Category Archives: Excerpt

First two chapters of Darkness Taunts

As promised, I’m posting the first two chapters of Darkness Taunts below.  If you missed my post yesterday, I’ve had to make the difficult choice to delay publishing the novel for a week to finish edits.  You can read more on that here.  Thanks to those who have already sent some really sweet emails to me and requested the PDF file for the first four chapters.  I’ll be sending it out to you all shortly.

Anyone else who would like the file is welcome to send me a message via the contact form (click here).  Later today I’ll email out the next batch (email addresses will be kept private).  I’d post all four of the chapters, but with them adding up to over 14k words it would become ridiculously long.  Any fans of Jeaniene Frost know how lengthy it gets when she puts up the first twenty percent of her novels.  Though if you’re like me, you’ll read it all on her site anyway.

Note- This novel is more explicit than Darkness Haunts, though you’ll only start to see that in the early chapters.

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Chapter One

Sometimes doing the right thing can have unintended consequences.  It can turn your life upside down and alter it in ways you never imagined.  For me, the decision to save a friend came at a cost I might never stop paying.  I’d been hiding amongst humans for most of my life, but now the supernaturals had me in their clutches.  Whether I could survive in their world remained to be seen.

I stiffened when my latest customer came through the door.  She had long orange-red hair pulled back in a braid and a pudgy nose that flared every time she breathed.  Surprise reflected in her brown eyes when they met mine.  I’d only worked here for a few months but not all the supernaturals, or sups as I preferred to call them, in the area had seen me yet.  Their reactions made me wonder if they pictured me as some kind of monster.  I could say the same of them.

This woman was from a particularly nasty race that had my instincts screaming to run.  Trolls were carnivores and not picky about their meat sources.  My unusual abilities allowed me to recognize a sup’s race as well as pick up on their emotions.  They were a sort of warning system that gave me the chance to see danger coming, but these days they did little good when I couldn’t get away from it.  I didn’t sense anything hostile coming from the troll, but for all I knew she could kill me as easily as licking a lollipop.

Working in a shop that catered to supernatural needs didn’t make things any easier, but my funds were starting to run low and jobs weren’t easy to come by in this economy.  Felisha, a fairy and sort-of friend, had offered the position after her business picked up.  Many sups had returned to the area after we’d rid it of a vampire-witch hybrid with maniacal tendencies five months ago.  I couldn’t throw a tombstone without hitting one these days, and that was saying something, considering I wasn’t stronger than any regular human.

I shifted my weight to the balls of my feet, wanting nothing more than to run.  Troll or not, though, I couldn’t go.  My former military training wouldn’t allow me to leave my post unattended—or herb shop in this case.  I glanced below the counter in front of me.  My fully-loaded gun rested safe and within easy reaching distance.  One wrong move and I’d blow the troll’s head off.  Felisha could yell at me later for the blood stains on the floor.

I pasted a smile on my face.  “Can I help you?”

In a sort of waddle, she made her way toward me.  Herbal fragrances permeated the room, but the troll over-powered them with a scent comparable to a sewer line.  My fingers twitched.  How offended would the customer get if I kept my nose plugged until she left?   I’d probably end up in a roasting pit by nightfall if I tried it.

She stopped a couple of steps from the counter.  I could barely see her head over the top.  Her eyes shifted to the doorway leading to the back storage area before returning to me.

“Where’s the fairy?”

I braced my hands on the counter.  “Gone until tomorrow.”

“Just as well,” she said.  “I came to see you anyway.”

“Me?”  Nothing good ever came from sups looking for me.

She nodded.  “Ain’t none of us fans of you bein’ here, but it’s about time you proved your worth.”

I crossed my arms.  “I got Nikolas back for you all didn’t I?  That’s more than any of you managed to do for him.”

“Hmph, I ain’t sayin’ you didn’t never prove useful.”  She paused to look around—probably to make sure the master vampire in question wasn’t going to pop out and punish her for harassing me.  “But we don’t like you stickin’ around here.”

“Well that makes two of us.”  I leaned forward.  “If you’ve got a problem with it, by all means go talk to Nikolas because I’m all for leaving.”

Most of them didn’t know I’d tried to escape and failed.  The vampire hadn’t dragged me back—he didn’t have the ability to find me that fast.  One of his powerful friends, and my greatest nemesis, handled the job.  Between the two of them I couldn’t get free of Fairbanks.

The troll’s face hardened.  “Trouble is brewin’. Some think you caused it, but me—I’m hopin’ you’ll be the one to fix it.”

“What trouble?” I asked.

“Demons.”  Her voice grew ominous.  “They’re comin’ for us if someone don’t stop ‘em.  That someone should be you.”

These people never gave up.  She was the third person to come in talking about them in the last couple of days.  It had to be another ridiculous attempt to force Nik to get rid of me.  Only him and his inner circle wanted me here.

“There are no demons in Fairbanks,” I said.  “What makes you think they’re coming?”

“I hear things,” she said in a low voice.  “I got friends who tell me they’re close and it’s just a matter of time afore they make their way here.”

“Are you sure they said demons?” I asked.  She might believe what she said, but that didn’t make it true.  I’d never run into one in my life and I felt confident my senses would have picked them up if I had.  So far, nothing out of the ordinary had come around Fairbanks.  Well, nothing weirder than usual.

She huffed.  “What are ya, deaf?  I said demons and I meant it.  Don’t be looking at me like I’m the crazy one.”

My lips thinned.  I grabbed a container of non-iodized salt from the shelf behind me and set it on the counter in front of her.  Felisha had told me what to do if more people came in asking about a supposed demon threat.  “Here’s some salt.  Put it across all the openings in your home.  That will keep them out.”

“What if I leave me house?  How am I supposed ta protect myself then?”

“If you follow some kind of religion, I’d suggest you do whatever it instructs.  Demons hate dealing with anything based on a ‘higher power’ and tend to shy away from religious symbols if your belief is strong enough.”  Another piece of advice from Felisha.  I believed in God, but avoided organized religion.  If a demon came around, I’d have to hope the higher power of my gun scared them off.

She frowned.  “That’s it?”

“Yep.”  I held out my hand.  “That’ll be five dollars.”  The salt would be cheaper if she went to a grocery store, but we’d had to rush the shipment and raise prices to cover it.

She scrunched up her nose and dug into her purse.  I couldn’t see what was inside but she started pulling stuff out in what I assumed was a search for her wallet.  First came a sealed Tupperware bowl she set on the counter.  Worms moved around inside it.  I didn’t want to know why she carried those around with her.  A brush filled with her orangish hair came next.  A carving knife—I took a step back for that one.  Finally, more odds and ends she stacked up in front of me in one big heap.  How much could that purse hold?

“Ah hah!”  She smiled and pulled a coin purse from the depths of her bag.

Her gnarled hands snapped it open and took out a wad of bills—all of them wrinkled and stained with faint brown spots.  She had enough to make me wonder what trolls did to get their money.  Then again, maybe I didn’t want to know.  One by one she began to count them out.  I made a mental note to spray them with sanitizer after she left.  Maybe use some gloves too.

More customers headed toward the shop at the same time as the troll pushed the money across the counter.  I sensed the two pixies before I saw them through the front windows.    The couple walked through the door and surveyed their surroundings.  Thankfully the troll had finished putting all her stuff back into her purse, including the salt, before their gazes reached the counter.  They weren’t much taller than my first customer, but they were much easier to look at.  The man and woman had fair skin, small builds, and green hair.  All pixies had a thing for bright colors.

A family of about twenty of them had moved to the Fairbanks area a few weeks ago.  The town had never had any before.  They reminded me of my former best friend, Lisette, who lived back in California.  She wouldn’t speak to me anymore.  I’d pissed her off when I had Nik compel her to leave Fairbanks after she’d refused to go on her own.  It had been for her safety, but she didn’t see it that way.  A lot of things had gone wrong in my life since coming to Alaska.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

They took a few small steps closer.  I could tell they didn’t want to get near the stinky female troll any more than I did.  At least, I thought that was the case until the female pixie met my eyes.  Pure hate filled them.  Great.  They hadn’t even been here long and they were already full-fledged members of my anti-fan club.

“What do you know about the demon problem?” she asked.

I lifted my brows.  “There is no demon problem.  If any had come to Fairbanks, I would have sensed them.”

“They may not be here yet, but we know they’re close.”  She braved another step forward.  “We have children to worry about.  If you’ve brought them here you can be sure you’ll be paying for it.”

“Who’s telling you this?” I asked.  Was there some demon warning hotline I didn’t know about?  Why did they think I had anything to do with it?

She sneered.  “As if I’d tell you.  You’d probably send the demons after them next.”

I made myself count to ten before replying.  “I’ve never met a demon and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to control it.  Whatever you’re hearing, it’s not true.”

The pixie’s husband pointed a finger at me.  “Everyone knows your kind once had the angels at your beck and call.  Maybe you’re doing the same with demons now.”

I glanced at the clock.  Emily would be getting out of school in ten minutes.  She’d come straight to the shop afterward and I didn’t want her walking into the middle of this.  They had no idea the fifteen-year-old girl was a sensor as well, but she might slip and say something in defense of me.  If these sups found out, they wouldn’t care that she’d had her abilities for less than a year.  They’d attack her, too.  Racist bastards.

Somehow, I had to channel my inner diplomacy and get these people out of here.

“Look, there are no demons here.  If they do come to Fairbanks, though, I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.  For now…”  I grabbed another canister of salt and set it on the counter.  “You can pour this in your doorways and window sills.  It will keep them out of your homes.”

I went on to explain the religious angle.  Thanks to Lisette, I knew most pixies were Catholic.  They had loads of stuff they could use to help them combat demons.

“Why should we trust anything you have to say?” the man asked.

“Because,” I said.  “This is my home and I have people I care about here, too.  I don’t want demons here any more than you guys.”

The troll and the pixies stared me down.  Great, they were starting to form a mob mentality.  I put a placating hand up.  “I’m serious.  Use the salt and take my advice.  If demons do show up in Fairbanks, I’ll do my best to help get rid of them.”

“You sure about that?” the troll asked.  She’d started to inch closer to the pixie couple in an odd form of solidarity.  At least I had the power to make two races who didn’t like each other join forces.

I nodded.  “I helped Nik get back into power, didn’t I?  If the town is in danger, I’ll find a way to deal with it.”  Not that I had the first clue how to get rid of demons, but they didn’t need to know that.  I’d learned in the army that making people think you knew what you were doing was half the battle.

They each looked at each other.  A tension-filled minute passed before their glares looked a little less severe.  The pain developing in my head went down a few notches as well.

The female pixie came forward and took the salt.  “How much for this?”

I told her the same amount as the troll.

“But that’s too much!”

“I don’t set the prices.”  I shrugged.  Let Felisha take the heat for it.  I’d had more than my fair share for the day.

She grumbled, but she paid for it.  A lot of people will pick convenience over price, especially if they thought they needed something right away.  After I bagged it for her, she grabbed her husband and headed for the entrance.  At the door she paused and turned around.  “You better be right about this or we’ll be back—with friends.”

The troll still stood by the counter.  She turned from watching the others and grinned.  I could see her sharp tiny teeth and had to hold back a shudder.

“If it turns out you lied,” she said.  “I promise I’ll be comin’ back with them.  Even Master Nikolas can’t stop us if we all go after ya!”

With those cheery words, she waddled out.  I breathed a sigh of relief when she drove her beat-up truck from the parking lot.  It back-fired and kicked out a billow of smoke as it made its way onto the street.  Emily arrived soon after that.

She came bustling in with a heavy coat and no cap over her shoulder length brown hair.  It had warmed up to almost zero degrees so she didn’t need it at this point in the day.  At least, that’s what she always told me when I made a case about it.

She wasn’t from around here either, but she’d moved to Fairbanks a year and a half ago, giving her more time to adjust to the freezing weather.  The six months I’d been in the area hadn’t been enough.  I plotted my next escape attempt every morning when I stepped outside into the icy-cold air.  At least it was February now.  January had almost killed me.

“Wipe your feet before you come any further,” I said.

She forgot every time if I didn’t tell her.  It probably stemmed from her mother never really caring for her.  Five months of staying with me hadn’t been long enough to break her bad habits.  I’d been a single 26-year-old who’d never dealt with kids when I took her in.  I had to admit my skills weren’t that great either, but at least I made sure Emily’s basic needs were met.

She stomped a few times on the welcome mat before making her way to the counter.  “Do you think we could take a vacation to someplace warm sometime soon?”

I’d take her in a heartbeat if I could.  Unfortunately, there were forces far more powerful than us keeping us here.  “We tried that twice already.  Remember?”

Her shoulders slumped.  “Yeah, I know.”

“Why don’t you go in the back and do your homework?”  I was really starting to sound like a mom.  Six months ago I wouldn’t have considered having children of my own, much less adopting any.  Now I had a teenager with abilities we had to hide.

“I will, but um…I have something to ask first.”  She stuffed her hands in her pockets.  There was a pleading look in her blue eyes that put me on guard.  You didn’t have to raise a teenager for long to learn some telling signs.

“What is it?”

“You see,” she said, looking anywhere but at me.  “Valentine’s Day is coming up.  I really want to have a party and invite all my friends.”

I crossed my arms.  “After what happened with your birthday last month?”

“But that wasn’t my fault!”  She stomped her foot.

She didn’t really believe that.  As sensors, we could detect lies—even between each other.  She’d stolen some liquor from Nik’s house, the master vampire of the area and our protector-warden.  Since it took a lot for him to get drunk, he didn’t carry much of the light stuff.  Emily could have grabbed one of the other bottles he kept stocked for non-immortal guests, but she went for his private stock.  Not that I agreed with either option, but if you’re going to break the rules you should be smart about it.

She used the liquor to spike the punch and one of her friends drank more than her fair share.  We found her barely alive outside where she’d wandered off and passed out in a snow bank.  I’d had to call Nik over to our house for help.  It had taken a dose of his blood to fix her and his compulsion to make sure she didn’t report it back to her parents.  She’d been unsurprisingly shocked when she woke up with his bleeding wrist pressed to her mouth.

Even in a haven like Fairbanks, sups hid their real identities.  We couldn’t let the secret get out through a teenage drinking incident.  I should have been paying closer attention, but parenting stuff was still new to me and I’d had to learn the lesson the hard way.

“No more parties.  It was too crowded the last time and I couldn’t keep up with all your friends.”

“But Mel,” she whined.  “There’s nothing to do around here in the winter and Nik says he’ll help you supervise.  I went and asked him about it last night.”

She’d talked to him before coming to me.  Great.  I rubbed my face.  Today kept getting better and better.

“You should have discussed it with me first,” I said.  “And what were you doing at his house?”

A guilty flush rose up her cheeks.  “Well, I was bored.  You went to get the pizza so I went over to his place for a few minutes.”

We didn’t live close to town.  I’d been gone for over an hour to pick up dinner and a few things from the store.  “I told you not to go over there without me.  It’s not safe with all the vamps and werewolves running around there.”

“Most of them don’t know what I am and they all like me anyway.  It’s you they aren’t so hot about.”  She frowned.  It bothered her that they didn’t accept me, but I tried to keep that problem from her as much as I could—today being a good example.

“The point is you’re not having a party,” I said.

Better to get her back to the original topic before this conversation devolved.  I braced myself when her eyes turned pleading again.

“Come on, Mel.  It’ll be fine this time.  I promise.”

“No.”  I shook my head.  “With my luck, it will be even worse than the last time.  Not to mention you’ve got Nik wrapped around your little finger.  You’ll probably get him to look the other way for any stunts you try to pull.”

She gave me a pouty lip.  “I won’t do anything bad.  Please.”

I stared up at the ceiling and resisted the temptation to give in.  She reminded me of myself at that age.  I’d been orphaned and did anything I could to make myself forget the loneliness—including drinking and partying.  Emily hid it well, but I knew her mother leaving her hurt.  Stephanie had been a newly turned vamp, but she should have cared more.

She didn’t even try to take her daughter away with her when we ordered her to leave the area.  She took off as soon as she found out we killed her vampire-witch boss and most of her sup friends.  A few got away, but we’d let Stephanie live for Emily’s sake.  Since then, the teenager refused to talk about her mom no matter how much I tried to get her to open up.

I sighed.  Life hadn’t been easy for her and I didn’t like playing the bad guy.  Letting her have a party so soon after the disaster with the last one would be pushing it, though.  We’d have to find something else for her to do.  Chick flicks and popcorn would be much safer.

“I’m sorry, Emily.”  I shook my head.  “There’s not going to be a party.  Maybe this summer after you’ve had more time to learn your lesson.”

Her eyes widened.  “This summer?  But that’s too far away!”

“You’ll survive.  Trust me.”  Why couldn’t she go to someone else’s party?  At least then I wouldn’t be responsible.  For some reason she didn’t like being away from home that much.  Her friends always came to our place rather than the other way around.

“Fine,” she said, giving me the kicked puppy look.

This wouldn’t be the last of it.  She’d bring the party topic up again, but at least for now I was off the hook.

“Oh, I almost forgot.”  She dropped her backpack by the counter.  “I heard Nik talking on the phone about some demon problem or something going on in Juneau.  He said your name too, but he got real quiet when he saw me coming.”

I furrowed my brows.  If Nik was talking about it, there had to be something to it.  He wouldn’t bother with unsubstantiated rumors.

“You were eavesdropping on him, weren’t you?”  I asked.  Not that I didn’t want to know what Nik said, but I had to at least make a show of disapproval.  I’d read that in one of those parenting advice guides.

“Well, it’s not my fault if he talks loud enough for me to hear him from outside his office.”

Uh huh.  She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t telling the whole story either.  “What did he say?”

She shrugged.  “All I caught was that they might need your help to deal with it.”

“I’m not going to Juneau,” I said.  “If they come here, that’s a different story, but I’m not going out of my way to help them.”

“That’s what I thought.”  She smiled.  “They shouldn’t be making you do dangerous stuff like that anyways.”

There was a time when I loved the thrill of danger.  I’d grown out of it.  I had Emily to think about now and keeping up with her kept me busy enough.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll just refuse.  They can’t make me do it.”

 

Chapter Two

I needed a hot shower.  The temperature had begun to drop by the time Emily and I got home.  Cold weather had a way of chilling my skin and seeping into my bones until I could hardly think.  With the exception of my six year stint in the army, I’d always lived in sunny California where most of the time people could wear shorts in the winter and keep their tans looking great while they were at it.  Not in Alaska.

After letting the water run long enough to get hot, I stepped into the spray.  It was the one time of day I truly felt warm.  For a little while I could close my eyes and let myself relax where no one could see me or bother me. No judgment or accusing glares.  Just peace and quiet.

Nik owned the house where Emily and I currently lived.  He’d intended to fix it up after he bought it, but a sleep spell put on him delayed his plans.  Variola, a four hundred-year-old vampire-witch hybrid, had been behind that little setback.

After I woke him from the spell, we’d worked together against Variola.  He’d been the only chance I had for getting my best friend back and he needed my help to get around the vamp-witch’s magic.  Once it was over, I wasn’t allowed to leave town, but I’d been adamant about getting my own place.  He’d insisted on getting a crew of his minions to do what was probably the fastest remodel in history.  The house was about a quarter of a mile away from his, putting it within easy reaching distance if trouble came our way.

I had enemies out there who wanted me dead and he took his job as protector seriously.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t want his help.  I’d hoped to go somewhere far from all supernaturals where Emily and I could live a normal life.  Nik and his powerful friends had different ideas.

The water from the hot shower soaked into my skin.  I scrubbed away the lingering scent from the troll who’d been at the shop earlier.  My poor nose would never be the same.  Her ickiness was probably in my hair, too.

I grabbed the shampoo bottle.  It was a fancy brand that helped keep my dark auburn hair shiny.  I had to order it off the Internet because no store in town carried it.  There were very few things I splurged on these days, but my bath products were among them.  They would be the last thing to be sacrificed if my financial situation got worse.  Starting a new life in Fairbanks had eaten away at my savings and my job at Felisha’s shop didn’t make up for it all.  It would help if I didn’t insist on paying rent to Nik, but I had enough supernatural debt without having to tack on more.

Shampoo ran into my eyes when I bunched up my hair to scrub it.  I started to duck my head under to rinse when an all too familiar presence flashed in behind me.  Speaking of enemies lurking out there ready to take me down—this one couldn’t decide whether to kill me or keep me alive.

I turned to confront him, but he pulled me back into his chest.  His arms slid around my wet body and everything began to spin.  I couldn’t think, couldn’t react.  We traveled through what felt like a vortex.  I couldn’t see anything with my eyes scrunched up tight, but the strong wind buffeting my skin gave me the sensation of moving at warp speed.  Long seconds dragged by when, without warning, the dizzying sensation stopped.  Only the grip of his arms kept me from falling forward.  The tile underneath my feet returned and the spray of hot water replaced the wind.

My stomach roiled and my knees threatened to buckle.  I had to slump against his chest to keep from losing my balance.  It killed me to show any kind of weakness in front of him, but he had to have known the effect his little trick would have on me.  I wanted to struggle—to knock him senseless for whatever he’d done, but my body wouldn’t cooperate.  My muddled mind couldn’t even process what kind of spell he’d done or how.

“Lucas, dammit.”  The shampoo had run down my face even worse than before.  It burned my eyes.  “What did you do to me?”

“Finish your shower, sensor,” he said close to my ear.  His arms pulled away, but he left a steadying hand.  “We’ll talk soon.”

He let his warm fingers slide off my shoulder before flashing away.  Wherever he’d gone, it was too far for me to sense.  My head still spun too much to do more than concentrate on staying on my feet.

It took a couple more minutes for the disorientation to pass.  As soon as it did, I ducked my head under the water only to realize the pressure was higher than before.  The direction of the water didn’t feel right either.  Backing away, I opened my eyes only to close them again.  No, this could not be happening.  One lid at a time I reopened them.

Black tile etched with golden swirls surrounded me on three sides with frosted glass making up the fourth.  Triple shower heads jutted from the wall and a large seat took up the opposite one.  It was far more extravagant than anything I’d ever been in before and large enough to fit at least three people.  How had he brought me here?  Lucas could move long distances by “flashing” himself wherever he wanted to go, but I was immune to magic.  He shouldn’t have been able to take me anywhere.

Focusing my senses, I sent them out to search for anyone nearby.  Not a single supernatural registered.  Humans had to be much closer for me to pick them up, and they had to be feeling strong emotions for me to do even that much.  If any of them were around now, I couldn’t detect them.

I jerked open the glass door to find myself in a luxurious bathroom.  It had double sinks and a fancy toilet that would make me feel guilty for sullying it.  Black towels hung from a golden bar attached to the wall.  I grabbed one and dried my hair off before taking another to wrap around my body.  It covered me from my chest to my knees.

A comb laid by the sink, but I didn’t touch it.  Instead I ran my fingers through my long hair until it didn’t stick out all over the place.  A bottle of lotion sat on the counter as well.  I rubbed that into my arms while thinking furiously.  Lucas wouldn’t grab me and dump me here unless he wanted something.  What that could be, I didn’t know.

I decided to do a little exploring to see if I could at least figure out where he’d taken me.  Maybe find a weapon while I was at it.  He might have finally decided to kill me and just wanted me to sweat it out a little.  I wouldn’t put it past him.

The bathroom turned out to be attached to a bedroom.  It was decorated in a completely different style.  The bed was large and looked comfortable, but it had a brass frame and a patchwork quilt on it.  The armoire and nightstand were antiques with tall legs and hand painted designs.  Doilies and floral vases sat on top of them.  Not Lucas’ taste at all.

I sifted through a few dresser drawers and a walk-in closet. They had silk shirts, suits, slacks and other clothes reminiscent of his style, but it didn’t add up.  His belongings with this furniture clashed.  I walked out the bedroom door and onto a second floor landing.  It overlooked the living room.

The high walls across from me were constructed of logs.  A cabin, maybe?  I checked the other room upstairs and found an office.  No important papers or mail sat on the desk and the drawers were locked.  A floor to ceiling shelf ran along the length of one wall.  It had an assortment of history books and classic novels, but nothing of interest.  He either didn’t use the room much or he’d cleaned up before my arrival.  I looked for a phone, or at least a phone book, but didn’t find anything.

There were two bedrooms on the first floor.  They had thick quilts on the beds, plaid curtains covering the windows, and more antique wood furniture.  A full bathroom with a large tub was situated between the rooms.  It’d been remodeled in a similar fashion to the first one upstairs.  Cozy chairs and couches filled the living room.  An unvarnished table sat in the open dining area with floral placemats set on it.  The kitchen beyond it had all white cabinets with green marble counters.

I slowly spun around, looking at the open spaces of the first floor in confusion.  Whose home was this?  I expected sleek and modern from Lucas or at least some darker colors and leather furniture.  This looked like a place an older couple had decorated.

What did he want and why bring me here?

I paced back and forth.  He could come back at any minute.  When he did, I’d be ready for him.  Well, as ready as I could be without clothes.  I was tempted to grab one of his shirts from the closet, but decided I wasn’t that desperate yet.  Not to mention he’d been alive for twenty-five hundred years.  He must have seen thousands of naked women during that time—including me.  I didn’t care what he thought of my body and refused to act like it mattered.

Goosebumps started to pop up on my arms, despite my moving around.  I went to the living room where a fire burned in the fireplace—he’d definitely planned this out.  Everything was a little too staged for my liking.

I settled down on a bear rug in front of the hearth.  How stereotypical.  What had he done?  Stolen the cabin from some innocent couple?  Maybe he’d killed them and left their bodies out in the woods for the wolves to eat.  Assuming this area had wolves.  It would be useful to know where he’d taken me.

A large bay window shared part of the same wall as the fireplace.  It had heavy green drapes hanging from it, but they’d been left open.  I could see tiny flakes of snow falling in the moonlight—other than that, nothing but trees.

It had been a long time since my senses had a total break from supernaturals and magic.  They bombarded me so often in Fairbanks my head ached most of the time unless I took something for it.  The unexpected peace and silence lulled me.  I dozed off without realizing it until a flash of light penetrated my eyelids.

Lucas appeared across the room with his back to me.  I knitted my brows.  What had happened to his hair?  He always kept it cropped close to his head at maybe half an inch long.  Now the wavy blond locks reached down to his shoulders.  I hadn’t actually seen him in the shower, but he’d been over at Nik’s a few weeks ago and it was short.  Could he have grown it out that fast?  I didn’t think nephilim could alter their natural appearance in that short of time.  At least, not without glamour, but I’d see through that and he wasn’t using it anyway.

He still hadn’t noticed me.  He held a phone in his hands and appeared to be tapping on the screen.  I saw that much before he shifted his feet and blocked my view.  I needed to take advantage while his attention was diverted.  The fire crackling in the hearth would help cover the sounds of my movement.  A nephilim’s hearing was better than a human’s, but not by much.

I stood up and grabbed an iron poker from next to the fireplace.  Lucas could heal fast, and only an archangel could kill him, but he could still feel pain.  I gripped my weapon and crept up behind him.  My bare feet didn’t make a sound on the sturdy wood floor.  Swinging as hard as I could, I slammed him over the head.

The poker hit with an audible crack and his cell phone hit the floor.

“Ow, what the…?” He spun around, gripping his head.

I inched away.  Maybe I should have gone for the knee cap.  His skull was even harder than I thought.  I’d hoped it would at least temporarily knock him out.  Most sups couldn’t have taken a hit like that without going down.

Lucas’ angry gaze locked on mine as he took a step toward me.  No way did I want to find out what he’d do next.  I swung at him again.  He caught the end before it hit him and wrenched me forward.  Grinding my teeth, I held on.  He twisted it around until my fingers couldn’t take the pressure and let go.

The poker went flying across the room.  I flinched when it slammed into the wall with a loud bang.  Shit.  He was really going to kill me this time.

We stood inches apart.  There was only one way to take down a man as big and strong as him with no weapons.  I kneed him in the groin.  He doubled over and I ran straight for the front door.  I’d rather take my chances in the snow wearing only a towel than find out what he’d do next.  My bare feet skidded across the wood floor, past the dining area, and toward the entryway.

A heavy weight slammed me from behind. Our forward momentum sent us flying before we came crashing down.  My shoulder smacked into the floor.  I yelped when ribbons of pain shot through me.  Lucas gripped my arm and twisted me to face him.  Somewhere in our scuffle, the towel got lost.  It didn’t matter.  I wasn’t going to lie there like a lamb for slaughter just because I was naked.

I twisted my body around until my legs could get free.  Keeping my left leg lying flat on one side of him, I bent my right and pushed off the floor.  He tilted to the side and almost rolled over onto his back, but he caught himself and put his arms out wide.  It played right into what I’d wanted him to do.  I grabbed his right wrist and yanked it across my chest.  Then I pivoted underneath him so one of my legs locked over his neck and the other over the top of his shoulders.

With his arms stuck between my thighs and his head shoved down toward my crotch, I squeezed as hard as I could in a straight armbar.  No mercy.  If he’d been human, he’d have been screaming by now.  His elbow should have felt as if it was about to snap, but his bones were too strong for me to break.  All I could do was hold on tight.

Some men might have gotten distracted by my nakedness and the compromising position, which might have worked to my advantage in this case, but he didn’t.  He pulled on his arm and I grunted at the effort to keep holding him.  It took every ounce of strength I had and still my grip slipped on his wrist.  This was the first time I’d ever gotten the best of him, but it might be my last.  He couldn’t die, but I sure as hell could.

Lucas tried to use “power” to freeze me, but the magic slithered past my body and snuffed out.  At least not all of his abilities worked on me.  With another strong yank, he pulled free.  I didn’t even get a chance to blink before he had my arms pinned above my head and my legs locked under his.  No chance of wiggling out of this one.  The entire length of his body covered mine with not an inch of space between us.  I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the killing blow.

“Who the hell are you?” he asked.

My eyes popped back open.  “You know who the hell I am.  Why did you bring me here?”

“I didn’t bring you here and I don’t know who you are.”

He wasn’t lying, and something strange about him was niggling at me.  The usual tingles I felt when Lucas and I touched weren’t there.  He looked just like him with his broad shoulders, golden skin, and strong jaw.  Only his blond hair was different because of the length.  Plus he was wearing jeans, which Lucas almost never wore.

“Could you get off of me?” I gasped out.  “You weigh a ton.”

Hey, if he was in the talking mood it couldn’t hurt to negotiate.

He shook his head.  “Not until you tell me who you are.”

I turned my face away from him.  He was so close I could feel his breath on my cheek.  “I’m not telling you anything until you let me go.”

“Answer me.”  He shoved enough compulsion into his voice that only a very powerful sup, or someone like me, could resist him.  Confusion emanated from him after a few moments of silence.  “A better question might be what are you?”

I groaned.  “Lucas, you know what I am.  God knows you remind me of it often enough.”

He said something in a language I couldn’t understand.  It sounded like a curse of some kind.  “You’re a damned sensor.  I should have known.”

I swung my head back to look at him.  His face was still close.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“If you’re who I think you are, it means I can’t hurt you.  No matter how much I’d love to right about now.”  His hands tightened on my wrists.

“Ow,” I cried out.  “I am breakable, you know.”  That feeling of offness was growing.

A flash of light came from a few feet away.  I looked over to see a more familiar version of Lucas standing with his arms crossed and an angry expression on his face.

“Micah, let her go.  Now.”

Cover Reveal for Darkness Taunts

I am super excited to reveal the cover for the second book of the Sensor Series, Darkness Taunts, to you all today.  Below is all the latest information on the book, plus the excerpt I promised.  You can also find two other excerpts from the novel at my friend Angela Wallace’s blog (she snagged the one with Lucas) and at Bookish Brunette’s site (she has the most action-packed one).  Their posts will be up this morning (May 15th).  If you are a member of Goodreads, you can add the novel to your TBR list here.

Darkness Taunts - medium size

Cover design by Claudia at Phat Puppy Art

w/typography by Ashley at Bookish Brunette

Blurb:

Melena Sanders has managed to avoid all things inhuman for most of her life, but after coming to Fairbanks, Alaska to rescue her best friend from supernaturals she hasn’t been allowed to leave.  That is, until her long-time nemesis comes to collect a favor she owes him.  Lucas might be half angel, but he’s all bad as far as she’s concerned.

Paying him back might get her out of town for a while, but her new destination will be anything but enjoyable.  Mel’s got to help the nephilim take care of a demon possession outbreak in Juneau.  Although something like this hasn’t happened for thousands of years, Lucas is certain Melena’s rare abilities are the key to solving the problem.

With violence in the capital city growing, she’s going to have to figure out how to stop it fast before the trouble spreads to other places.  Not only that, but working closely with Lucas is changing the dynamics of their hate-hate relationship—worrying her even more than the demons.  Getting back to her captivity in Fairbanks never looked so good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

EXCERPT:

Kariann was kicking my ass and it sucked even more than all the other times she’d done it.  To be fair, the six centuries she’d had to build her strength and experience gave her an unfair advantage.  She’d smacked me with the flat of her sword at least a dozen times already.  I was going to end up meeting Lucas tonight looking like a worn out punching bag—not that he’d care so long as I got the job done.

“Thinking about pretty boy isn’t going to help you fight any better, little sensor,” Kariann derided.

“What makes you think I’m thinking about Lucas?”  I asked.  Damn that last sword strike made my arm numb.

She laughed.  “You just gave yourself away.  I had no idea who you were thinking about, but figured you’d tell me.”

“Whatever,” I said.  “I’m just pissed at him right now and not thinking clearly.”

She struck at me again.  “Sure you are.”

I blocked and slammed her kneecap with the heel of my boot.

She stumbled back and flashed her teeth—fangs included.  “I’ll be damned.  Maybe thinking of him does help your fighting skills.”

My shoulders sagged.  “Are we done yet?”

“Hmmm, when was the last time you hit the gym?” she asked.

“A couple days ago, but I don’t have time for it now.”  My body felt like hammered shit.  Working out in the gym would have to wait.

“You’re about to go up against demons and they won’t be as nice as I am.”  The innocent look she attempted did not work at all.

I sheathed my sword and gathered my things.  “They aren’t demons.  They are humans possessed by demons, which makes them not quite as strong and a lot easier to take down.”

“Not that easy.”  She grabbed my arm.  “If you aren’t going to work out, then you’re at least going to get your injuries healed.”

“Oh, no.”  I dragged my feet as she pulled me along.  “You can’t make me do it.”

My struggles didn’t slow her down.  “Wanna bet?”

I should have kept my mouth shut.  She tossed me over her shoulder and moved at super vamp speed through the house.  As his second in command, Kariann was one of the few keyed to the magic protection barrier surrounding Nik’s bedroom—wouldn’t want just anybody to interrupt the unholy acts that took place in there.  She could pass through it without his permission.

As soon as we entered, she dumped me on the floor.  I glared at her and got up as gracefully as I could manage.  Too bad she insisted I keep my gun put away when we trained.  It’d be interesting to see how her brains looked with a big hole in them.

The master vampire stood a few feet away with his hands on his hips.  At least he had clothes on this time and no women wrapped around his appendages.  That’d make this visit slightly easier to handle.

“I see she came without too much fuss,” he said, grinning at the Amazon of a woman who’d brought me.

She is not drinking your blood,” I said, backing away.  “You can forget about it.”  I swiveled on my heels and moved for the door.  Kariann stepped right in front of me.

“Melena.”  She gripped my shoulders.  “You have cuts and bruises all over your body.  You could hardly keep your sword up when we fought for reasons you refuse to explain.  We aren’t going to let you go to Juneau without at least getting you healthy again.  Stop being such a baby and just suck his blood.”

That didn’t come off as sounding dirty or anything.  Vamps always had their minds in the gutter.  I crossed my arms.  “No.”

Nik motioned Kariann aside.  “Remember what we talked about last night?  If you want to deal with the demon problem, you’re going to have to do it the smart way.  Keeping yourself strong and healthy is part of that.  Is your stubbornness and pride really worth risking people’s lives over?”

I exhaled a deep breath.  He had a point—even if I didn’t have to like it.  “Fine, but it has to be from the wrist.”

He bit into his arm and held it out to me.  No look of triumph.  At least he had the decency not to gloat this time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Expect the eBook to release on June 30th.  It should be available on Amazon right away followed by Kobo and Nook.   If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Furry Temptation- Short Story Set in The Sensor World

For those of you who have read Darkness Haunts and are patiently waiting for the next book in the series, I have a short story that takes place approximately six weeks after the first novel.  It will give you a brief glimpse into how things are going for Melena and hopefully make you even more ready for when Darkness Taunts releases.  I wrote this last summer, but haven’t released it for anyone to read until now.  Enjoy!

*****

Furry Temptation

I wanted to ignore the mewling sounds coming from a box beside the dumpster, but mama had been hit by an idiot driver moments before.  The helpless cries pulled at me.  October in Fairbanks, Alaska would not be kind to these little ones.

“Damn.”  This was the last thing I needed.

I took a step closer, but caution kept me from going further.  A sweep of the parking lot revealed nothing but a pair of stumbling drunks from the nearby bar I’d left.  I couldn’t go back in there and ask my former date for help.  He wouldn’t be too obliging after the drink I’d thrown in his face.  My only regret was that the glass had been half-empty.

My attention returned to the box.  Those felines were going to turn me into a bloated vegetable.  Cats and I did not go well together, but I also knew what being an orphan felt like.  Maybe someone else could take them in for the night.  Felisha might be willing.  I couldn’t trust them with the vampires or werewolves.  God knows what they might do with them.

I crept closer.

The wind whipped up my hair to sting my face and blur my vision.  I’d left it down and gave it a loose curl to look nice for my date.  Too bad that hadn’t worked out.  Human men were as difficult to understand as their supernatural counterparts—not that I’d ever consider being with a sup.  My kind and theirs didn’t mix well together.

I burrowed into my wool coat and cursed the Alaska climate for the thousandth time since coming here a couple of months ago.  My last escape attempt hadn’t gone so well, damn Lucas and his ability to track me, but there was always next time.  They couldn’t keep me in this town forever.

The tiny chorus of meows echoed out even louder than before.

It was impossible to resist the call, even for me.  I reached the box and found crumpled papers and napkins littering the inside.  Small bodies were wriggling through it.  I wrinkled my nose at the pungent odor coming from all around.  It was too dark to make out their coloring, but a flash of white caught my attention.  At least mama had cleaned them up before meeting her demise.

My breath stilled as I reached out.  The kitten fit in the palm of my hand.  A place in my heart I’d thought long dead warmed as it snuggled close to my chest.  The decision of whether it lived or died was up to me.  I’d seen far too much death.

Two more warm bodies came out to join the first.  My eyes watered.  I had to grasp them tight when a series of sneezes shook me.  All three of them had taken an unhealthy liking to my neck.

They protested when I put them back in the box.  No matter how cute they were, I couldn’t take responsibility for them.  The little guys didn’t understand the effect they had on my allergies.

I pulled my phone out.

“Melena?”  Felisha never got a call from me this late.

“Yeah, it’s me.  I need a favor.”  I didn’t give her the full details.  My sneezing and wheezing were enough to send her on her way once she had the directions.

She pulled into the parking lot ten minutes later.  A few patrons came out of the bar at the same time.  They shouted suggestive comments at her as she passed, but she didn’t bother to glance their way.  The red-headed woman could have passed for a model.  Instead she chose to run a local herb shop and cater to the local supernatural population.  She’d been trying to get me to work for her, but I hadn’t decided yet.  The idea of working for a sup—even a nice one—galled me.

I stood up as she approached.

“Oh, Melena.”  Sympathy filled her eyes.  “Look at your face.”

I scratched my swollen nose.  “It’ll pass.”

At least the drunks wouldn’t be bothering me—probably.

She knelt down and inspected the contents of the box.  The kittens crawled eagerly into her hands.  I took a couple of steps back and pretended not to be envious at how easy she held them.  Cats were not my thing, but these were kind of cute.

“Can you take them?” I asked.

She sighed.  “I’ve already got two at the house.”

“I know.  That’s why I never visit.”

“There is a way around that.”

I shook my head.  “I’m not drinking vampire blood.”

“You did before.”

“Dying will make you do strange things.  Will you take them or not?”

Felisha rubbed her face into their fur.  Of course, she didn’t sneeze.  “I’ll take them on one condition.”

I crossed my arms.  “What’s that?”

“You’ll come visit them once a month.”

“I can’t.”  Nope.  No way would I go near them again.

She started to put them back in the box.

“You wouldn’t.”  She was too kind for that.

“In this case, I would.  You have to stop hiding from the things you fear.”  Damn, she would.  My senses told me she spoke the truth and they were never wrong.

“That’s ridiculous.  I don’t fear kittens.”

“But you fear the cure that would allow you to be near them.”

Tiny stars lit up the sky.  I wished I could be up there with them right now.

“Fine, I’ll visit once a month—for a few minutes, but that’s it.”  I could suffer for that long without drinking vamp blood as a temporary fix.  She wouldn’t win this battle entirely.

A smile spread across her face.  Her green eyes might have twinkled as well.  With fairies anything was possible.

“Good,” she said.  “Don’t back out of it either or I’ll bring them to your house.”

I shuddered.  Cat fur in my home would be a disaster.  I’d fought hard to have my own place—even if it was only a five-minute walk from Nik’s home, the master vampire of Fairbanks.  Orphaned kittens were not going to mess that up for me.

“I won’t back out,” I said.

“Then it’s settled.” She took the box in her arms.  “We’ll make an animal lover out of you yet.”

“Not likely.”

 

A final teaser for Darkness Haunts…

For those of you who haven’t noticed, Darkness Haunts is live on Amazon today.  It should be available on Nook and Kobo soon.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share a short excerpt (about 550 words) from a section further into the novel than the last one.  Only one small piece gave anything important away. I cut that out of this version.  Hope you enjoy!

*****

I didn’t make it outside in time. The sups pulled a late-model, black BMW into an empty parking spot right in front of the bar. My SUV sat three spaces past it. I kept walking.

Please don’t let them notice me.

“Hey, pretty lady,” the driver said. The only vamp in the group had to be the one to notice me. He stepped right into my path.

Avoid the eyes or he’ll know.

I stared at a small stain on the collar of his brown suede jacket. Dried blood?

The two werewolves snickered. “You can take that one for yourself, man. We’re going inside.”

Rock music spilled out as they opened the bar door. I didn’t look back. The vamp in front of me held all of my attention.  He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, but was actually closer to thirty. He’d been undead for about five years. I could take him…probably.

My hand itched for my gun, but I remembered Wanda’s words from long ago. “Melena, don’t ever bring a gun to a vampire fight. You’ll get one shot off before they kill you.”

Okay, fine, plan B.

I put my hands in my pockets. “You wanna get out of my way?”

“Why don’t you look at me, pretty lady?” Yeah, because that would be such a good idea. He was too young to compel anyone with his voice.  In another few years he’d have that skill, but not yet. He had to use the eyes for now.

I continued to stare at the stain on his jacket. He had hurt an innocent human.  For all I knew it could have been Aniya. I clinched my fingers around my pocket knife. This guy had to be handled very carefully.

“Get out of my way,” I said through clinched teeth. “I’m not interested.”

His hand shot out to wrap around my throat. I flinched, but his grip wasn’t so tight I couldn’t breathe.  Dead prey made bad meals for vampires.

“Look. At. Me.” He forced my head up, but I kept my eyes averted. In my hand, I flipped open my knife and pressed it hard against the bulge in his pants. The tip didn’t go through, but the threat was clear. He loosened his grip on my throat enough so I could speak.

“Back the fuck off,” I said, “or else this is really going to hurt.” Some people think the bigger the knife, the better. If used properly, a three inch blade could be every bit as effective.

He backed off.

“Bitch,” he spat.

I smiled and held up my weapon. “Go inside before I change my mind and use this anyway.”

A muscle ticked in his jaw. I thanked God he was too young to be a real threat. He hesitated a moment longer before making a move to pass me. I stepped aside, giving him plenty of room. My knife stayed up where he could see it.

He tried to catch my eyes one more time. He kept going when it didn’t work.  I’d had years of practice keeping my eyes averted when vamps were around. It had kept me alive, though I preferred to avoid them altogether. One day, I’d run into a vampire who wouldn’t forget he could heal from a knife wound—even if it was pointed at his genitals.

Excerpt from “Darkness Haunts”

It is close enough to the release of Darkness Haunts that I can go ahead and post an excerpt for those who are interested.  This selection comes straight from the beginning of chapter one.  It ends about 3/4 into the chapter because I can’t give too much away.  It’s a rather long chapter, though, so there is plenty to read.  Hopefully it will give everyone a good enough taste to know if the book is for them.

Please keep in mind the novel is still out with the editor for the final proofread.  There may be some minor changes in the final copy, but nothing significant.  Also, this excerpt does contain some profanity and explicit content.  It should be read by mature audiences only.

 

Chapter One

A true friend will always be there for you when you need them, but they’ll also be the first to drag you into a pit of vipers. If snakes hung out in this place, I doubted I’d get out of here in the same shape I went in.

“The Mouse Trap” was the newest and hottest club in Monterey, California. At first glance, nothing about it appeared out of the norm. No windows broke the smooth-faced façade out front, and the loud music spilling through the open door was the same as any other establishment of its kind. But it hid a darker element.

The patrons who stood in line had no idea they shuffled impatiently to enter a place owned by supernaturals, or “sups” as I preferred to call them. Hell, they didn’t even know such things really existed. They’d dressed up in their tight-fitting clothes, chains, and leather, believing they were going to have a good time. Little did they know—nothing is ever as it seems.

My nails dug into my palms as the line inched forward.

Lisette, one of my two closest friends, stood next to me. She’d picked our destination for the night, and true to form, she chose one with a mixed species element. Whenever you dealt with sups, anything could happen. I had to hope for the best and continue to play my ignorant human role with her. She didn’t know that I knew.

Blinking red neon lights from the club’s sign illuminated the excitement on her pale face. She hopped up and down, trying to see over the taller humans in front of her. I couldn’t figure out how she kept her balance on the high heels she wore. Then again, she only came up to my chin—maybe being closer to the ground helped. Pixies tended to be on the short side.

“Ten more people in front of us.”

She stopped hopping—to my relief. “Thanks. I hope they hurry and let us in soon.”

I scowled, but didn’t reply. My temples were throbbing. The result of being too close to a large number of sups. They’d hit my senses like a storm of fire, ice, and jagged glass as soon as we’d neared the place. I rubbed my forehead in an effort to get rid of the pain. It would pass, given enough time. My movement drew Lisette’s attention.

“What’s wrong, Melena?” she asked, frowning. “It’s not going to be that bad. Besides, with Aniya up in Alaska, there’s no one else who can come with me.”

“Aniya is a stay at home and drink red wine kind of girl. You know she wouldn’t come to a place like this.” I paused. “Speaking of which, have you heard from her? She hasn’t been answering my calls.”

“No, I haven’t.” Lisette rolled her eyes. “But don’t try changing the subject. Unless something is seriously wrong, you’re going in here if I have to drag you by your hair.” She reached out, as if to do just that.

I jerked the vulnerable locks over one shoulder—the farthest one from Lisette—and edged a few inches away. I’d have to let the topic of Aniya go for now.

My teeth ground together as the line inched forward—five more people in front of us.

I had to hope this place wasn’t as bad as my paranoia made it out to be. Most supernatural clubs maintained strict rules involving their treatment of humans. It was just good business, but until I went in, I wouldn’t know if this one did. A risk for someone like me. It could be said my kind, sensors, were the paranormal equivalent of most wanted criminals. The main thing that kept us safe was that we appeared human.

In fact, we were, except a bit more enhanced. The few differences we had included the ability to sense supernaturals nearby, immunity to magic, and some empathic traits. For having those gifts, the sups had hunted us for centuries. Lisette had known me for eleven years, since our sophomore year in high school, and even she didn’t know my secret. It was safer that way.

My heart skipped a beat—only three people left.

A brawny werewolf bouncer stood as the gate guard to the dark abyss beyond. His alert brown eyes checked the IDs handed to him, but he did little more than skim their details. Subtle sniffs flared his nostrils as he came into contact with each human. You could fake an ID, but you couldn’t fake your natural smell, not even with perfume. A werewolf could detect your age down to a year with little more than a whiff or two.

He pulled a young brunette out of the line who wore a tiny red dress. It didn’t cover up much and left plenty of curves to show. She stood off to the side with her hands on her hips.

“I’m twenty-one. You have to let me in.”

He flung her ID at her. “This is fake. Get outta here.”

She squealed in outrage, grabbed her ID off the ground, and stomped off. I envied her. She had an excuse to leave. Sups rarely messed with underage humans. Even they had lines they avoided crossing.

As I took my next steps toward the entrance, my feet itched to make an all-out run the other way. Even the military hadn’t made me strong enough to deal with this kind of crap. One would think if I could survive being shot at and nearly blown up, a nightclub wouldn’t be that bad.

It was my past experiences with them that was the problem. They’d killed Wanda, another sensor I knew, eight years ago. The memory of her murder at a sup’s hands flashed in my mind often and served as a constant reminder of what could happen to me. I’d known Lisette since before the incident, making her the only supernatural I could tolerate.

We stepped up to the bouncer and handed over our IDs. I pretended not to feel the claws raking against my psyche from being so close to him. Lack of regular exposure to sups made them more difficult to be around. Slow, deep breaths brought some relief.

The werewolf did the same cursory check as he had with the others while sniffing us out. He gave my friend a subtle nod. It must have been some kind of supernatural acknowledgment. His eyes didn’t even linger on me before he waved us inside.

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dimness of the lengthy hallway. Black walls enclosed me tightly. Only the solitary words “Mouse Trap” written in dripping blood-red letters decorated one side. I suppressed a shiver and tried not to think of their implied meaning. No wonder I was paranoid.

Several humans crowded the corridor, already caught in the supernatural snare. They had the glazed eyes of those who had imbibed one too many drinks, or maybe more, since one fell down. I stepped over him and kept going.

Once we moved into the main room, we found ourselves sucked into a huge crush of dancers. The capacity had to be close to the max, despite it being almost the size of a basketball court. Did they want us packed in like sardines?

Lisette split off from me with a small wave. I fought my way to the bar and ordered a drink. The vampire attending it had shaggy brown hair and dark eyes. An ice-cold feeling came from him, shocking my senses with its frigidity. Deep subtle breaths pushed the feeling down. If I stopped avoiding his kind so much, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.

The vampire produced my grenadine-laced Long Island Iced Tea with a flourish moments later. His smile, though fangless, showed more than a little interest. I gave him some cash and hurried away to find a semi-quiet corner as far from any non-humans as possible. That turned out to be about fifteen feet, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances.

Lisette had already joined the throng of dancers. She fit right in while gyrating with a guy sporting tri-colored hair and multiple piercings. Her bob of freshly colored pink didn’t stand out much in this place. Our styles differed as much as our personalities. I preferred to keep my dark auburn hair long and natural. She changed hers the way others did their clothes.

The level of my drink continued to go down as I leaned against the wall. A nearby vampire waitress with long blonde tresses moved about the room. She sashayed through the congested dancers with fluid grace while keeping her serving tray steady. I kept hoping she’d drop it when someone bumped into her, but to my annoyance, she didn’t.

Well-placed cameras scanned the scene from above. I didn’t see a single spot they didn’t cover. Keeping my gaze fixed on the scene before me, my hand slid along the waistband of my black club pants. The pocket knife I’d clipped there earlier remained tucked inside. Keeping it on me for safety reasons had become natural over the years. I didn’t feel secure without it.

As the minutes ticked by, nothing disturbing occurred. The pain in my head subsided to a dull ache, and my muscles started to unwind. I knew I needed to get a grip and stop being so sure the monsters would come to get me. Lisette changed partners a few times before my drink ran out. When I set it down, thinking to order another, she came over and tugged on my arm.

“You’re not standing there all night,” she yelled into my ear. “I’m going to make sure you have a good time if it kills you!”

“It just might,” I said.

She didn’t hear me, which didn’t matter anyway. I let her drag me along until we found a minuscule opening on the dance floor. People pressed in close, making it impossible to move without bumping into someone. I normally liked dancing, even in a crowd like this, but having bloodsuckers and wolves at my back tended to make me edgy. Lisette didn’t show any concern for the predators lurking all around. She had to have known they were there—sups had ways of recognizing each other.

We stayed together for a while until my dancing loosened up. Satisfied with my progress, Lisette moved away to rejoin tri-color hair guy. I kept her within visual range to be on the safe side. By the fifth song, the place didn’t seem that bad anymore. They played my kind of music and the men who danced with me weren’t the clumsy or groping types.

My enjoyment didn’t last. I sensed the change in the environment before it even reached me. Swirls of magic entered the room. It curled out of the vents and surged across the crowd—impossible to see or smell, but there nonetheless. Goosebumps ran across my skin as it touched me, feeling oily and foul, but otherwise having no effect. Normal humans weren’t so lucky.

As people breathed it in, the mood changed. Everyone began dancing in crude ways better suited for a strip club. Sweat poured down their bodies as they peeled their clothes off and flung them away without a care. I had to duck when a bra went flying by, cherry blossom pink not being my color.

Magic pervaded the crowd. The kind that came from a powerful witch who concocted just the right spell for humans alone. None of the sups inside the place were affected and couldn’t sense it like I could. Lisette was immune as well, but she had joined in the craze by rubbing her body all over her partner. She’d always enjoyed a good scene. It didn’t even occur to her that something wasn’t right. That trait about her was something I both loved and hated.

I moved toward her, knowing it wouldn’t be long before the club staff figured out one human stood untouched by their magical cocktail, particularly with those cameras in place. We needed to leave, now.

“I’m getting out of here, Lisette. Are you coming?” I shouted.

Lisette had eyes only for the guy holding her close. They moved against each other sensuously with no regard for those around them. She didn’t even glance my way and several stubborn people wouldn’t move so I could get closer.

Dancers everywhere had either stripped off all their clothes or were well on their way to it. Their empty eyes stared at nothing, but their bodies managed lewd acts with impressive skill. The heat and passion pulsing through the room grew at an alarming rate, assailing my already overwhelmed senses. It wouldn’t be long before it turned into an all-out orgy.

I kept trying to elbow my way through the crowd, but the already dim room suddenly switched to strobe lights, bringing me to a blinding halt.

It took a moment to adjust to the change, but when my vision cleared the macabre scene before me appeared something akin to a horror movie, or really wicked porn. A few of the vamps joined in to take advantage of the changed atmosphere with their own special brand of “fun”. I thought I caught sight of a set of fangs flashing, but couldn’t be sure.

With a final hard shove, I reached Lisette. “Hey,” I yelled in her ear, “we gotta go.”

Lisette frowned and opened her mouth to argue. She still didn’t get it and time was running out. I grabbed her face and turned it toward the crowd. “This is not normal. We have to go now!”

She stopped dancing and took a serious look around. A flicker of realization crossed her eyes. Ignoring her partner, who’d begun to do unseemly things with his tongue to her bare legs, she shuffled closer to me. “Mel, listen. I’m going to stay, but you should definitely go. Maybe we can catch up later or something?”

“You’re not coming?”

“No way.” She shook her head. “This is even better than I expected, but I wouldn’t have brought you if I’d known. I’m sorry.”

“You’re really going to stay for this?” I asked. I’d known she had a kinky side, but didn’t think it went this far.

“Yes. Now go!” She shoved me in the direction of the entrance. “If I have to haul you out, it’s not going to be pretty.”

“Fine, but be careful,” I warned.

“Always,” she said with a naughty grin. There would be no changing her mind, but she could take care of herself. I had to believe that as I began working my way back toward the entrance.

Getting through the mass of people made the army obstacle courses I’d done years before look easy. Almost every inch of the floor had human bodies twisting and bending in ways that defied logic. I tripped right before reaching the entrance hall when a pair of bare legs shot out in front of me.

My chin almost smacked the floor, but I managed to stop myself a bare inch before impact. While trying to untangle myself from the loose limbs, I felt a strong presence draw close. His aura filled me with coldness and dread. I peered up through my hair, which had swept in front of my face, to see a dark-skinned vampire standing at the edge of the crowd.

“You’re wanted upstairs.”

I gulped. “Now?”

A flash of fangs and darkening eyes gave me the only answer I needed. My senses told me he hadn’t been undead for more than ten years, but he would still be far too strong. I wouldn’t win in a fight against him, but my need for escape kept me searching for a way out. I made a quick sweep of the room. There had to be another exit.

The vamp didn’t wait for me to find one. He grabbed my arm in a firm grip and pulled me out of the twisted mess of limbs. Everything moved in a blur as he propelled me toward a set of stairs not far from where we’d been moments before. I almost lost a shoe in the process, but managed to retain it with the grip of my toes.

We reached the top and went straight for a door at the end of the hall. My senses alerted me to who waited on the other side—the same witch who had concocted the magic spell. The vampire shoved me through and entered behind me before shutting the door. With him blocking my escape, I was forced to face the coldly beautiful woman standing across the room in front of an ornate mahogany desk. Only the tiny crinkles around her eyes gave away her age as being somewhere in her forties.

Waves of powerful black magic emanated from her and I could smell the putrid remnants of a recent animal sacrifice. The odor made my nose wrinkle. A quick search revealed it to be in the corner, but I didn’t linger on the mess that had to have once been a bird. Brown feathers were the only thing that gave it away now. The poor creature must have been part of the ingredients needed for the spell downstairs. PETA would have a field day with this woman.

“Here she is, Madam Noreen,” the vampire behind me announced. I figured him for one of her minions. All the powerful sups had an entourage of “lessers” to do their bidding.

Noreen wore a designer pantsuit, minus the jacket. The white silk shirt she had on was sleeveless and low-cut, hugging her slim curves in a flattering way, and her highlighted hair had been swept up into a fancy twist. She stood with confident authority. I set my face in a neutral expression, not wanting to give away any signs of fear. Nothing could be done about my rapidly-beating heart, though.

Her lips curled up. “Are you enjoying my club, little one?”

“Of course, but I just remembered I left my stove on.” She didn’t need to know I couldn’t cook a hot dog without blowing it up into chunks. “It runs on gas, so I really should get home and shut it off.”

I swiveled on my heels to leave, but didn’t make it more than two steps. The vampire by the door shoved me back in the direction of the witch, making me stumble before catching myself. I turned around to find Noreen had moved in closer. When she spoke next, her tone might have come off as pleasant, but a hint of malice laced its edges.

“This shouldn’t take long, don’t worry.”

Right, I felt really reassured.

“Good to know,” I said instead, glancing back at the door, “but it would really suck if my apartment caught on fire. I really do have to get going.” Maybe if I said it enough times, she’d believe me.

The witch ignored my protest and hit a button on a small remote in her hand. What had been a wall in front of me slid open on silent tracks…

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Darkness Haunts releases on January 15th.  Check back for updates on the novel and links to where it can be purchased.  Feel free to leave me a comment here to let me know what you think or ask any questions.

If you’d like to read a little more from The Sensor World with the main character Melena, check out the prequel short story here.