Vampire Detective Midnight
He needed to feed.
It was putting him in a foul mood.
That, and all this fucking blood…
Nick frowned, staring around at the alley floor.
It hit him again.
There was something wrong with this blood.
It smelled too fucking good.
It smelled way too fucking good.
That couldn’t all be Nick’s hunger.
“Anyway, that’s what I can tell you so far,” he said, making his voice deliberately casual. “Without knowing who the victims are, or what brought them to this alley, it’s pretty hard to speculate on motive, but…”
Nick hesitated then, realizing something.
Frowning, he stepped closer to the pools of blood.
Nose wrinkling, he crouched down so he could smell it from closer, even though the scent was overpowering, even from a lot further away. Taking a few full whiffs, he felt his fangs begin to extend in earnest.
That time, he couldn’t pull it back.
A flush of heat hit his gut and chest, burning in his throat. It was intense enough, he almost got hard, but he’d gotten pretty good at squelching that reaction, too.
He stood up at once.
Really, he lurched back.
It happened so fast, that smell and his reaction to it, Nick forgot to modulate his body’s natural reflexes to accommodate the people around him. He was up and moving in a heartbeat, darting back in pure instinct, without slowing his movements at all.
He moved fast enough to make the humans around him freeze.
Instantly, they turned into prey.
Ignoring them, and ignoring their deer-in-headlights reactions to how he’d just moved, Nick backed away from the pool of blood with a scowl.
He backed away from the human detectives and tech team, too.
“They’re hybrids,” he said, emotion reaching his voice.
He turned around, staring at the humans sharing the alley with him.
The stared back at him, faces blank, eyes holding flickers of fear.
Frustrated, wanting to smash through that frozen prey look, Nick let his voice turn into a harder growl.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Nick said. “Did you hear me? They’re all fucking hybrids.”
When they still didn’t speak, he averted his gaze with a scowl. His eyes returned to the alley. Staring around at all of that blood, it sank in what it really represented.
Once it had, he couldn’t help but feel sick.
At the Edge of Dreams
Aurora pressed her back against the clock tower wall, clutching the stolen scroll to her chest. The whine of clicking machinery from the surrounding buildings tapped like a metronome in her head, beating out the rhythmic heartbeat of The Briar. She squeezed her eyes shut listening for the signal she’d been detected. But nothing came. Aurora’s chest fluttered when she peeked around the corner to Main Street.
Steam hissed from arterial pipes and veiny downspouts protruding from faceless citadels. Aurora searched through shadows for yellow-orange eyes. Mist clouded the alleyways wedged between the buildings, cloaking any Huntsman hiding from view, but she couldn’t see any patrolling the street.
Aurora didn’t hesitate. She bounded away from behind the wall and ran, not looking back. Alarms blared as she passed the city limits and met the lip of Spindlewood Forest.
Her thighs burned. Puffs of strained breath came in uncontrolled spurts, but the dissonant sound drove Aurora harder. She crashed through the threshold of trees and fought her way up the steep hill into the woodland’s heart.
Aurora pulled herself over the summit and crawled to the nearest bush, wheezing through pursed lips, clutching the stitch in her side. A twig snapped. The sound rode on a whisper of dank smoky air from the grove of trees two feet away.
Something was close.
The hair on Aurora’s neck rose, and she narrowed her eyes, peeking around the shrub. She gripped her piecemeal knife in one shaking hand, the scroll in the other, waiting for the metal minion to show himself.
Where are you?
Several cracks echoed in different directions around her. Blood rushed from Aurora’s face into her stomach. She whipped around, her head darting every which way, ears perked. Aurora crouched, knife out, ready to jab anything that came close.
A skeletal metal face peered at Aurora from behind a large tree trunk five feet in front of her. It’s lifeless eyes twisted and whirred, yellow pupils fixating on her location. Aurora froze. The Huntsman stepped out from behind the tree and brandished a long bronze pistol.
I was going to explode. A restless energy had been building inside me for months now. There were times when it felt like my skin was the only thing keeping me from flying apart. There was no good reason for it. Frustration continued to grow and everything I’d done to ignore it and tamp it down seemed to only feed the impotent ire simmering beneath the surface.
When my coworker, Ben, had asked me out for the third time tonight, I’d lost it. I mean, yelled and came pretty close to slapping him. While he may have been annoying, he hadn’t deserved my freak out.
My phone played Sound of Silence to let me know it was ringing. All I wanted was to take a shower and wash the smell of coffee and baked goods off, but when I saw it was Nana, I answered. “Hey.” I put the speaker on so I could grab some water while I spoke. I tossed my keys on the counter and placed my phone next to them.
“What’s wrong?” Her confident voice flitted through my tiny apartment as if she were in the room.
My shoulders tensed and my defenses kicked in. “Why does something have to be wrong?”
“It’s in your tone. I can tell. What are you so mad about?”
That was the question I’d been asking myself for weeks. I glared at the phone as I drank. The cold water felt nice on my throat, but it was not enough to calm me.
“Dawn?” Nana called, her voice louder. “Don’t you give me that look.”
Rolling my eyes, I huffed. “You can’t see my face. You have no idea what look I may or may not be giving you.”
“I know you. You’re glaring a hot laser at the phone right now.”
It was all too easy to imagine her grey eyes meeting mine in challenge, never backing down. I’d bet anything she was folding her arms across her chest and that her lips were pulled into a stubborn line. “It’s a boy, isn’t it?” she asked.
Grinding my teeth, I picked the phone up from the counter and headed to the bathroom. “I don’t date, Nana. Why would you think it’s a boy?”
“What happened?” Her tone had softened and the concern I heard broke through the barrier I’d had up all evening.
My shoulders slumped and I put the phone down again to pull my long, blonde hair out of its ponytail. Nana didn’t say anything. She always knew when to wait. “Ben asked me out again,” I finally admitted.
“Why do you say that like it’s a horrible thing?”
I was positive that her brows were drawn together and that her thin lips were pulled down into a frown that showcased little wrinkles. It’s how she always looked when we approached this topic.
An image of a man with brown hair and brown skin entered my mind. He wasn’t real – just a man from my dreams that no one knew about. I couldn’t tell Nana he was the reason.
Ashes of Pride
Neil shifted on his chair, sitting back, drawing attention with his movement. Blanche’s gaze swung to him. Her lips parted. Her eyes widened. Joy spread across her face.
Neil felt a jolt at the pure pleasure in her eyes. Why could she possibly be so glad to see him? Of the five, Neil knew Blanche the least. Her company had always irritated him, for she ran hot and cold in fits and starts, which made her uncomfortable and unpredictable. She was not like Alice, who could be counted upon to be sunny and happy, no matter what.
Yet Blanche was tugging at her husband’s sleeve now with firm insistence. She murmured in his ear.
“Williams, you know Mrs. Seymour?” Edmund Hunter asked.
“Blanche is my cousin.” Neil realized he was smiling, too. He didn’t bother with the convoluted explanations about adoptees and honorary cousins. He got to his feet as Seymour brought his wife over to the table, his gaze on Blanche.
He realized he was just as pleased to see her as she seemed feel about seeing him.
“I had forgotten about that extended family of yours,” Captain Long said, on the other side of the table. “Everyone in William’s family is related to just about everyone who counts,” he added to Lieutenant Roberts, the last man at the table.
“Just about? Make that everyone,” Tom Penny said. “Didn’t you hear? Innesford married the Gainford heiress earlier this year.”
Neil ignored their gossip and watched Blanche, enjoying the sight of a beautiful woman moving. She had the grace and elegance of true European women, who seemed to be born with the knowledge.
“Neil! Oh, Neil!” she breathed, stepping ahead of her husband, her gloved hands coming up. She reached up on her toes and kissed the air by Neil’s cheeks, while Seymour’s eyes bulged. “I heard you were heading back home, but I didn’t think you would arrive for weeks, yet!”
Neil caught at her elbows, steadying her. “Hello, Blanche. It is wonderful to see you. You are the first in the family I have seen since I got back.”
As he spoke, everyone scrambled to their feet to salute the senior officer.
Neil followed suit, while Blanche smiled up at him.
Seymour acknowledged the salute, letting everyone relax.
Blanche turned back to Neil. “You are the first in the family I have seen since before Christmas…oh, Neil!” Her smile trembled and her eyes glittered.
Neil’s chest tightened. Blanche looked as though she was about to cry. The Blanche he knew, the little he did know of her…that woman did not cry. She laughed. She raged. She pouted and stomped her foot. She did not cry. She was too busy sailing through life and sampling all it had to offer to bewail her fate.
Blanche made a soft sound and put her arms around Neil’s neck and hugged him.
For a moment, shock froze his thoughts. He smelled her scent—something spicy that had nothing to do with flowers. Her hair brushed his chin. Heat registered through the slippery satin. Slenderness, too. And a soft roundness he had not enjoyed in far, far too long…
“Oh, dear!” Penny murmured, sounding shocked. Major Hunter smiled indulgently and didn’t bother looking away.
Seymour’s expression grew dark and thunderous.
Neil caught at Blanche’s arms, trying to draw her away from him, good sense returning with a crash.
She stepped back swiftly and put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, please forgive me,” she said to the table. “It has been so long since I saw Neil…I mean, Major Williams.” She gave a small grimace of apology and rested her fingers on Seymour’s arm. “Husband, may I introduce to you my cousin, Major Neil Williams, of Innesford.”
“Cornwall?” Major Hunter said softly. “That Williams?”
“The very one,” Captain Long replied.
Neil saluted. “Lieutenant Colonel.”
“At ease,” Seymour said. “I’ve heard a little about you, Williams.”
Neil let his posture relax. “Sir.” Now the man was closer, he could see he was very young. Possibly younger than Neil. His pale hair was baby-soft. So was his chin.
Seymour’s eyes narrowed. “You’re out of uniform, Williams.”
Neil glanced down at his out-of-date red coat. “I haven’t had time to—”
Seymour glanced at Edmund Hunter. “Major, as Provost Marshall, it is your duty to attend to such slovenliness. Dock the man two shillings a day until he represents the Regiment properly.”
Hunter straightened to attention. “Yes, sir.”
Blanche’s eyes grew larger, as she looked from Neil to her husband.
Two shillings! Neil gritted his teeth. It was an exorbitant sum, especially as the regimental commander was aware of the uniform breech and was willing to tolerate it. Only, Neil could not argue with a senior officer and he was out of uniform.
Seymour glanced around the table of officers, possibly taking note of who dared dine with the slovenly Major. He curled his hand around Blanche’s arm and pulled her away. “Gentlemen,” he said.
A Darker Shade of Evil
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Title: The Invasion Trilogy
Author: Jonathan Yanez & Apryl Baker
Genre: SciFi, Military/Space Opera
Publisher: Podium Publishing
Narrator: Chris Ciulla
Publication: June 27th, 2019
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