Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Excerpt: Vampire Apocalypse: Revelations

With Vampire Apocalypse: Revelations, we get to the last books I originally published with Dreams Unlimited. The Vampire Apocalypse series was originally envisioned as a series of novellas. The first two, Julian and Nicholas, were published under separate cover, and I was working on the third, Lucien, when DU went out of business.

I decided to stick to the original plan of connected novellas, but finished Lucien and wrote one more, Lorelei, and sold them as a package to ImaJinn. Then Book Two: Apotheosis, followed with four more connected novellas: Lilith, Rafael, Tara, and Julian--Redux. Both books are still in print through ImaJinn. Overall, it's one of those worlds I keep thinking about revisiting, but I'm not sure if I should.

From Vampire Apocalypse Book One: Revelations--Julian

Lorelei Fletcher was in over her head. She should have followed her instincts from the beginning. Too late for that now—she just hoped she could get the hell out of here somehow.

On any other night but Halloween, she never would have followed Dina east of Tompkins Square Park, dance club or no dance club. But Halloween and her vampire costume made her feel invincible, so she’d agreed.

They’d never made it to the dance club. Instead, following directions given Dina by her latest boyfriend, they’d ended up here, in a bizarre tenement building where all the rooms seemed to be connected, and where no hallway seemed to be the same shape from moment to moment. Lorelei was beginning to wonder if the weird smell in the place was some kind of hallucinogen.

It would, at least, be a logical explanation for why everyone was so weird. Everybody in the place was dressed like a vampire. It hadn’t seemed strange at first. It was Halloween, after all. Lorelei herself made a stunning vampiress, or so she thought, with her black hair and naturally milky complexion. But, unlike the weirdoes at this party, she only played vampire one day a year.

She had to admit the image of the vampire intrigued her, sometimes to the point of obsession. She could spend days watching every vampire movie she could find, tracing dim, elusive memories. In twenty years, she hadn’t found a mirror to the scene she remembered from childhood. But compared to these nuts, she was a paragon of sanity.

She’d been accosted half a dozen times by guys with razor blades, and, looking for the bathroom, she’d stumbled into a couple of leather-clad women sucking each other’s wrists with an enthusiasm Lorelei reserved for sex or good chocolate. She’d heard about things like this, but she’d never really believed people could be so freaky. So much for unbridled optimism.

She wished she knew where Dina was. Lorelei had lost track of her about an hour ago, when they’d split up to find the front door. They were supposed to meet at a designated bathroom fifteen minutes later, but Lorelei hadn’t seen Dina since. Nor had she seen the front door.

Somewhere a clock began to strike. Lorelei looked at her watch. Midnight. A woman in a bright red cape brushed by her, a coppery smell of blood drifting in her wake.

“Excuse me,” Lorelei said, but the woman only cast a grin over her shoulder and kept walking.

“Thank you so much.” Lorelei came to a halt and crossed her arms. This was ridiculous. She could swear she’d been down this stretch of hallway at least twice. Where the hell had the front door gone? She thought a minute. If she went this way, she should end up back at the bathroom...

The voice, faint but frantic, seemed to come from around a bend in the hall.“No! Stop it, Nicky!”

“Dina!” Lorelei broke into a run.

“Get your hands off me, you bastard!”

“Dina!” Lorelei ran full-tilt into the closed door. She was certain it was the bathroom—or a bathroom—and behind it Dina’s voice rose, frantic.

“No! Nicky, no!” >The voice sobbed now, in terror. >

Lorelei slammed herself into the door. >“Dina! Dina, hang on

Hang on to what? Lorelei had no idea what was going on. Her breath tore in her throat, heaving toward panic. Visions of razor blades and blood swam in her vision. >She smashed herself again and again into the door until she thought her shoulder would shatter. Suddenly the door came open with the sickening sound of splintering wood.

There was Dina. There were no razor blades, but there was blood.

A big, dark-haired man had her pinned against the wall, face buried in the bend of her throat. Of course, Lorelei thought fleetingly. If they thought they were vampires, of course they’d go for the throat. Shallow cuts, probably, like the wrist cuts.

“Get away from her, you freak!” Lorelei grabbed the man by the shoulder and dragged at him, trying to haul him off Dina. But he was heavy, and stronger than she could have imagined...

Panic clawed up her throat. This wasn’t like the wrist-sucking girls in the bathroom. Something more was going on here. >The room reeked of blood. From this angle, Lorelei could see it, winding in a thick, red line down Dina’s bare shoulder, down the length of her arm, dripping steadily from the end of her index finger. Dina’s head was thrown back, the man’s mouth fastened to her throat...

He was killing her.

Lorelei struck him again, fruitlessly. Then, so deep into panic she had no awareness of it anymore, she grabbed a handful of his silky black hair and jerked as hard as she could.

The man’s head snapped back. Blood sprayed everywhere. He turned toward Lorelei as Dina’s body slumped down to the floor, filling the small room with a rhythmic spray of blood that suddenly subsided.

The man grabbed Lorelei’s hair on either side of her face, holding her riveted. She’d thought the paleness of his skin was makeup, skillfully applied. >Now she saw it was only his skin, smooth, seamless, painfully white. He opened his blood-filled mouth and she saw white again, slender fangs.

He struck. ***

Julian Cavanaugh had been sitting in the alley for hours, chain smoking and smelling blood. He came here every Halloween, to remind himself of what he'd been, and what he'd become.

Sometimes he wondered why he did it. With the blood-smell in his nostrils the craving became almost unbearable even with the aid of the cigarettes, which weren’t exactly over-the-counter Marlboros. But if he could sit here from dusk until dawn, smelling the blood and not giving into the need, he knew he could make it another year.

As of tonight, it would be two hundred and thirty-six.

Sometimes he thought it was a waste of time, namely the hours he invested every week making the cigarettes. The tobacco he could buy at the mall, nicely dried and prepared, but three of the other ingredients were herbs which, as far as he knew, had been extinct on this planet for a millennium. Except for the few plants preserved by a Native American shaman, given to him by a god of blood, then passed on to Julian two hundred and thirty-six years ago.

Deep, throaty laughter came from a second-story window. Julian recognized the voice. >Nicholas had been made a vampire three years ago tonight, during the annual Halloween bloodbash. Vivian had made him. As Julian recalled, she’d found him in a bar and brought him home for the party. It was strange to Julian how many humans were willing to come, to slash their wrists and lap each others’ blood, pretending to be something they couldn’t begin to imagine.

Julian lit another cigarette from the tip of the butt in his mouth and listened to Nicholas’ voice. A woman answered him, first laughing seductively, then, suddenly, in fear.

“No. Stop it, Nicky.” He heard scuffling. “Get your hands off me, you bastard!” Then she screamed, “No!”

Julian closed his eyes tight and sucked hard on the cigarette. He’d promised himself a long time ago to stay out of the business of other vampires. >But he hated to hear the taking of an unwilling victim.

He should get up and walk away. Inside, the voices rose. Another woman’s voice screamed from the other side of the door. >Julian snubbed the cigarette against the brick wall and put the butt in his jacket pocket. Gathering himself, he leapt, catching the sill and levering himself up on it. The cigarettes had stilled the need for blood, but hadn’t affected his strength.

The victim’s head lolled against the partly-open window. All Julian could see was a mass of gold-brown hair and Nicholas’ face pressed into her neck. Julian grabbed the window and shoved upward. >He should have moved faster. Now it was too late to save her.

Suddenly the bathroom door burst inward and another woman half-fell into the room. With an astonishing show of strength, she tore Nicholas away from the dying blonde woman. And Nicholas, predictably, turned on her.

Julian launched himself through the window and onto Nicholas’ back, breaking him loose from his victim and knocking him to the floor. >The woman fell in a heap to the ground, all pale skin and black hair, unconscious, not from blood loss, but from the beginning of the vampire’s trance. Her throat had been pricked, but not penetrated.

Nicholas, interrupted at the beginning of a new feed, stumbled. Julian grabbed his shoulder and shoved him down. The younger vampire glared up at him, eyes glinting black.

“You,” he said, his voice still wet with blood from the first girl.

“How observant,” said Julian dryly.

Nicholas leaped at him. Julian hadn’t expected that and he threw up an arm to ward Nicholas off, but he landed hard against him, threw a punch that smashed Julian’s lip against his teeth. The taste of his own blood made Julian momentarily dizzy.

“Stop,” he said, his voice pitched low and deep. >

Nicholas stopped. He was young, his three years no match for Julian’s eight centuries. >He gaped at Julian, then struggled to formed words. “There’s a Call out for you, man.”

Julian stared. There had been no Call put out for a vampire for nearly two centuries. >But under the compulsion, Nicholas had no choice but to tell the truth.

“Sleep,” Julian said finally, and Nicholas slumped to the floor.

Julian turned to the dark-haired woman. She was alive. He could still help her. It was far too late for the other woman. All he could do was get away from the smell of her blood as quickly as possible. Gently, he lifted the living woman from the floor.