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.”