Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sample Sunday: Kissed by Darkness Chapter 2

Last Sunday I posted the first chapter in my upcoming urban fantasy novel Kissed by Darkness. If you weren't able to catch it last week, you can find it here.

Chapter Two

I find rather perverse enjoyment in slaying. I sometimes wonder if that doesn’t make me just a little bit sick and twisted. Or maybe a lot sick and twisted, but it’s not like I go around killing animals and taking candy from children. That would just be…wrong. I only enjoy killing nasty things that go bump in the night.

Terrance was one hell of a nasty bump in the night. With a name like Terrance you’d expect leather patches on elbows and smoke billowing from a pipe. You don’t expect one of the meanest, nastiest vampires in the city. It wasn’t that he was particularly powerful, just psychotic. I mean, the guy was a serious piece of work. His latest foray into the “real” world was prowling for an after dinner snack in a Sorority house.

Most vamps don’t give a shit what’s for dinner, as long as it’s human and breathing. Terrance had a particular taste for college girls, preferably ones with big boobs and long blond hair. I’d had to kill more than one of his snacks after they’d ended up turning vampire. Fortunately, he also went for ones that were less than smart, so killing them once they’d turned was fairly easy. Intelligence or lack thereof, seems to carry over in to undeath.

Anyway, the night before Terrance had pretty much gone through half the girls in the sorority and the dean of the university wasn’t real happy about it. It doesn’t look so good when your entire cheer leading squad gets eaten by the undead. He’d hired us to get rid of his problem, which meant he really hired me to get rid of his problem, me being the only one of the three of us who actually killed vampires for fun and profit.

Terrance lived in the basement of an old apartment building in south east Portland. Nice and dark and only tiny little windows high up in the walls, easily blocked by a few sheets of plywood. It was nearly noon, so if I could get the plywood off the windows, it’d brighten the place up and make it easier to deal with Terrance. Then I could go home and get some much needed rest before tonight’s meeting with Cordelia Nightwing. What the hell kind of name is Cordelia Nightwing, anyway?

The building had a security entrance, but that wasn’t exactly a problem. I used to live in one of these old places. I didn’t bother pushing any of the buzzers, I just waited until someone came out, then I grabbed the door and walked in like I belonged there. It’s amazing how many supposedly secure places you can brazenly walk right into as long as you act like you have every gods-given right to be there.

The door to the basement stairs was on the right, so I swung it open and tried to take the stairs two at a time. I say tried because at barely 5’5”, taking stairs two at a time is a near impossibility. I gave up and just took them fast, using the handrail to propel me downward.

The basement was cold and dank. Under the odor of mildew and laundry soap was another darker smell; the stench of the undead.

I can’t really explain that smell because it isn’t actually real. Vampires don’t generally smell any different than living humans. If you were to dance with one in a nightclub, you wouldn’t know the difference, except that a vamp would possibly be a lot paler and maybe try and chomp on your neck. But I can smell the difference. It’s something to do with my abilities and it’s more a metaphysical smell than a physical one. It’s one of my least favorite side-effects of the virus that changed me but a very handy talent to have when hunting down vampires.

Terrance's room was the old maintenance man’s room from back when they used to hire guys full time to live in the basements of apartment buildings to keep the boilers going. Nowadays they either turned them into storage or rented them cheap to people who liked living in caves. Vamps loved them.

A thick metal door marked “B” stood between me and Terrance. Definitely a deadbolt or twelve. I knew he couldn’t sense me, being in that state of sleep the undead have which is closer to death than sleep.

The basement was deserted, so after I peeled the plywood off the narrow windows high on the opposite wall I got out my tools and went to work on the deadbolts. I’d rather just get out a gun and blast the door open, but despite what they show in the movies, that’s actually a really stupid idea. Bullets have a tendency to bounce off things like metal doors and cement walls and wind up places you didn’t exactly intend for them to go. Like your own leg. Or head. Not exactly the best way to get into a locked room. Plus it upsets the neighbors.

So I took the slow and boring route, opening the door like any normal person would. With a locksmith’s tools. Kabita had insisted that both Inigo and I learn to pick locks properly. Well, Inigo didn’t actually need to learn. That boy has skills. Not sure I want to know where he picked them up.

I popped the last lock, packed away my tools, then with UV gun in hand I slowly swung the door open. It was black as pitch inside the room, the only light coming from the tiny windows outside in the hall. Couldn’t see a damn thing, but I could feel Terrance across the room, still deep asleep. A vamp won’t usually wake during the day. Not at noon, certainly, unless he’s incredibly old or incredibly strong. Terrance was neither, so I figured I was pretty safe.

I was wrong.

I approached the camp bed, gun drawn, when a hand shot up and wrapped around my throat. Shit. I struggled to breath, but the hand was too tight and squeezing tighter. I didn’t have time to think about how on earth a two-bit vamp like Terrance had the power to wake in the middle of the day, I was too busy fighting for my life as his other hand gripped the wrist of my gun arm so I couldn't shoot him. Double shit.

The gun dropped to the floor with a dull thud as my hand went numb. Spots were dancing in front of my eyes. I knew I was going to pass out and be vampire lunch if I didn’t do something. So I did the one thing I could think of. I went limp. Dropped like the proverbial stone.

Unfortunately, Terrance dropped with me. Dead on top me, in fact. Fortunately, he let go of my wrist and loosened the hold on my throat. I felt him go for my neck, felt the teeth sink in. Hurt like hell, but it distracted him just enough. I planted my knee in his groin. Hard. Even undead, guys still get unhappy when you plant a knee in their family jewels. Death, or rather undeath, didn’t change that particular physiological fact.

He reared back, teeth ripping out of my neck and grabbed his crotch. He fell to the ground screaming. “You stupid bitch!” he howled. “That fuckin’ hurt!”

“Yeah, well, this is gonna hurt even worse, Terry.” My fingers had closed around the UV gun, and with precision born of years of hunting vamps in the dark, I pointed the gun at Terrance and pulled the trigger.

Terrance let out a horrific scream as the UV ray sliced through his stomach to his upper chest and found his heart. Within seconds he’d caught fire, then flashed to dust.

Nobody knows why vamps dust instead of leaving a body like humans. Some Hunters claim it’s magic, others that the earth is claiming back the blood they stole. Not terribly scientific, but there aren’t a lot of scientists out there studying vampires. Probably because the government doesn’t exactly like the scientific community knowing about a creature that has achieved something akin to eternal life. Could you imagine some mad scientist getting his hands on that tid bit of information? Yeah, not good.

I pulled myself up off the floor and staggered to the door. I could feel the blood dripping down my neck and sliding under the collar of my jacket, soaking my tee shirt and trickling into my bra. Ew. Fortunately, the very virus that had once nearly killed me not only made me immune to a vampire bite, but it would also heal the wound quickly enough that I wouldn’t bleed out. Probably wouldn’t even have much of a scar. Which was good. I’d have hated to try and explain that one to my mother.

What I needed was something to eat and then a hot shower and a long nap, but staggering around town with blood dripping down my front was going to get me a lot of attention I didn’t want. Terrance’s master knew Terrance was dead the minute he dusted. What he didn’t know was who had killed him and I wanted to keep it that way for now.

I staggered up the steps and gently pushed open the door to the hall. A quick glance told me no one was around, so I hurried out through the front door to my car. I fumbled in the glove box for an old pashmina I kept there and then carefully wrapped it around my neck so it draped across my front. It looked like I’d watched one too many DIY make-over shows. Not that I cared. Never much been one for fashion. I’m all about comfort and utility. I just needed to get home without half the city finding out I’d been in a ruckus with a vampire.

I started the car and drove gingerly down the street and onto the main road. I probably shouldn’t have been driving. I was weak and shaky with blood loss. I needed something to eat. Fast. Preferably something with high sugar content.

I swung through the next drive through and ordered a large orange juice and three boxes of cookies. The girl didn’t even blink. In fact, I’m not entirely sure she was awake. Can zombies work a drive-thru?

I’d eaten all three boxes of cookies and downed the entire cup of OJ before I reached home. I was feeling much better.

I spent thirty minutes in the shower before tumbling into bed. I didn’t bother with pajamas. Too tired. I just dragged the duvet over my head and was asleep before I could think to set my alarm clock.


Something woke me. I felt disoriented and slightly feverish, the result of my body healing itself, no doubt. But what had woken me? I lay still, letting that bizarre sensory ability of mine play over the room and through the house. No vamps, nothing threatening at all. And yet….

“Inigo, what the hell are you doing in my bedroom?”

The streetlight pouring into my window caught and flashed in his toothy grin. “I was hoping to catch you naked.”

“Bloody idiot,” I grumbled, shoving hair out of my eyes.

“Plus you’re late.”

I squinted at the clock. 12:05 am. Dammit. I shoved my hair out of my face and sat up, clutching the duvet to my chest. My very naked chest. “Sorry. Forgot to set the alarm.”

“Yeah, I know.” He stood up and handed me my robe. Not the nice, thick terry one I generally like to hang around in, but the silky one I keep for when I have someone over. Not that I’ve had anyone over in longer than I care to recall. But one must be prepared for these things. You know, just in case.

I threw him a glare, grabbed the robe and hauled it around my shoulders before staggering to the bathroom and slamming the door. I looked a fright. My hair was sticking up in about a hundred different directions, giving the appearance of a red nimbus around my head. My skin was pasty white from blood loss with dark circles under my eyes and my green eyes were fever bright. Great. Just great.

I splashed cold water on my face, brushed my teeth and ran a comb through my hair. Didn’t work. I grabbed some hair gunk and used it to muss up my hair some more so it looked like I intended the whole light-socket look. I patted some cover-up under my eyes, swiped on some mascara and lip gloss, and added just a bit of blusher to my cheeks so I didn’t look like a member of Vampires-R-Us.

I gave myself a critical look. The right outfit and I’d probably blend into the crowd at Fringe ok. Well, probably not enough makeup, but there wasn’t time for full war paint.

By the time I went back to my room, Inigo had vacated it. Thank the gods. I didn’t have time to deal with both his hormones and mine.

I grabbed a pair of jeans and a black tank out of the closet and yanked them on over a black bra and panties. I don’t do thongs. Trust me, when you’re kicking vampire ass, the last thing you want is a scrap of cloth climbing up into your nether regions.

The tear from Terrance’s fangs was nearly healed now, leaving a bright pink mark on my neck. I grabbed a black and white choker which covered the mark pretty well and then threw on a sheer black top which I kept around for just such occasions. Not that I spent a lot of time in clubs, but my job takes me strange places.

I finished off the outfit with my black combat boots and my weapons holster. I’ve got a special federal license to carry anything capable of killing vampires, plus no one in a club like Fringe would notice or care that I was packing. Probably.

A quick look in the mirror told me I’d look more at home in a vampire fetish club, but it was the best I could do. I’d have to leave it up to Inigo to get us past the bouncer.

Inigo gave me the once-over as I strode into the living room. If the look on his face was anything to go by, I looked just fine. I was really glad I wasn’t a clairvoyant because I was pretty sure whatever he was thinking would make me blush big time.

“Come on, pretty boy, let’s go hit the town.”

He laughed, amusement coloring his voice. “Your wish is my command, oh Vixen of the Dark.”

I snorted, “Idiot.” Why, oh why, did he have to be Kabita’s damn cousin?


The club was pulsing with hard, eerie music. It was almost alive and incredibly sexual. Heated. Full of desire and passion and very naughty things. The heavy bass settled into my chest like a heartbeat. I fought the urge to clench my legs together. Music does things to me.

Portland has a lot of night clubs for a small city. There’s everything from salsa clubs to a reggae bar. We’ve even got a fairly famous musical revue which showcases some brilliant female impersonators. How’s that for cosmopolitan? Nothing, however, had quite prepared me for the weirdness that was Fringe.

We pushed through the front bar area which was heavily populated with vampires. Not real ones, of course. These were Sanguine Vampires, people who lived vampirism as a lifestyle and a religion but weren’t actually vampires in the physical sense. I’d never seen so many tattoos and piercings in one place in my life.

There were a couple of beings working the crowd who sent my Spidey senses zinging, but not because they were vamps. Although they looked perfectly normal, to my mind’s eye they glittered and glowed, their features constantly shifting in the dim light. I had no doubt these were members of the Glittering Throng.

One of them caught my gaze and his/her purple eyes sparkled with unholy glee. My mind shied away from seeing him/her, but I yanked it back. I am the mistress of my own mind and no sidhe glamor was going to change that.

I started right back at him/her, watching as his/her face shifted and molded through several incarnations. With a smirk, the sidhe tipped an imaginary hat in my direction and disappeared into the crowd. I held back a shiver. Messing with a member of the sidhe is not a good idea. In fact, it’s best to stay below their radar all together.

The sidhe tend to get their kicks from the suffering of other beings both mortal and supernatural. Usually suffering they’ve created. Fortunately this one had a sense of humor.

Inigo led us to the main dance floor and bar where there was a giant fish tank along one wall with an honest-to-gods mermaid inside. Not some chick in a fish suit, but the real deal right down to the rainbow hued fish scales and hair the color of dark green seaweed. I was starting to feel like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole.

The minute he walked in, all eyes were on Inigo, even fish tank girl. Not that I blame them. He was seriously hot in a dark suit and silver shirt. His shoulder length hair gleamed gold and honey in the dim light of the club and his eyes were such a luminous blue they practically glowed. I was pretty sure that wasn’t just an effect of the lighting. I had my suspicion that somewhere in Inigo’s genetic background was a little bit of fey blood or something. It would account for a lot of things.

Like the way every woman in the bar had stopped dancing and was frozen in place with her tongue hanging out. Most of the men, too if truth be told, which was a good thing for me. No one would even remember I was there, even if I did have hair practically the color of a fire truck.

I slid up to the bar and caught the bartender’s attention after about the third try. He was good looking, if a bit on the slender side, but no match for Inigo. He swallowed hard dragging his eyes away from Inigo. “How can I help you, my lady?”

My lady. How quaint.

“I’m looking for someone. Cordelia Nightwing. You know her?”

He pointed toward an alcove on the other side of the dance floor. The silky blue curtains had been drawn to insure privacy. “She’s doing a reading, but she should be done soon.”

I threw him my best smile and a ten dollar bill. “Thanks.” He didn’t respond. His eyes had already returned to Inigo who had strutted to the middle of the now still dance floor and started grinding his hips. I rolled my eyes. Inigo could be a real peacock sometimes.

I strolled casually along the edge of the dance floor toward the curtained alcove, scanning the crowd. No one paid me any attention, which was fine by me, at least for tonight. When I’m on my own, I sort of draw attention. Blood red hair, porcelain skin, and moss green eyes sort of leave an impression. The skin and eyes I can’t lay claim to. Genetics, you know. But the hair is completely deliberate. Besides, it doesn’t matter if anyone notices me out slaying. It sometimes even helps.

Tonight was different. All eyes were on Inigo. I’ve always thought it might have something to do with his clairvoyant gifts, maybe some kind of special aura mojo or something. In any case, when he wants to he can sure draw a crowd.

I waited by the shimmering curtain for Cordelia’s client to come out. The club had returned to what appeared to be its usual manic writhing. I was pretty sure the couple in the corner was having sex with their clothes on. Either that or he was a doctor inspecting her tonsils. I was sort of guessing it was the former.

A dark haired man hurried from behind the curtain and disappeared into the crowd. I figured it was the client so I slipped into the alcove. Cordelia Nightwing wasn’t exactly what I expected. Or maybe she was. She sat at a small round table draped with midnight blue velvet, a crystal ball sitting in front of her. It was so cliché, I nearly burst out laughing.

A pair of bright blue eyes laughed up at me from behind a fringe of dark brown hair. She was easily in her late forties, but the sparkle of energy surrounding her and the smile pulling at her lips belied her age. She was beautiful, no doubt about it. But it was the kind of true beauty that only comes with age, wisdom, and honestly knowing oneself. I warmed to her instantly.

Her smile widened, “It’s for the clients.” Her hand waved over the crystal ball, “Makes them feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. I tried it without the ball and I swear I had a guy nearly in tears over it.” Her laugh spilled out, light and bright. It reminded me of Christmas, for some odd reason.

“I take it you don’t need the ball to do… whatever it is you do?”

She shook her head, dark hair spilling about her shoulders. She was wearing a silk kimono, for gods’ sakes. “Goodness, no. You ought to know our gifts don’t need gimmicks.”

I’d no idea how she knew I had “gifts”. I shook my head, “No we don’t. How did you…”

“Know?” She shrugged, “I guess the same way you know I’m not a charlatan and that your friend out there isn’t faking it. We just… know.”

She was right. I did always know whether what she called “gifts” were real or faked. It’s not like I could feel anything, like I did when I sensed vampires, but I just knew it was real, if a person were genuinely gifted or not. It wasn’t something I tried to explain because it just was.

“So, how can I help you?” One dark eyebrow cocked up. She so reminded me of Kabita. These two would probably get on like a house afire.

“Someone gave me your name. Said you might be able to help. Brent Darroch.”

Her face hardened. “What do you know of Brent Darroch?”

“Nothing really,” I told her. What was with the attitude suddenly? “He just hired my firm to find someone.”


I cleared my throat, wondering how she was going to react to what I had to say. “A Sunwalker.”

She looked at me for a long moment, her gaze inscrutable. “And what will you do with this Sunwalker once you find him?”

“I’ll retrieve the necklace he stole from Mr. Darroch and then I’ll kill him.”

She didn’t bat an eye. She only held out her hand. Without thinking I placed mine in hers. “Remember, Huntress, things are not always as they seem and there are always two sides to every tale. Before you slice off the Sunwalker’s head, you might want to hear what he has to say.”


She let go of my hand and reached into a voluminous bag beside her chair. She placed two business cards in my hand. One was Cordelia’s own card. The other read: Eddie Mulligan, Majicks and Potions. Weirder and weirder.

“I don’t know this Sunwalker,” Cordelia told me, “But I have heard the legends. If anyone can help you find what you’re looking for, it’s Eddie. Tell him I sent you. Tell him I said it was ok to help you.”

“Right. Ok. Thanks.”

She smiled enigmatically, “Not a problem. You know where to find me if you need me.”

I turned to go. “Remember,” her voice stopped me, “look beyond the obvious. Not all of those who walk the dark path are evil.”

I glanced back at her. “They are in my world.” I strode out through the curtain and into the writhing mass of bodies in the main club. How much weirder could this case get?

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