Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 17 Snippet

Only one chapter to go and it'll be a fairly short epilogue. Sad to see this one end but excited to begin working on the new projects.

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 17

“Where the fuck were you?” Alicia hissed. Her talons clicked together as she stifled the urge to wrap them around her father’s neck. “You swore you’d be there and then you just fucking walked away. You never called or explained or nothing. Marie’s legs stayed permanently open which eventually brought Markus into the picture.”

“Alicia…” Johnston stepped towards her but she flashed her dual sets of fangs and launched into the air out of his reach.

“Did you know what he was doing to me? Did you even give a shit?” Huge tears rolled down her cheeks as she vented over a decade of hurt, anger, and frustration. “For years, I tried to figure out why you hated me so much. What did I do, what was so wrong with me that you’d leave us like that?”

“No! Honey, no, no, no,” the newly-appointed General of the Seventh Circle held his arms out to his only child in desperate entreaty as fiery tears rolled down his cheeks. “You did nothing wrong, pumpkin. Nothing! It was never your fault, Alicia.”

“Then why? Why didn’t you come back for me?”

The dark fire of her wings dimmed and she drifted to the floor. Though Johnston ached to take his daughter in his arms and comfort her, Blake shook his head. The vampire stepped forward and pulled her against his chest in a warm embrace, noting absently that her fiery wings neither burned his flesh nor gave off any discernible heat. He slipped her arms into the sleeves of his ripped shirt and covered some of her nudity with the thick material. It fit oddly, backwards as it was, but at least she was partially clothed. Regardless of familial attachment, the presence of the demon near his naked mate sat poorly with his beast’s possessive nature. The shirt eased that instinctual reaction somewhat. Running his hands soothingly over Alicia’s back, he brushed his lips over the shell of her ear but remained silent. She deserved her answers.

“He wouldn’t let me.” Johnston growled harshly. His human form wavered with his struggle to remain in control. “I’ve spent the past fifteen years trying to tear myself away from Malphas’ will in order to come back to you. I fought him, and suffered for those fights, until he swore that you were being cared for.”

“And you believed him? A demon?”

“Yeah, I believed him. I believed him because he hadn’t lied to me until then. He explained about the changes. He helped me manifest the wings. He kept me sane down here in this Godforsaken place! How was I to know it was only a means to an end? He wanted it hurt when I discovered the truth. He wanted me to hate him. Hate feeds a wrath demon like nothing else, and my hate fed more than just myself; in some strange way, it fed him, too.” Johnston paced the oddly changeable floor, tugging on his hair in frustration. His path was meandering but managed to be one step ahead of, or behind, the columns of fire that periodically shot into the sky. The more agitated he grew, the more frequent the geysers until it looked like a fiery fountain at a casino.

“You were bound to him by blood, Johnston. That’s why your anger fed him.” Blake’s eyes carefully followed the demon lord’s path. They were uneasy allies at best, and he wouldn’t let down his guard when his mate was involved.

“He said as much. Rejoiced in it, even. He said the connection of our bloodline gave him greater control over me. I would have believed that until I learned he’d sent the Marquis. It didn’t matter what kind of pull he had over my will, I wasn’t about to leave my little girl in the hands of a fucking lust demon.”

“You did,” Alicia hissed, burrowing in her vampire’s embrace and surrounding herself with his scent.

“When I heard about the Marquis, I stormed into his tower ready to take his fucking head. He batted me aside like a kitten and then he laughed. He fucking laughed, Alicia, as he strapped me into that damn frame and forced me to watch that bastard touch you and my Marie.” Flames shot from the floor as his rage soared.

Johnston’s human form melted away to reveal the demon lord in all his glory. He stood over nine feet tall with spiraled horns jutting from his bald head. His wings unfurled twice the length of his height before draping over his shoulders like a leathery cloak. A black loincloth tied around his waist covered his genitals but left his trunk-like thighs bare. Unlike his predecessor, he bore no trace of feathers above his cloven hooves – instead, a layer of coarse fur covered his legs from knee to hoof. The fur was the same color as his hair had been when he’d been human.

“I spent ten human years in the Pit, Alicia.” The demon’s voice was little more than a growl as he continued to pace the cavernous chamber. His hooves echoed in the silence. “Ten years of constant torment and torture. Ten years of having the skin flayed from my body only to have it grow back just so they could do it again. Ten years of fighting in the arenas, pitted against the foulest of infernal creatures. Ten fucking years of being screwed by any demon who pleased the General, castrated and forced to eat my own dick, dismembered with dull blades… only to be put back together just so they could do it all over again!” Flames shot from the walls and floor and the entire building shook as he stomped around the room. He reached the metal frame that had recently held his child and ripped it from the floor. The metal bent and twisted as easily as a wet noodle before melting into slag at his feet. Outside, the mephits and lesser demons that had been preparing to test their new General’s strength cringed and slid out of range of his fury. They would challenge him another day.

“Oh, God.” Alicia’s swirling eyes widened with horror and she eased from her vampire’s embrace. How could anyone have survived such torture? How could he care for her that much?

“So do not tell me that I did nothing!” Johnston snarled, sending foul magic to strike at one of the slowest of the mephits. The creature shrieked as it slowly burned away. The rest flew much faster to avoid a similar fate. “My only reason for survival was you, Alicia. My only shred of sanity concerned you. My final, wavering scrap of humanity centered solely on keeping you safe.”

“And in the end,” Alicia walked cautiously towards the demon lord, “you did. Daddy, you kept me safe. If you hadn’t brought Blake with you, I’d still be strapped to that cage. You succeeded, Daddy.”

“Did I?” His blood-red eyes met her swirling crimson-and-black ones as he reached a tentative hand towards his child. His fangs had pierced his lip where he’d bitten through them to hold back his tears and the blood dripped from his chin to sizzle on the stone floor. “Did I save you or did I just prolong both of our torment? You’re not a demon; you’re not even a tiefling anymore. You don’t belong here but I can’t bear to let you go. Not yet. Please, pumpkin, not yet.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 16 Snippet

No warnings or comments this time (which is kind of a lie since I commented, but oh well...). Enjoy!!

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 16

Malphas and Alicia barreled through the portal and onto the charred stone floor of a cavernous chamber. The impact sent the tiefling tumbling off the demon lord’s back and jarred the sunblade from her hands. It bounced and skittered across the floor to rest in a far corner of the room, well out of her reach. Alicia slammed her fist into the floor and released such a string of vulgarity that she was certain she’d pay for it later with her ass. Her fangs lengthened at the thought of her vampire’s discipline before she wrestled her mind away from her delectable mate.

She glanced around the room in search of the celestial sword and was struck by the strangeness of the building’s materials. The smooth walls looked to be worn away by years of friction rather than tools, and stretched upwards until they faded from sight. A closer look at the stone showed black and dark-red waves undulating just beneath the surface, breaking through in unexpected bursts to shoot geysers of fiery lava into the air.

“Once more you meddle in things of which you know nothing, Tiefling!” The demon growled his pain as the severed wing began to heal. The one she’d sliced with the glowing blade showed no signs of repair. Her lips curled into a cruel smile.

“Yeah? Well, consider it a character flaw.”

“I will do more than that.” Malphas chuckled evilly as he rose to his full height and stretched his newly grown wing. “I will ensure that you will be unable to make such foolish choices in the future.”

“You think so?” Watching the infernal’s every move, Alicia rose into a crouch and matched his steps to maintain the distance between them. “Blake hasn’t had much luck with that, you know, and I adore my vampire. Can’t really say the same for you, Gramps.”

“Your insignificant feelings have no bearing here other than the joy it will bring me to watch them crumble to my will.” Malphas’ tail stabbed from the left, causing her to roll to the right to avoid the deadly appendage. The floor opened up beneath her and she barely managed to avoid a burst of fiery brimstone that shot almost two feet into the air. The demon’s grin of delight was terrifying to behold.

“You really need to see someone about that god complex you’ve got going on. You’re never gonna get a date that way.”

“Foolish child, haven’t you learned, yet? Here, I am a god! This is my domain and all here bow before me or face my wrath!” His bellowing voice echoed in the large chamber and a cacophony of wails and cries of agony and terror rose in an answering chorus. The sound chilled her to her very core and she gazed longingly at the celestial sword. “Since you gave up your humanity for that blood-sucking parasite and ruined plans centuries in the making, I will drain the vampiric blight from your soul and create a pure creature of the Seventh Circle. You will become mine for all eternity, tiefling. Mine to keep or destroy. Mine to cherish or ravage. Mine,” he stabbed again from the left, moving her further and further away from the softly glowing sunblade, “to command and control.”

“Good luck with that, asswipe. I checked my to-do list, and nowhere did it say ‘relocate to a place that smelled like an egg fart factory’.” She hesitated for half a second to gauge the distance to the sunblade and the third jab from the demon’s tail sliced through her thigh, drawing a hiss of pain and anger from between her fangs. Instead of dodging to the right as the demon anticipated, Alicia dived between his legs. While he was off-balance in the midst of a right-handed grab at her former location, the tiefling placed both her feet on his upper thighs and kicked hard. Though it was like kicking a Sequoia, her vampiric strength enabled her to affect the demon lord’s balance. Malphas struggled to remain in place but had to stagger forward to stay upright, giving Alicia the time to move towards the blade. She checked the cut on her leg as she rose and was pleased to see that it had already begun to heal.

“Deny it all you wish, but it’s already begun, tiefling.” Malphas chuckled and slowly turned as Alicia scrambled for the glowing sword. “Pick up that blade you’re so anxious to get to, hellspawn, and feel the pain as it burns away at your very nature.”

“The fuck?” The scent of burning flesh mingled with the sulfur and brimstone already present in the hot air. Though she gritted her teeth to ward off the pain, Alicia couldn’t maintain her hold on the celestial blade for more than a few seconds. Hissing in frustration, she allowed the sword to drop from her fingers. “It didn’t burn before. Why do you always have to fuck with shit that’s not yours, demon?”

“I’ve done nothing to the blade, tiefling.” The demon lord’s triumphant grin was a hideous display of vicious fangs and cruel triumph as he approached. With her back now against the wall, there were few places for Alicia to go and, though it burned, she was still unwilling to abandon the sword that seemed to inflict permanent damage on the infernal. “It is you who are changing. Just being here is leeching away all but the demon inside you.”

“You’ve finally snapped, haven’t you?” Alicia’s eyes darted around the room looking for something to wrap around her hands so she could pick up the glowing sword at her feet. “I mean, I’ve heard that some humans get a bit delusional as they get older so I can only imagine how totally bat-shit crazy you’ve gotten over the centuries, Gramps.”

“You already feel it. Don’t you, tiefling? How much stronger the demon within is growing. How much weaker the blood-sucker has become. The pull of my will increases, influencing, forcing you to obey me.”

“In your dreams, you overgrown bat,” Alicia sneered, but inwardly she trembled. She did feel the changes and they terrified her. Where would that leave her vampire if Malphas had his way? Would he think she had died and abandon her to her fate? Would he discover her altered form and abandon her still?

“That’s it, tiefling. Give in to me and you shall be stronger than the vampire who’s enslaved you. He’ll leave you like all the others – all but me. I have never abandoned you, tiefling. I have watched over you from the day your worthless father broke his promise and a young child’s heart by walking away without a second thought.”

 Hissing in fury at her lingering doubts, she steeled herself for the pain and reached for the sunblade. In an awkward move borne from desperation rather than skill, Alicia grabbed the hilt as she rolled to the demon’s left side. The celestial blade sliced through Malphas’ calf before she flung it away with a cry. “I will never be yours, Malphas,” she ground through her clenched fangs as she cradled her injured hands to her chest. “I’ll fight you for all eternity if I must, but I will return to my mate.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 15 Snippet

A/N: This snippet is entirely unedited by anyone but me so don't blame Archangel for my goofs :)

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 15

Blake stalked the encampment coiled and ready for battle. Far from settling his mind, the brief mental contact with his mate had driven his beast into a ravenous fury. He needed to see and touch and verify for himself that she was well. He needed to know why the bond had formed now and not the day they mated or in the days since. He needed her back by his side where he could keep her safe. All who stood between him and satisfying that need took their lives into their own hands, regardless of which side of the battle they favored.

It was the waiting that was driving both his human and beast insane. Though his human side understood the need, his beast chafed at the vast amounts of daylight hours spent amongst the humans who pestered those setting up the encampment. He and Elizabeth dodged questions from the local police, dismissed reporters, and oversaw the growing arsenal that would outfit and arm a small Third World country. Though his beast urged him to drain the curious and concerned locals to corpses and leave them for the packs of stray dogs and other vermin, and Blake saw the advantages to having such peace, the greater attention that would garner wouldn’t be worth the transient pleasure.

Elizabeth had worked alongside him for several hours after he’d communicated with Alicia but even their centuries of friendship couldn’t withstand his peevishness and simmering violence. The only one who appeared unaffected by his mood was the tiny pixie, Sapphire. She sat upon his shoulder, chattering about this or that or singing in her lilting voice, until he threatened to rip off her wings and use them to plug his ears against her inane babbling. Where others cringed at the barely contained menace in his voice, his minute companion merely tsked in disapproval as she faded away. She promised to return only after he’d regained some semblance of control.

They’d heard nothing from the Royal Advisor, Lysavar, or the Celestial, Camael, since their meeting in the ruined Simons Building. The silence from the pair served to further degrade the vampire’s foul mood. Even though Sapphire and Opal had reassured him that his friend would return in time for the assault on the church, Blake scowled any time the elf’s name was mentioned. Devereux’s faith in Camael wasn’t as solid and the normally flamboyant vampire was unusually somber. He wanted to believe his extra-planar mate’s promise to return and join the fight but their bond had yet to be firmly established and the Celestial didn’t have the best track record.

Meanwhile, the Others began arriving early Wednesday afternoon. Most came by car – a large caravan of black SUVs escorted by a choice number of enspelled or nonhuman members of the state and local police forces. Before the sun had fully set, the 20’x30’ canvas structure contained over sixty nonhumans from nearly half a dozen races. Such a disparate group was rarely found together outside the annual Summit and they each eyed the others with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. None were aware that a tiny pair of spies flitted amongst them.

The vampire covens sat in distinct clusters, sipped glasses of <i>Sangue Vino</i> from Elizabeth’s private stock, and contemplated the advantages of potential political maneuvers. Occasionally, one of each group would stand as if choreographed, glide elegantly towards one of the other covens, and sit to exchange names, business cards, and tentative promises. The Russian and Persian covens were especially keen to establish mutually beneficial ties while the New Orleans coven watched it all with amused, and affected, ennui. They all made a grand show of checking and loading their weapons as if there was a prize for who could conceal the greatest number of pistols and knives in the most creative of ways. Opal rolled his eyes at their posturing but flitted amongst the vampires to ensure their plotting wasn’t against their host.

Along the back of the tent, six of the Eurytion Herd’s finest Hunters checked buckles and retied cords while awaiting the start to the meeting. The centaurs carried enchanted lances, sheaths with short swords resembling Ancient Rome’s gladius, and a horseman’s bow with quiver slung low on their withers where their human torsos melded with their equine bodies. Each warrior wore modified horse barding crafted from a combination of metal and leather to maximize both protection and maneuverability that melded seamlessly into a metal breastplate to protect their vulnerable chests. Their tails were braided and bound to avoid tangling in the branches and underbrush surrounding the desecrated church on the hill. They ate little and spoke less, preferring to hydrate before the coming battle to offset the humidity that still lingered in the muggy autumn air.

The Shifters filled the rest of the metal folding chairs placed in the tent and performed their own rituals before battle. Scents were gathered and memorized so that recognition during battle was swift and instinctual. Craig Leroux, the alpha’s younger brother, commanded the Pack’s fighters and was eager to exact some measure of vengeance for the haunted look that remained in the eyes of his favorite niece. After speaking with Kazeem Obasanjo, the wolves and tigers began working out fighting tactics that utilized their particular skills. Sapphire perched upon the back of a chair as they planned herding and ambush strategies. While their tactics were sound for land-based prey, they were close to useless for the flying creatures they would encounter like mephits and demons. Clearing her tiny throat, she decided to point out the flaws in their plans and how she might be of use to them.

When the sun began to sink into the horizon, Blake and Elizabeth stepped into the tent, followed by Augustin, Johannes, Devereux and the young Karen Walker. The Investigator’s crimson eyes scanned the impressive number of nonhumans with cold satisfaction. He wasn’t foolish enough to believe that the battle would be easy, but he was now more confident that the battle could be won. As the small band of friends and compatriots moved through the crowd, a slim and regal elf entered the tent and awaited the vampire’s notice.

“Lysavar.” Warmth colored his voice as Blake moved to greet his elven friend. “I’m pleased to know I won’t have to kill you after all, elf.”

“You could try, vampire,” the Royal Advisor chuckled softly and gripped his friend’s forearm in welcome. “I come bearing good news, bad news, and surprising news.”

“Not the time for games, Lys.”

“If this is the not the time, it never will be, my friend. We laugh or else we cry and no one wants to die with tears on their cheeks.” 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 14 Snippet

A/N: As we wind down towards the end of the story, things will get pretty tense: both the situations and the people involved. This will probably be the last graphically violent chapter though there are still a couple of large battles left to be fought. Before the battles and the violence, however, there is planning...and that's where we begin...

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 14

At the bottom of a small hill, the crowd of nonhumans was steadily growing in number. Blake, along with Sapphire, Opal, Devereux, and the councilwoman, Karen Walker, had arrived the day following the attack on the Simons Enterprises building. The rapidly growing number of tents, crates, people, and security measures caused curiosity and some suspicion amongst those in the small town and, by noon, the local police force arrived to investigate. With the formidable vampire ready to tear the throat of any who delayed his planned rescue of his mate, the pixies intercepted the officers and used their fey magic to ‘persuade’ them that the camp was part of a routine exercise by Homeland Security. They even accompanied the officers back to their captain and ‘showed’ him their credentials and permits until he assured them there would be no further trouble from his people. In a show of unity, he drove the pixies back to the camp and then blocked the roads so the locals couldn't interfere.

Meanwhile, Blake paced. He paced and hissed and rode the very edge of control over his feral nature. Without the full vampiric bond most mates enjoyed, he didn't know if Alicia was alive or dead, injured or well, or suffering any of the thousands of indignities his fertile mind could conjure forth. The delay in bringing the necessary numbers to attack the stronghold was tearing him apart as he alternated between praying to a God he’d never fully believed in to bring his mate out whole and well and cursing that very same God for subjecting her to even more torments.

“Blake?” Elizabeth approached the volatile vampire and handed him a glass of Sangue Vino. “Augustin called. He will be arriving tomorrow with ten of the best warriors the al Zarqua coven out of Persia has to offer. They should get here about the same time as the eight constituents from the local Vampire Council, though they will be of unknown age or abilities. Also arriving are five from the New Orleans Council and twelve from the Kovalensky Coven of Moscow. Those who owe you and me favors consider this trip payment in full.”

“Understood.” Blake drained the warmed bloodwine and did a quick tally of the numbers. “This will give us forty-one vampires of various ages and power. Have the pixies heard from Lysavar?”

“The Royal Advisor is still in the elven lands handling a few issues that stemmed from an issue with Michael’s mating. He has promised to return no later than Wednesday night but is hopeful that he’ll be able to arrive that morning. The king has promised at least one unit of elven warriors and they were going to appeal to the Academy for mages.”

“The elf is cutting it close,” Blake growled and sat his empty glass on a crate and started walking towards one of the large canvas tents. “I’m not waiting for him to decide to stop playing the lovesick fool for UrĂºvion. We’ll attack at dawn on Thursday as planned whether he’s deigned to join us or not.”

“He’ll be here, Blake.” Elizabeth followed Blake into a tent where a human quartermaster was organizing the weaponry and rationing out the ammunition. “Lysavar has always been exceedingly fond of you. He won’t let you fight this battle alone.”

“Ms. Pierce?” A youngling vampire hurried into the tent and handed the petite brunette a cellphone before casting a wary look at her intimidating companion and exiting just as quickly. The call was short but brought a fierce smile to the vampire lady’s face.

“Tomorrow will also see the arrival of ten of the Leroux Pack’s finest betas, four fox scouts from the Ingram Troop, six of the finest hunters from the Eurytion Herd of centaurs, and seven toms from the Obasanjo Pride of tigers.”

“More political maneuvering from the Summit, Elizabeth?”

“Not at all or, at least, not entirely. Each family had a child taken by the Colonel and your mate was instrumental in helping them escape. They are eager to return the favor.”

Blake’s lips curled as his pride in his beautiful mate swelled. She had always dismissed the things she’d done during her captivity and escape as necessary and unimpressive. His tiefling didn’t realize how much her actions had affected those around her. He would be certain to impress upon her again just how incredibly special she was, and to more than just him. After he’d spent at least a month checking every inch of her delightful body for signs of trauma.

“What of the Celestial?” The vampire forced his mind away from the pleasurable thoughts of having his enchanting mate in his playroom and back to the situation at hand.

“Devereux assures me that Camael will return on the morrow. The Celestial is reporting to its Gatekeeper in the hopes of securing at least a few warriors for the battle.” Elizabeth picked up one of the semiautomatic handguns, a Glock 19, pulled back the slide and ejected the magazine for a quick check before snapping it back into place and sighting down the barrel. Satisfied at the weight and balance of the weapon, she nodded to the human armorer and placed it back in the crate. “It’s also requesting a second sunblade for you to carry, though Devereux feels that will be categorically denied.”

“How is he doing?” Blake nodded to the human workmen before escorting his friend from the tent. He followed Elizabeth to the RV she shared with Johannes and accepted another glass of bloodwine.

“He is amazingly well, all things considered.” She gestured towards a confined sitting area and sighed in relief when her agitated friend actually sat. “He’s fully recovered from both the battle as well as the blood poisoning.”

“And mentally? I know the Celestial has claimed him as mate but Armentage didn’t look too keen on the idea. We can’t afford the two of them having some kind of personal meltdown when the situation turns critical.”

“Devereux has a personal stake in this fight, Blake. His focus is probably better than yours right now.”

“What the hell do you mean by that, Elizabeth?” The fierce hiss through rapidly elongating fangs had the petite vampire rolling her eyes in exasperation. “There is nothing more important to me than rescuing my mate!”

“You know exactly what I mean! When was the last time you slept, Blake? Had more than just a sip or two of blood? You won’t do Alicia any good if you’re on the verge of going feral by the time we attack. You’re skirting that edge already and every day I see you inching closer.”

“I can’t feel her, Elizabeth! I don’t know if she’s alive or dead. I don’t know if she’s injured or well. I don’t even know what that fucking demon is doing to her.” Blake pushed up from the chair to pace the cramped area, plunging his hands into his hair and giving it an aggravated tug. “It is driving me insane.”

“And I have lost forever one of the only two Children I have ever Sired.” Rising to step directly into his path, Elizabeth’s crimson eyes flashed with devastated fury. “Every single second since his death I have felt a hole in my very being where my Francisco once lay, but I refuse to give in to the pain. I don’t have time for the luxury of grief; not yet. Not if I want my vengeance. Grieve on Friday if she is truly lost, Blake, but keep your wits about you until the coming battle. It will get you killed if you don’t regain control.”

Blake raised himself to his full height and glared down at the petite vampire who challenged him. His bearing was that of a feudal lord of the Dark Ages. His anger and power as a Primary Investigator for the Primus Concilium swirled around him like a maelstrom. Elizabeth never twitched, never blinked or looked away. The air grew thick with suppressed violence and coiled tension.

“I am in complete control, Lady Pierce,” he bit out through clenched teeth. With a snarl of fury, he stormed from the small trailer and into the dappled sunlight that filtered through the towering pines.

“Damn you, Blake Simons,” Elizabeth whispered. “I refuse to lose you as well.” Slipping from the trailer, she stalked through the camp looking for someone who might be able to get through to the stubborn vampire.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 13 Snippet

After a brief hiatus for NaNoWriMo, I'm back with the teaser for Chapter 13. As the last chapter left off with Blake fearing for the fate of Alicia, this one starts with his mad search for her in the Simons Enterprises skyscraper. This chapter isn't pretty. The next few chapters aren't pretty. Hell, this story for the most part hasn't been pretty so do expect some violence, blood, gore, and good old fashioned ass-kicking. 

Oh, and pixies. This chapter will definitely have pixies.

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 13

“Alicia!” Blake’s roar echoed up the deserted stairwell. He took the stairs at preternatural speed with Augustin close at his heels. If he had met anyone on the way other than his mate, that unsuspecting soul would have met a cruel and instant death. His fangs ached to tear into his enemy. His claws screeched with every contact with the metal handrail. One hundred floors sped by but he knew in the deepest, darkest chasm of a heart few believed existed that he’d be too late. The mephits had been nothing more than a distraction, used to keep him occupied and sever loose ends while others were sent to take his mate to their master.

The vampire burst through the door with enough force to rip it from its hinges. A quick glance of the short hall revealed nothing out of the ordinary so he sped into his apartment. Blake pulled up short in the doorway, shocked by what he saw. Or rather, by what he did not see. Though he gave the living room a frantic but thorough search, nothing appeared amiss beyond a single overturned chair. The scent of blood and brimstone wafted from the master bed chamber and he stalked forward, every move that of a skilled and deadly predator.

The bedroom was reminiscent of a war zone. Plaster, glass, and shattered furniture littered the once luxurious carpet. The hand-carved bed where he’d last seen his beloved mate was missing from the room and blood, both thick pools and dark smears, coated the walls, ceiling, and floor. Inhaling deeply, he cycled through the known scents and could not detect his mate’s unique and heady aroma. Her blood had not been spilled in this room. Carefully stepping around the wreckage, he advanced on the gaping hole in the exterior wall which revealed the intruders’ point of entry. The lack of debris from such an opening sent a frisson of fear straight to his un-beating heart. He knew of only two beings that could perform such a feat: his mate and her ancestor – the demon general, Daevas Malphas.

With a gesture, August caught his attention and pointed to a smaller hole in the floor nearly hidden beneath the debris. Kneeling, Blake scanned what he could see of the empty office when the faint scent of his mate wafted to his sensitive nose. With a fierce growl, he dropped through to the floor below before his Child could advise greater caution. The elderly vampire quickly followed his Sire and their senses were assaulted by the overpowering stench in the confined space. Blood and gore coated the floor in a slick, viscous mess.

The vampires separated and searched the barren room for any hints as to what had happened. It was clear there had been a life-or-death struggle. Deep gouges marred a floor and the wall also scorched by hellfire. Bits of flesh, both human and demonic in appearance, provided bloody testimony that the fight wasn’t altogether one-sided. Near the door that led to the hall lay gruesome evidence of the fate of at least one of his mate’s guardians. A bloodied hand had been discarded as if it was mere trash. From the amount of flesh and blood beneath the clawed fingers, the vampire had fought valiantly against the creatures.

“Damnedable cockroaches!” Augustin hissed as he picked the lifeless hand off the floor. The shattered radius protruded from the gnawed flesh of the wrist and the marrow had been sucked from the bone. “If there was ever a creature that should be extinct, they are it. I’m not too familiar with his scent, but I believe this belongs to the newling, Francisco.”

“Elizabeth will be most displeased.”

Blake’s deep crimson eyes locked onto the door as the fire alarm suddenly went silent. From somewhere in the hall, he could hear the muffled sound of a struggle interspersed with a pair of raised voices. Pulling his weapon and flipping the safety, the vampire silently moved to the door and eased it open. The hall was dark other than the harsh glare of the orange emergency lighting. The sprinklers sprayed a constant mist creating a hazy, otherworldly atmosphere in the deserted building. Nodding to his Child, Blake slipped into the hall and moved efficiently towards the sound, zig-zagging across the hall from doorway to doorway in an effort to gain some protection from potential ambush. It was in the third such doorway that he found a second gruesome remainder of his mate’s dearest friend.

When August joined the seething vampire, Blake wordlessly handed the former monk a bloodied foot still encased in a shredded leather boot. This disembodied extremity also showed signs of the mephits’ barbarous appetites with sections of the tibula gnawed in half in order to reach the juicy marrow inside. The flesh around the exposed bone was as shredded as the leather that surrounded the discarded foot. Though even a newling could recover from either of the wounds in time, regenerating the missing extremity with copious amounts of fresh blood, both might prove to be more than his body could handle.

They were two doors away from the public elevator when the sounds of struggle grew louder. Alicia’s alluring scent was stronger here and Blake’s fingers tightened on the grip of the pistol. Nodding to August, who also drew his weapon, the dark-haired vampire turned the knob and eased open the door a crack. Wind whistled through the room and blew the scent of brimstone though the open doorway. Blake entered first, stepping to the right of the door, and was followed by August to its left. As they crept around tall stacks of cardboard boxes and metal storage cabinets, the voice became louder. Neither belonged to the powerful vampire’s mate.

Alicia’s scent clung to a stack of boxed equipment and discarded office chairs along with the sickening stench of sulfur. The pale light of the coming dawn shone through the yawning tear through the exterior wall and reflected off the unending mist from the sprinklers. Blake suspected that his young mate had hoped to hide from the mephits who had destroyed her friend but had been found by the demon lord himself. Judging by the sounds in the room, he was going to get an opportunity to extract a confirmation of those suppositions.

In the faint light, a pair of mephits fought over a gruesome trophy: the disembodied head of Elizabeth’s newling and Alicia’s friend, Francisco. With a roar of fury, Blake leaped upon the closest mephit and sank both claws and fangs deep into the creature’s back. The hellspawn shrieked in furious agony and beat its leathery wings in an effort to dislodge the vampire from its back. The second mephit chortled with glee as it snatched the bloody prize from the floor. It hopped on its short bowed legs towards the door with every intention of abandoning its fellow mephit to its dire fate. Augustin, on the other hand, had other – more creative – ideas.

Leaping around his savage Sire and the screeching creature, August tackled the remaining mephit and brought it to the floor with a hiss of glee. Francisco’s head rolled to the far corner, his lifeless eyes staring sightlessly at their battle, his handsome face forever frozen in horrified agony. The sight of the newling’s remains spurred the former monk’s righteous fury, reminding him of another young vampire similarly destroyed so many centuries before. Claws slashed through the mephit’s wings until they were little more than bloody ribbons attached to the body by thin strings of sinew and flesh.

“Where is she?” Blake’s hiss reverberated eerily in the empty room as he methodically tore his prey apart. “Where is my mate, cockroach?”

Bloody claws dug into the skin and muscle that surrounded one wings joint and slowly contracted. The longer the mephit shrieked his pain but failed to answer the vampire’s question, the tighter Blake’s grip became until one wing popped free. Tossing the bloody thing into a corner, Blake dug into the second joint. The mephit’s clawed hands and toes scrabbled at the floor, seeking purchase in the tile in an effort to escape the pain the apoplectic vampire was inflicting.

“Where is she, roach?” Changing tactics, the vampire pulled his bloody fingers from the creature’s back and began systematically breaking every necessary bone in the remaining wing. When the mephit still refused to answer, he slashed at the thin, leathery membrane before digging his claws into its back muscles once more. “Where is she?!”

“He’ll have her by now, vampire,” the mephit sneered through its anguish. “The General isn’t happy that you’ve diluted her blood. He’ll make her pay for that. Pay with her blood. Pay with her body. Pay with her mind.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 12 Snippet

The bad guys never let the good guys have sexah night club fun, do they? This snippet is calm but the chapter is not. As the old maps used to say: here be monsters!

There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 12

“I’ve been looking for you, Mr. Mathewson.” Blake glanced over at his mate, noting her pallor. A silent message was sent to his Child for him to fetch the others. He was assured that Augustin would bring the two even if he had to throw a pail of freezing water on them to pull them apart.

“So I’ve heard, My Lord,” the captured vampire sneered. He’d been twisting and pulling against his metal and steel bands and felt them begin to crack. “It must be quite the blow to your impressive ego to not have everyone falling over themselves to serve you.”

“You were issued a summons by an active Investigator of the Primus. You are required to attend or suffer the consequences.” A motion at the edge of his periphery confirmed that his Child had been successful in rounding up the amorous pair. “By the authority granted to me by Hauhet of Saqqara, Leader of the Primus Concilium, I take you, Angus Mathewson, into custody for questioning and sentencing. Will you come quietly?”

“You’re a fool, Simons.”

With an alarming crack, the vampire finally broke through his unusual restraints and leapt for Blake. They came together with a thud, momentum sending them crashing into a nearby table which splintered beneath their combined weight. Angus was slightly older with more physical bulk, but Blake had spent centuries perfecting both offensive and defensive fighting techniques. He shifted his weight and rolled so that he was on top of the aggressive vampire.

“You’re only making things worse for yourself, Mathewson. Attacking a Primary Investigator during the course of executing his mission is a punishable offense.”

“Fuck you.”

“How eloquent.” In a move too fast to be seen by all but the eldest vampires, Blake grabbed two jagged pieces of the broken table and speared Mathewson through each hand – pinning him to the floor. The vampire’s screams were swallowed by the thumping music and yelling partiers. “Now, I ask you again. Will you yield?”

“Go to hell,” the bleeding vampire spat. “Malphas will have your bitch soon enough and then you’ll know what it’s like.”

“Don’t take that prediction to Vegas.”

Blake rolled Angus to his stomach, ignoring the vampire’s renewed screams when the makeshift stakes were wrenched from the floor, and placed a knee in the small of his back to hold him in place. He took a rope from August and wrestled his captive’s hands behind his back. Using his expertise in Shibari, Blake efficiently bound Angus’ hands from wrist to elbow in a series of close knots. The rope’s narrow diameter was deceptive. A gift from Lysavar, it contained several enchantments that improved its strength and grip.

“Armentage, if you would, help August escort our new…friend…to my vehicle. He knows where to drop off the trash.” Blake rose and moved over to his mate. His fingers lightly touched the healing wounds and fading bruises on her throat. “Alicia? Where all did he hurt you?”

“Just there, my vampire.” She winced at the pain in her raw throat. Blake leaned down and brushed his lips and then his tongue over each of the pinpricks to aid in their healing. With a low groan, he pulled her into his arms and held her tight against his chest.

“I died a little inside, Beautiful One, when I saw you in that creature’s grasp.”

“I’m sorry, Blake,” Alicia trembled against him, the shock and adrenaline wearing off to leave her shaken and scared. “I shouldn’t have come here. We should have stayed at home and…”

“Shhh.” Kissing the top of her head, he loosened his embrace enough to rub her back in soothing circles. “Don’t let him ruin this day for you. Remember the fun you were having before. I’ve never seen such joy in your eyes. Well, at least not while you were fully dressed.” Her shaky laugh was his reward and he kissed her head again.

“Can we go home?”

“Definitely. August knows where to take Mathewson.” Blake glanced over at his friend’s newling. “di Luca, will you drive us?”

“Certainly, Mr. Simons.”

Blake climbed into the back and cradled Alicia close to his side while Francisco maneuvered his small sedan though the spotty traffic. The vampire was worried about his mate; she was drifting in and out of consciousness as if exhausted. He’d never seen her attempt to use her abilities in such a way and was concerned that she’d overtaxed herself. Meanwhile, Alicia was thinking of the side of her mate she’d witnessed that night. He’d been brutal, ruthless, almost cold but then he’d touched her with such tenderness. Her vicious vampire teddy bear. She scooted closer until she wriggled onto his lap then nuzzled at his neck.

“I love you, Sir.”

“Alicia.” Blake breathed her name like a prayer as he tightened his arms around his precious female. Her even breathing alerted him that she’d succumbed to her exhaustion before he could reply. Burying his face in her feathered-streaked hair, he allowed his joyful tears to fall. He’d suspected her heart had finally given in to the pull of the mating bond but it felt like heaven to hear her admit it. Though she slept, he whispered into her hair, “I love, cherish, and adore you, my beautiful angel.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

There's a Fine Line: Chapter 11 Snippet

Now that our couple's delightful weekend has passed, Blake continues his search for both Malphas and the vampire who aids him. This snippet contains my favorite pixie minx doing what she does best: push the limits of a very dangerous vampire. 

Hold on tight, though, as things are about to start moving and get really bumpy real soon!


There's a Fine Line...
Chapter 11

Blake reviewed the file on Xanthe Petrou, the Councilwoman representing Virginia and Washington DC. She’d been the first to be interviewed that week about the vampire working with Malphas. Though none of the women were under suspicion, Petrou had been a staunch advocate of an emergency override for the Council’s drop box system. Since the traitor had managed to accomplish just that, it placed her position on the matter under scrutiny. It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility for the traitor to have had help within the Council. Blake just wasn’t placing bets that the aid came from Petrou.

She was the daughter of a minor Greek prince and a housemaid, raised amongst luxury and riches but forbidden to possess them. The royal blood that ran through her veins meant little when her mother was of the lower classes. As she grew, the serving class envied her royal lineage while the nobles looked down on her common parentage. She was part of both worlds and yet belonged to neither. Her need to rise above her detractors, to make them pay for the pain of her youth, took root at a very young age and only grew with time.

It was easy to believe that Petrou was capable of participating in, or even developing such a plot. Her father had commanded she learn from the premiere tutors of the time and she’d continued her education long after she’d thrown off her mortality and embraced the life of a vampire. She was intelligent and cunning, but her ambition twisted her knowledge towards darker ends. She had a thirst for power that had only grown since her childhood. Xanthe Petrou was more than capable, but she’d never bow to anyone – much less a demon.

Putting the report aside with a few new notes in the margins, he pulled out the next candidate’s file. Karen Walker was a young vampire whose rise to the council had been sponsored by the missing Lucas Davenport. Though the identity of her Sire was listed as unknown/not provided, it was a fair bet that her sire and sponsor were one and the same. The fact that such a young vampire – she was less than a century old – was trying to hide the identity of her Sire sent up the red flags to the Primary Investigator. Unless he (or she) was wanted by the Primus, involved in something the council might consider unacceptable, or unknown, there was little reason not to provide the information. Granted, the council was unaware of August’s heritage but allowances were made for age -- most vampires of his Child’s age had survived their Sires. Regardless of the reasons why the information had been suppressed, it was definitely something to denote and ask the girl when she arrived.

“You’re looking all gloom-and-doomy this morning, Pointy Teeth.”  Sapphire fluttered down from one of the air grates to perch upon his desk lamp. “What’s got your tighty-whities in a bunch?”

“Good morning, Sapphire,” Blake murmured without looking up from the file. “How was your weekend?”

“Not as good as yours, I bet.” The tiny pixie wrinkled her nose and drifted from the lamp onto the desk, walking along the edge of the grooves Alicia had cut into the expensive mahogany.

“Perhaps not.” Blake chuckled softly and closed the file. “Was there something you wanted, you little blue demon, or did you simply wish to torment me this morning? I don’t have anyone scheduled until after ten.”

“I know.” Dancing over to the laptop, Sapphire leaped and pirouetted around keys to spell out a taunting message: I know something you don’t know. “When you told me to leave for the weekend, I was going to see Opal. It’s not fair that you get to see your mate but I don’t.”

“And what prevented you from visiting your mate?” Blake smothered a grin while watching the tiny fey creature dance to music only she seemed to hear. He could easily imagine her saying the typed phrase in her sing-song voice. “I was assured that the distance wasn’t too far for either of you to fly.”

“Of course it wasn’t too far, Pointy Teeth, but someone was trying to be sneaky.” She snorted in derision and returned to the eight large gashes in the desk’s varnish. “I expected them to be deeper,” she murmured with a twinkle in her crystalline blue eyes. “I suppose it’s to be expected at your age.”

“At my age--?”  The pixie’s melodic laughter forced the vampire’s indignant reply to come to a spluttering halt. Narrowing his eyes, he gave the creature a terrible smile that promised payback. “Never mind that, you mentioned someone being sneaky?”

“No, I said he was trying to be sneaky. Pay attention, vampire. He wasn’t doing a good job of it at all. Pitiful attempt, really, even for an Infernal.”

Blake tensed immediately. “Enough games, Sapphire. Explain yourself.”

“Oh, fine. You never let me have any fun, you know. And I missed being with my mate and everything.”

“Sapphire.” The single word was hissed between elongated fangs as the vampire’s patience was tested to the breaking point. The fey realized she’d pushed him a bit too far and nervously faded out of sight.

“Right. The Infernal. Well, he was just standing outside the building trying not to look like he was watching it, which meant he looked even more like he was watching it because, you know, when someone tries not to look like he’s spying it makes him look even more like a spy.” A low growl cut off the pixie’s nervous babbling and she gulped audibly. “Yes, anyway, he stayed until you returned with your mate and then he left. I followed him into a building with a sign that read Devil’s Playground… Did you know that it was full of males of all races watching as the females removed their clothing to music? The women were dancing very oddly; like a nymph who’d eaten one too many overripe glisterberries.”

“It’s a strip club, Sapphire. The women are paid to remove their clothing for men to watch. That’s irrelevant.” Blake waved his hand as if brushing away a bothersome fly. “Did this Infernal make contact with anyone?”

“Oh, yes! He met with the First Circler, Vergil Merrow.”