulf and Viktor, who broke my fall and protected me from the flying debris.

I coughed, choking on smoke and grime, and brushed concrete dust from my hair. An enormous hole gaped in the wall ten feet away, exposing the room above and opening to the outside.

“Never mind,” I gasped. “We’ll go through there.”

Viktor, of course, was unharmed, though his poor suit was positively done for. Ranulf, though, groaned and moved a bit slower. I didn’t ask if he was hurt. I simply put a hand on his back and sent healing light into his body. His injuries were almost all minor, but the gunshot wound had not been insignificant. When it was done, he hopped to his feet and helped me to mine.

“You okay?” he asked, looking me over.

“Yes. Thanks to you both.”

Viktor uselessly straightened his tie and eyed the opening. “Here they come,” he said.

I blinked and Viktor lowered me to the floor on the other side of the huge chunk of concrete that had fallen from the ceiling. Ranulf fell heavily beside me as gunfire rang out around us. The rounds smacked into the concrete, sending up tiny shards and dust. And they hit the walls around us.

Very calmly, Viktor checked the magazine on his gun, slipped it back into place, then rose to one knee, raising the gun to his shoulder and firing. He fired seven rounds, and the gunfire stopped.

I gaped as multiple wounds now closed in his torso and face. I blinked, my mouth dry.

“Iron?” I asked.

He simply nodded. “I’m fine.”

“Your poor suit.”

“This has been a particularly hellish week on my wardrobe. Are you hurt?”

He offered me a hand.

“No,” I said as I stood. “Thank you.”

“Shall we try this again?” Ranulf said, hopping back over the concrete. He picked up five assault rifles from where they lay beside five piles of sulfurous ash. With ease born of familiarity, he stripped the magazines from each of the weapons, stuffing them into his own pockets. He noticed Viktor’s look and shrugged. “Silver would be better, but these will do in a pinch. Plus, better they’re not lying around.”

Viktor said nothing and strode toward the gaping hole in the wall. “An armored vehicle is approaching.”

Bursts of very loud gunfire confirmed this.

“Anyway to stop that thing?” I asked.

“Yes,” Viktor said, slinging his gun across his back with its long strap. “The men inside are human.”

I blinked and he was gone.

“Come on,” I said, beckoning Ranulf forward. “Let’s go find the Council.”

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