Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Sanguine Publishing
Date of Publication: 8-8-2014
Number of pages: 248
Word Count: 67,000
Cover Artist: Victorine Lieske
Two and a half weeks. That’s all the time he has left.
When loner vampire hunter Kassy is interrupted by nosy veteran, Mike, he ends up bitten, and infected with the vampire parasite. The warrior becomes her prey as she fights to find him before powerful vamps. A couple kidnappings later, she’s hiding in a cabin with him chained to the floor, and an eight-year-old girl in her care.
Death? Inevitable. When the parasite takes control, he’ll do or say anything to get non-infected blood—including seducing her. But, as they spend time together, she finds her resolve weakening. A kiss won’t fix him, but it might mend a deep hole in her heart.
Kassy is too practical to believe in miracles, but if he survives eighteen days without ingesting human blood, there is a chance he could be the hero she's been looking for.
Odds are he’s a dead man.
Chapter 1: Bite, anyone?
“Vampires don’t lose their souls after turning. That folklore is easy to disprove without venturing into religious debate. In the days of medieval medicine, doctors wouldn’t have known how to find or identify the vampiric parasite.”
Journal Entry, Mark McDougal: April 3, 2005
I stalked a woman through side streets and dimly lit alleyways. Her name wasn’t important. I preferred not to know what to call the victims just like I don’t want to know a rabid dog's name. It’s easier to stay unattached that way. Easier to do my job.
Keeping up with the vampire in the making wasn’t hard. She meandered. The problem was the heat wave and the black trench coat I wore. Noticing it, a few people shook their heads as I passed. They probably thought I was a little crazy, but harmless. Without it, people would call the cops when they spotted my gear.
A bead of sweat slid from my hairline behind my ear, tickling my skin and irritating me. I brushed it away, my fingers momentarily tangled in my frizzy locks, the strands I was chewing on yanked out of my mouth. Once again, I considered shaving the mop I called hair. It wasn’t the lovely auburn tresses that men fantasize about. Mom used to call the orange-red jarring. I’d been told that my hair made me too memorable. Maybe that was so, but it took attention away from the scar that ran from my top lip to my temple. Besides, if I hacked it all away, I wouldn’t have anything handy to gnaw on. I snagged a new small curl and pulled it to my mouth. Mom used to bat my hand away. Now, there was no one to stop me.
Half a block behind the woman, she set the meandering pace. Normally, I’d keep more distance between us. I’d be concerned about the still air making me into an olfactory billboard. I could almost hear Uncle Mark’s voice in my head. “Kassy, the new ones can smell you even if they don’t know what they’re smelling. Keep your distance.” Tonight, this woman was blinded by her hunger. I could have hung back farther, but I didn’t see the point.
Around a corner, garbage cans lined the street. Good for hiding behind; bad for breathing. The muggy weather made the smells more pungent. Who was I to complain? The odor would mask my scent.
The sound of a group of people chatting and laughing echoed down the street. We’d passed a club two blocks back with bass so loud my chest vibrated. By the group’s outfits, I guessed they were heading there to dance. The woman I followed turned her head as they strode by. Her right hand reached over and unconsciously rubbed her left shoulder. The shoulder some psycho had bitten three weeks before. It had healed quickly. Miraculously fast according to doctors.
One of the guys stumbled over a trashcan, knocking my prey against the side of a brick building. She inhaled deeply as he apologized. He and his companions watched their step to avoid the trail of refuse he’d strewn. No one noticed her wrapping her arms around herself, her steps following them, or her abrupt turn into the alleyway. No one but me.
Wisps of steam from storm drain vents filled the narrow passage with an eerie aura. The dim lights reflected off the suspended water, creating a halo around the vampire’s head. The irony wasn’t lost on me. One could argue that she retained her innocence – for now.
I slipped behind a commercial dumpster filled with decaying Italian food and spotted a large box farther on that would be my next hiding spot. Before I moved, she stopped in the middle of the alleyway about thirty feet away. She squeezed her head between her hands. I sucked in a quick lung full of rancid air and waited. She paced, kicking bottles, cans and other debris in her path. She walked over to a wall, rested her head against it, and then hit a few times with her palms. I could almost see the cracks forming in her self-control.
She stopped, sniffing the air.
Busted. The billy club strapped to my right thigh reassured me and I brushed my fingers along its length to find the handle. Muscles taut, I waited for her to draw near. I still had the element of surprise and she had no clue what she could do.
How could she? It’s not like someone had handed her a pamphlet that said, “You’ve been infected: 10 ways to survive turning into a monster.” She didn’t know what her cravings were. She didn’t know why the pickle jar lid popped off so easily. She couldn’t understand why she healed quickly. The guy who had bitten her hadn’t whispered in her ear the secrets to avoiding a guard like me.
She stumbled more than walked to a pile of boxes against the wall across the alley. A drunk or homeless person was trying to sleep there. With her attention averted, I crept closer. The timing had to be just right. I couldn’t let her bite her prey, but she needed the chance to resist the siren call of blood coursing through the body in front of her. Uncle Mark insisted. “Kassy Lassy, they’re still human. Just infected. We have to find one who can survive without human blood. It’s humanity’s only hope.” It was his last request, so I honor it.
He would have tried to take this woman in. Tried to save her. How many people had he tried to help over the years he cared for me? Twenty? Fifty? He’d failed every time. The parasite always ravaged the host body without human blood. I couldn’t stand the sight of the emaciated remains. I figured that a quick death was less cruel. I didn’t kill the newly infected right away, just in case the magical immune savior would appear, but mostly I grant them death. An escape from the monster they will become.
The woman dropped to her knees, sobs echoing through the alley. Legs stuck out of an old dishwasher box before her. The odor of piss and alcohol gagged me. Maybe the stench is what helped the woman hesitate.
Maybe, but not for long. The sobs stopped and I moved closer.
No one ever made a sound before their first kill. None of them ever thought to bring a knife the first time either. She knew what she wanted. I could almost see her thought process written out like a thought cloud in a comic book. How do I get a taste? How do I get to the blood?
I pulled the billy club out of its holster. We hovered at the point of no return. My silent steps drew me closer as she lowered herself down. Brown roots showed against her dyed blonde hair. My heart thumped. Another human, lost to the parasite. One quick crack to the skull and I could drag her off somewhere secluded then finish disposing of her body in peace. One breath, then strike.
“Hey!” someone shouted from the end of the alley.
It startled me. Threw off my rhythm. She looked up. Crap. There went my element of surprise. I swung down, but she ducked out of the way. Adrenalin surged through my body. She needed to go down fast. I put too much into the swing, and stumbled off balance. She leapt at me, her face set in a determined grimace. I matched it with one of my own. Did she have any clue what she could do? I raised my billy club and deflected her to the side. She spun and lunged again. She was fast, but that time, I was ready. I smacked her in the head while stepping to the side. She fell hard and didn’t get back up. I hefted the billy club again to crack open her skull.
A body crashed into mine from behind and hammered me to the ground. I tried to counter with ground fighting tactics, but my lungs were screaming for my attention. All I could do was suck air in. For some reason, my body was stuck and refused to exhale. I’d never felt that sensation before. Normally, I’d tell myself to take deep breaths to calm down. That was worthless advice when you can’t breathe out.
A masculine voice shouted in my ear. “Leave her alone!” This guy was a special kind of stupid. Trying to play the hero. Probably saw a pretty blonde and hoped to score her phone number.
I squirmed under his weight and managed to flip myself onto my back and gasp for air. He grabbed both of my hands and held them above my head. That made breathing even harder.
“Police are on their way. Stop fighting me.” His face was close to mine, a hint of alcohol drifting by. Just what I needed, an inebriated do-gooder poking his nose where it didn’t belong.
My wind wouldn’t come back, so I couldn’t yell at him. The air would only go one way. I needed him off. The idiot was in danger, and I was flopping on the sidewalk like a fish – as helpless as when Uncle Mark died. I stared into his black eyes and wished I could communicate telepathically. He wouldn’t like what I would say, but maybe we’d both survive the night.
The blonde’s face came into view over his shoulder. Fear stilled my struggling against the man. I’d had a feeling she wouldn’t be out for long since the vampire parasite caused elevated adrenalin levels. A smile crept up at the corners of her lips. Crap. The look in her eyes. She figured out a little of what she could do. She was committed to biting, and the fool on top of me would be her first meal if I don’t do something.
The guy looked over his shoulder. “I’m glad you’re okay miss. I have her pinned. The police are on their way. Can you go flag them down at the end of the alley?”
There was no fighting him even while his attention was diverted. Sure, he was strong, but it was the effort to breathe that crippled me. He turned back, and I shook my head, eyes wide, trying to choke words out.
The monster behind him put her finger to her lips in a silent gesture for me to be quiet. She tip toed up behind him. I fought the man, trying to get him to pay attention.
He thought I was the bad guy. If I could have, I would have laughed.
She leapt on his back. Her eyes gleamed in the dim light, face contorted in a wild expression of glee. My stomach churned. Let me go and pay attention to her!
He tried to shrug her off and hold me at the same time. The ineffectual move appeared to delight her.
“What the hell are you doing?” The timbre in his voice belied his wavering confidence. Finally, this guy was getting a clue that the blonde was not all she seemed.
She giggled in reply then bit his shoulder near his neck. He bellowed in agony, but her sucking noises were louder. Now, she had his attention. He let go of me and pried at her head. Her death grip wasn’t loosening, so he punched her in the face. At the third blow, she fell back. Blood sprayed from her mouth onto my jacket and the ground. She crouched, a grin on her face, scarlet rivulets running down her chin. She ran her finger along her cheek and lips, wiping the blood into her mouth. “You are delicious,” she said with a satisfied moan. She had watched too many vampire movies. I hated the ones who thought they had to fit the stereotypes.
I scooted back, finally exhaling. Although my heart raced, I forced myself to take even breaths, changing from desperate gasps to a quick, adrenaline-driven pace. The woman loomed over the man, whose hand was clamped over his wound. I grabbed my billy club, hoping she was too blood-crazed to notice me. The iron scent of the man’s blood filled my nostrils. I’d have to go past him to reach her, but he made a good distraction.
When she lunged again, I aimed my billy club at her forehead. With a satisfying crack, the blow landed. She fell. I was pretty sure she would be out for a while, but I wasn’t taking chances. I smacked her on the top of the head again. It wasn’t a death blow, but if I let her live, she would probably have brain damage.
“What is she on?” The man’s voice shook as much as his hands. After a few deep breaths, he looked as though he might be okay again. Most people would have been on the ground crying. He warranted a second glance.
He was taller than my five-foot, ten-inch frame, muscular and dressed as if to pick up women at a bar. He had almond-shaped eyes, dark hair and a slight yellow hue to his skin. His rugged good looks convinced me he would have been successful picking up a woman had he not seen the altercation and come to investigate. Now, he was infected with the parasite. He was another vampire in the making. I would have to kill him, too.
I pushed my hair from my face, wiping the perspiration away –trying to drag my ugly reality with it. My fingers wrapped around a lock and pulled it to my mouth. The chewing helped me relax. Would gum have the same effect? I wished I had money for a luxury like that. I felt stupid with hair in my mouth in front of him. A glance revealed he wasn’t even paying attention to me. He was staring at the blonde.
What was going through his mind? I don’t remember my thoughts from the first time I’d witnessed a vampire succumb to the blood lust. Probably best I didn’t. I doubted that people stayed sane if they lingered in that moment. I stuffed those memories back and focused on the matter at hand.
Time to get out of here. I grabbed the woman’s arms and start dragging her down the alley.
“Where are you going?” he demanded, following.
Not only does he mess up a clean vamp hunt, he has to ask questions. I ignored him. It was easiest to do what I did when I didn’t talk to them. When I knew a victim, it made it harder to remember that they were turning into vicious killers. The last thing I needed to know was if he had a family or even his name. When they had names, it was harder to put them down. I dragged the woman another ten feet.
“You can’t leave. The police will be here any minute!” He shouted as if the police could fix the situation. Poor fool.
We stood about three quarters of the way down the alley. I knew the guy had been traumatized, but he didn’t know what he walked into. It was better for me to leave with the vampire and let the authorities spin this however they might. The headlines would probably say something like a drug crazed female attacked him. The real story would never come out. The government wouldn’t let that happen.
He grabbed my arm, putting his face in mine. “Stop, now!” My muscles tensed. I forced myself to relax. He was obviously used to being obeyed. His grip was strong, and I could tell through my jacket that his hands weren’t soft and manicured. This guy worked hard and gave orders. Military maybe? Possibly a boss at a construction company?
I had a spark of admiration for him that I immediately tried to stomp out. I couldn’t respect him. He was going to become a killer. I’d be back to stalk him after I finished dealing with her.
Right then, if he made much more noise, there would be more spectators. Ones that weren’t hurt. Ones without alcohol on their breath. The authorities who weren’t in the know could write off this guy as in shock and a poor witness. Any more people telling the same story and I’d have a harder time evading the cops.
I dropped the vampire’s hands and faced him. He had a look in his eyes like he was thinking “finally, she’s come to her senses!” The guy’s shoulder wound was bad. His hand was firmly clasped over it, but the blood seeped past his fingers. When I reached for it, he jerked his shoulder back like I would hurt him more.
He sneered. “You think?”
“You need to apply pressure.” I reached into my Sash purse hung underneath my leather jacket and found the medical pads and tape I kept there. He snatched them out of my hand and slapped them on the wound. “You were going to drag her away and not give these to me?”
With a shrug I said, “You look big enough to handle yourself. I didn’t realize you would be an idiot and follow me while bleeding everywhere.”
A glare was his only reply. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to kill him after all.
Retrieving the woman’s hands, I dragged her further away from him.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Man, he irritated me. “Walk away. You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into.” We were almost to the end of the alley. There was a sewer access by my foot, but I couldn’t go there with him watching. He’d rat me out.
He grabbed my arm again. “She attacked me. She needs to be arrested. I don’t know what the heck you were doing in this alley.” He pointed his finger in my face. “But you tried to attack her. You should probably be in jail as well.”
Obviously, he wasn’t good at convincing people to turn themselves in. I stared at his bandages. His efficient wraps told me he probably had field medical training or something. However, blood was still seeping through. I pointed to his shoulder. His glance was the amount of time necessary to catch him flat-footed. I used my billy club to pop him with a brachial stun, and he went down with a groan. The strike had been careful since I wasn’t ready to kill him, yet. He wasn’t unconscious, but I was sure he was seeing stars. Too disoriented to notice where I was going. I only needed a minute to disappear.
I didn’t like to attack people when they were still in control of themselves, but time was running out. Police response wasn’t fast in this neighborhood, but we’d been dallying about 15 minutes. I needed to leave.
I flipped my jacket back and grabbed the pry bar hanging from my belt. A quick jab and tug later, I had my escape route. I shoved the woman’s limb body through the hole. She slid over the lip and crunched onto the cement below. If she wasn’t dead before, she was now. Her body lay in a crumpled mess below. The dry spell in the city helped me with my job. No slogging through cesspool tides and a quick way to end things. One bright side to my dark task.
The next tool I pulled from under my coat was a whiskbroom. Sweeping back and forth, I obscured the drag marks starting ten feet from the manhole and moving towards my escape. I went around the vet. As he struggled to recover, he’d conceal everything beneath him. When I reached the hole, I scrambled half way down the ladder. The lid was heavy and awkward as I dragged it back to the opening while balancing precariously.
I heard the guy moan again. He rolled a bit as though he was trying to regain his feet. Luckily, he rolled away from me. He didn’t see as I nestled the lid back into place.
The thought of returning to pick up his trail caused my stomach to drop. If my life had been normal, maybe we would have gone to the same club. I’d have spotted him and tried to catch his eye. Probably would have danced too close and drunk too much, then woke up at his place in the morning. Now he was another prey to stalk and kill when he succumbed to the parasite.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
A: I had no interest in writing for a long time. I wanted to be a veterinarian, a neurosurgeon, a lawyer, a computer programmer, etc. If you ask my English teachers, I’m sure it shocked all of them to learn I started writing.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
A: I worked as a literary publicist and was content to digest as many stories as possible. Unfortunately, there are so many scams in the writing industry that I became concerned for those who didn’t know enough about publishing to avoid scams. That’s when I started writing my first book, Produce, Publish, Publicize. It started as a white paper that eventually evolved into a novel. After that, I wrote Aliens Are Real so I could explore Amazon’s new fangled digital publishing platform. Around that time is when I decided I was a writer –mostly because I wasn’t going to stop!
How long did it take to get your first book published?
A: I spent 2 years evolving Produce, Publish, Publicize. I chose to self publish because I wanted a product to sell in the back of the room when I presented at various conferences. I figured it would be my one book and then I’d be done.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
A: As a ninja, I’m not allowed to discuss that sort of thing. Hee hee hee.
Alright, mostly, I’m a homeschooling mom which is a job in and of itself. I help a gal in a wheel chair twice a week as well. I still do presentations where ever people invite me to teach about publicity, marketing, branding, platform building, etc.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
A: My latest release is Saving the Hero. In summation: Loner vampire hunter Kassandra is looking for the cure to vampirism. Recently returned veteran Mike might be the key.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
A: I chose to self-publish. Sometimes it’s a nightmare. Sometimes, it’s a delight.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
A: Right now, I average six months. I’d like to pick up the pace, but I only have about an hour a day to type as furiously as possible.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
A: There will be at least a sequel to Saving the Hero. I have 3 more books in the Aliens Are Real Series. I am 1/3 of the way through a fantasy novel. A mystery series is percolating, but I keep pushing that to the back. I tend to write what I have passion for at the moment. I hope to learn better discipline, but right now, it’s fun and a stress reliever. I don’t want to lose the fun.
What genre would you place your books into?
A: So far, I’m mostly under the Science Fiction/ Fantasy umbrella. I didn’t see myself writing in Urban Fantasy, but the idea for Saving the Hero wouldn’t leave me alone.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
A: The inspiration for Saving the Hero came from reading an article about Jaroslav Flegr, a Czech scientist who is studying the effects of Toxoplasma gondii on humans. His hypothesis is that the parasite affects the way we humans behave. The concept is fascinating and chilling at the same time. How much can a little organism control the actions of the host? Well, that got my old grey matter churning with what-ifs and eventually, I landed on what-if a parasite is the cause of humans acting like vampires. Kick out the whole losing your soul thing in the vampire mythology and a parasite can explain much of what remains.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
A: I like a good, strong man who also has a gentle side. I like Mike from Saving the Hero and I also like Kaipo from my Aliens Are Real Series.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
A: I find that I write better with music in the background. Right now, I’m listening to a play list on YouTube from Capo Productions. The music has to be instrumental or else I start transcribing the songs I’m listening to. It’s counterproductive. LOL!
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
A: I do. I’m trying to break myself of that habit simply because the time I take reading the reviews is time I’m not writing.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
A: I start outlining and eventually the title comes to me. I did change the title of Aliens Are Real once, but that was because the original title didn’t make sense to anyone who hadn’t read the book.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
A: I like to steal names from people I know and mish-mash them in most of my writing. They are usually people from my past that I don’t interact with a lot. I’m always curious if I’ll get a message from any of them calling me on it. That way I know if they’ve read my writing. Aren’t I a sneaky little devil?
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
A: I typically know the characters before I start writing, but sometimes the characters surprise me. One of the topics I bring up in Saving the Hero is PTSD. I didn’t realize it was a component in the story until I was half done writing.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
To read at home, I love paperbacks because I’m not as scared to take them into the bathtub. On the road, I much prefer packing my skinny Kindle than trying to stuff 4-5 books in my bag.
Your favorite Author is?
A: Currently, I’m a Brandon Sanderson addict. I read all of his books. Well, I would. He has one book with one copy in existence. I have to plan a pilgrimage to the BYU library to read it. They won’t let it go on inter-library loan. L
I’m a ninja disguised as a homeschooling mom, former literary publicist, craft-aholic and all around reading diva. Really, I kick down doors –no, wait, that was my husband when I locked us out of the house . . . Well, I engage in combat on a regular basis –online when I play MMORPGs with my children . . . OK, maybe I’m not a real ninja but my husband says I stole his heart. Does that count? No?
Shoot. Well, I love reading and I love writing. I think imagination is the biggest advantage a child can get in life and I try to allow my children many opportunities to expand theirs every day.
I love teaching authors how to avoid publishing traps and scams as well as how to market themselves and their works. There is nothing better in life than giving someone information that helps them become successful.
I also take a few hours each week and create jewelry, make lotions or paint something. I have little creation stations scattered through the house. My daughter gets into it a lot and scatters things which drives my husband crazy but remember how I mentioned that he says I stole his heart? Yeah. I’m not giving it back. He’s stuck with me forever. Bwah ha ha ha!