The following excerpt is unedited and subject to change.
Clutching to the front of her leather duster, Cynthia O ‘Connor hoped that the crisp pre-dawn air would revive her drunken senses. Her heels sloshed against the wet cement sidewalk, as she awkwardly paused trying to find a lighter in her plethora of pockets. She had learned long ago in her travels that a pocketbook screamed ‘I wanna be a victim’ so she never carried anything that didn’t fit in her pocket, which of course meant her clothing always had more than a few.
Having found the lighter she brushed a long red curl from her face, looked around, and realized she was only a fence jump away from her home in the French Quarter.
“If I take the alley, I'll be home in minutes.” She peered into the darkness from the street. “'It's certainly safe enough, at least during the day…”
In the brighter hours, she had found this shortcut useful whenever she needed to head off the bus that would take her to Tulane University, where she was in the second year of the Architecture program. She came to New Orleans, like many other just out of college kids, with money to burn and one too may novels under her belt. The plan was to stay a month, but the people, the culture, and the history captured her heart and soul. So good-bye New England, and Hello Bourbon Street, literally, as her apartment was not far from the famed street. A small, key secured tenement, over a bakery, that often filled the apartments with the most heavenly smells, and on Sundays always reminded her of home.
With her cigarette lit, Cynthia turned down the quietly deserted back alley that housed the dumpsters of a few stores that would not be open for hours yet. Then the yowling of a white cat caused her to jump as it ran past, knocking some crates and cans over in the process.
“One too many shots, Cyn. Get a grip.” She laughed, pushing aside her unfounded fears when the sound of another's footsteps echoed her own, sending an ominous chill creeping down her spine. Stopping she turned back seeing nothing but the empty street.
“Probably just another fucking cat.” She shook her head and quickened her pace. “Should've left the overactive imagination at home where it belongs.” She laughed as a rise of smoke ebbed from her lips.
The footsteps returned, this time, joined by a whisper released into the oddly chilled June breeze.
Spinning around, she screamed. “Where are you?” Her fists were balled, ready for a fight as a shadow stirred from beneath the dim lights of the windows above.
“Right here with you.” A deep and gentle voice rose up and enveloped her ears as her breath caught in her throat.
“What… do you wa… want?” Her voice trembled, the words a breathless gasp as she stepped back, trying desperately to put space between herself and the assumed rapist. “Please God, let him go away."
“Not tonight. No, tonight is for you…” He stepped under the lights as she backed farther away. She wanted to run, but she found herself transfixed, lulled by his words, his voice. Locked suddenly by eyes, which shone like tourmaline as the light reflected off of them, she felt her will begin to fade.
“Come to me.” He raised his alabaster hand, and like a statue made suddenly animate beckoned to her. “I'll not harm you.” His voice filled her senses, almost overwhelming her. “Please... Cynthia."
Hearing her name again come from his pale pink lips shocked her, tearing her away from the trance. Turing on her heels she ran, kicking them off her feet to go faster still. She dared not turn back as she hoped her long legs would carry her safely home. She stopped only briefly before the chain-link fence to shoot a sideways glance behind her before scaling it.
With no sign of the strange man, she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Too fast for ya! Ha!” She yelled as she hit the well-lit street, though she never stopped running towards her apartment building. She caught the door nearly knocking over an old woman with a small yapping dog as they came out.
“Oh? Sorry.” Cynthia apologized. She slowed her pace only as the door closed behind her and sealed her safely away from the dangers of the night.
She stepped into the brightly lit hallway with a sigh, though her paranoia stayed with her and kept her cautious as she headed for the stairs to finish her walk to her third floor apartment.
“Just in case,” She whispered, pulling her keys from her coat pocket as she came upon her door, gripping them tightly between her fingers so they stuck out, ready to strike anyone who may be lurking. She stopped for a moment, collecting herself and dropped her head only to notice her welcome mat turned upside down. “Roger?” She smiled.
The mat was their code; his way to tell her he was waiting for her inside. While his having keys was convenient, she sometimes missed finding him sleeping in front of her door, but the neighbor’s seemed to miss the humor she found in his doting. He was a Film and Photography major and even after a year of seeing each other she had to remind him to put the cameras away. Annoyingly charming, but charming nonetheless.
“Good, I could use a massage.” She unlocked the door and crept inside, quietly closing the door behind her. She locked the three dead bolts and chain before even thinking of removing her coat.
The apartment was dark and gravely silent, as though no one was there. “He's probably fast asleep by now, dreaming of all the things he wanted me to do to him."
She looked down at the vase of Calla lilies on the small table beside her and smiled. “Good boy, you remembered.” She brushed her fingers against them before creeping into the bedroom, seeing the familiar silhouette curled up on her side of the bed made her smile. She undressed, crawled into bed beside him, and wrapped a long arm around his waist, pressing her bare chest against his back.
“Hey lover, I'm glad to feel you,” She whispered suggestively in his ear, feeling an icy hand clasp her own as he turned and stared at her with eyes that flashed amber in a crackling of lightning.
“So am I."
Cynthia screamed as that voice pulled her down into darkness.
- - - -
Tucked snuggly beneath a warm down comforter, Cynthia rolled onto her back, the memory of the previous night a dim blur in her pounding head.
“I am safe and alive,” She whispered as she rubbed her eyes sitting up. “Just a nightmare." Her tired eyes widened with the realization that the bed was not her own, and the surroundings were alien. She scanned the room frantically, as terror rose within her, thankfully she was alone, her clothes placed neatly at the foot of the bed. She grabbed her jeans, and crammed herself into their cover, pushing herself off the thick mattress. Losing her footing, she fell, landing on a plush cashmere rug. Fighting back the pain she pulled herself to her feet stumbling for the door but it was locked.
“Fuck!” She hissed, trying to forcing it, but the door was solid steel. To the left of the bed was a set of plate glass doors that lead to what she hoped was a balcony. Her stomach turned as she ran towards them and finding them sealed as well spun around, glaring at the strange room, for something, anyway to make her escape. “I need to get out of here, wherever the fuck here is!” Her stomach jumped, dropping her to her knees near a small table topped with a vase of white lilies. A gentle moan escaped her lips as a piece of parchment, blown by the breeze of her decent, fell into view.
I hope your awakening this evening was well met by the scent of the lilies I know you love so well. In the closet, you will find ample attire to your liking, please feel free to indulge yourself, I shall be with you shortly.
- - - -
With a growl, Cynthia tore up the exquisitely hand-written note, and trying desperately to ignore the pangs coursing through her body, she jumped to her feet grabbed the vase and hurled it through the French doors, sending shards of broken glass and stone over the balcony.
“Let me out! Do you hear me?” She ran out to the balcony, only to be stopped by the railing and the realization that it was a two-story drop onto a marble patio below. As fear continued to possess her, and the shattered glass cut through her bare feet, she considered jumping but saw a stonewall, on what she assumed was the edge of the property and knew she would never make it.
“Someone… please, help me!” She screamed as her body convulsed from the strain; she doubled over crying in sputtered painful shrieks. Through tear-filled eyes, she watched as the steel door thrust open and a well-dressed man gracefully hurried to her collapsed body.
Her green eyes had turned to embers of yellow wolf-like ferocity. Seeing him, her screams died in her blazing throat until they were no more than a harsh echo.
She watched as he steadied himself and wiped a small trickle of blood away from his nose. He looked dazed for a moment, but quickly recovered.
The scent of the fresh blood awoke in her an instinct she had never known as she jumped to her feet.
“My God,” He whispered as he caught her with pale hands and scooped her into his arms. Without another word, he carried her back inside to the bed.
“Please... don't... hurt me.” She pleaded. “Make it stop.” She could only watch in paralyzing horror as he took a single glassy fingernail and opened a vein in his wrist. This can’t be happening. This can’t be real.
“Cynthia, please calm down. You have to-.”
Before he could finish, she had clamped down on his wound. Her small fangs tore at it, opening the font, as she pulled hard on the blood that poured out. Her mind was suddenly invaded with images, memories not her own. Sights of bloodshed and war, where creatures fought for their lives, against people armed with archaic weapons. The creatures falling into despair at their annihilation and torture overwhelmed her senses. Screams of pain and cries of heartache seemed to rise up into her ears, as feelings of fear and agony awakened within her. She saw those left behind to mourn the fallen while still fighting against those who sought to oppress and obliterate them. She saw the man before her, in the throes of passion with an olive-skinned beauty. Lust cried out, desperate to consume his mind. For a moment, she wondered why he fought the urges.
Unable to take anymore, she fell back into stunned and satiated silence. She stared up at him, trying to make sense of what she had seen and felt. “Wh… Who are you and what the hell was all of that?” Though her voice was weak, a commanding tone had managed to hold firm to her words as her confusion had overtaken her fear. She refused to take her eyes off him. “What did you do to me?”
“Well, I did not-”
“Nope. That would be me, dearie."
She turned at the sound of another voice. As he stepped into the light, she noticed how it danced across his yellow eyes. Her pulse jumped as he smiled devilishly.
“My name is Erik. The man with you is my father Nicholas. I am truly sorry for doing things this way, but-”
“So… wait. I just want to see if I got this straight." Cynthia snapped. “You pick me up off the street… like a common whore… and here I am… waking up in some strange, though beautifully furnished, room with type O for breakfast? What the fuck did you do to me?" Her teeth, still stained with blood, were clenched and her hands were balled into fists so tight she could feel the warm sticky blood of her palms on her fingertips.
“I gave you a gif-”
“And I'm guessing I can't return it. Damn." She looked around the room again. “Jewelry works much better. Lord knows you could afford it. Anyway, back to my point. You kidnapped me, turned me into a freak and pretty much ruin my day and all you can say is ‘I’m sorry ' like it's going to mean something?" She took a deep breath as the emotions took hold of her. “Give me one fuckin' reason why I shouldn't decorate these walls with the inside of your skull!”
“Please, stop all of this." A rich Spanish accent caressed Cynthia's senses. “Think of the cleaning bill, and besides, the lady of the house would appreciate it even less." He chuckled softly. “She is quite the feisty one. I can see why you like her, E."
Cynthia's eyes sailed to the door. “Where do you people keep coming from?" ‘This is getting more ridiculous as we go along.
Yes, quite. Nicholas seemed to speak without moving his lips.
“Cute.” She hissed as she shot a glance from the doorway to Nicholas then back again. Looking at the Spaniard made her glare soften. He was lovely; it was the only word to describe him. He had perfectly tanned and flawless skin. His long brown-black hair was pulled back in a tight braid down his neck while a thin goatee framed his tight-jawed face. He had on a pair of flat front tan slacks, a burnt sienna collar-less dress shirt and chocolate dress shoes.
“My name is Miguel Carrascón-De Mercado. I am at your service, señorita." He smiled, bowing his head slightly.
Not like the other two. Something different, but still not normal, whatever that is now.
“All right already." Behind Miguel stood another, this one an olive-skinned woman. She leaned against the doorframe with her arms crossed, her fingers impatiently rapping against them. “Enough of this melodramatic bullshit." She stepped toward Cynthia, looking as though she had been poured into her dark purple bustier. Cynthia got the impression that she may have been born into it, as it did not impede her feline movements accentuated by long black hair, which shifted about her with each subtle movement she made while the ends grazed the tops of her thigh-high glossy, black leather boots. A single white chunk of hair fell, obscuring most of the right side of her face.
Cynthia stepped back as the woman approached.
“Listen doll. Here's the deal. These two love-a-ly sticks-in-the-mud are Vampires. Yes, blood-sucking fiends." She purred as she motioned to Nicholas and Erik. “This here is a bona-fide; hump your leg, or any other body part for that matter, all night long, Werewolf." She wrapped an arm around Miguel and tugged gently on his hair.
He let out a low, raspy growl.
“Stuff it, fluffy." She smacked his cheek playfully and laughed, her violet eyes shimmering metallic in the light. “And I am a Werecat. Meow. My name is Lyndsay Valycian. Up until now, I have been the only hen in this cock-ruled roost, so I am so glad you're here." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm. “Yes, we are the mystical beasties that gave you terrors in the night. Yes, we are the monsters that hide under your bed and watch you from the closet. Yes, I am this fucking gorgeous.” She ran her hands down her length. “And no, we are not a figment of your over-active imagination.
“Erik, in his eternal moment of foolishness, liked you and decided to make you one of his. Now, either you can get over it and deal with what after-life has given you or I can kill you here and now. The Gods know I would never allow some little fledgling to run amok in my town."
Cynthia was without words for a moment, as if lost in thought. “Deal or die?" She asked, finally breaking the silence. “Okay, I'll play along, but let's get one thing straight, Lyn. I am not, nor will I ever be your doll." She stepped towards the Werecat. The tallest in the room at six foot even, she towered over Lyndsay's five-seven frame. “The name is Cynthia.” She smiled, sucker punching Lyndsay in the jaw.
Miguel grabbed Lyndsay at once to restrain her but Lyndsay just pulled away. She looked Cynthia over for a moment before walking over to Erik, whose fear was palpable in his eyes.
“I like her. Good work." She laughed and slapped the back of his head before turning back towards the door. “Pull another stunt like this and you'll be kissing daylight. And sweets,” Lyndsay said, shifting her attention to Cynthia. “That is the one and only time you are allowed to strike me and keep that mean left hook, doll.” Lyndsay smiled innocently and blew her a kiss. “I'll be in the dining hall when ya'll are finished playing with the new kid. And Cyn, nice bra."
Cynthia looked down, realizing she had yet to finish dressing. Like it matters now.
“Yes, let us go. There is much you need to know." Nicholas motioned for everyone to follow.
- - - -
Erik was still rubbing the sore spot on the back of his head with one hand as he offered the free one to Cynthia.
She smacked it away. “Don’t give me that gentleman's bullshit. I want answers. I don't quite know why I'm not a raving bitch about this, but I still demand a damned good explanation before I move another muscle!”
Miguel sat down on the bed. “This could take a while."
“Seems I've got eternity." She sat down next to Miguel, one foot tucked under her. “Let's kill some time."
She seems so sure of herself… in just jeans and a bra… Erik licked his lips. Just a small taste…
“Well, I'm waiting."
“It is simple really.” Erik began, with a soft smile. “I was sitting in a movie theater a few months back watching a marathon. Thirty Greatest Vampire Films or something of the sort. I always get a kick out of how they get all of the important stuff wrong." His smiled broadened, as he took a seat hesitantly on the edge of the bed, not that there was much left with Miguel lying along its length. “Stakes, holy water, malfunctioning…” He glanced between his legs. “Equipment. It's all bullshit really. As a ma-”
“Eww. Can we move onto the part that doesn't make me wanna puke?"
Erik cleared his throat, uncomfortably. “As I was saying, I was in the theater and I saw you there in the crowd. I heard you say how you'd love to be one of them… one of us. You talked about how great it would be to have an eternity to live life. To experience everything this world has to offer. You longed for the chance to one day get it right and have no regrets. When I heard you say that, I knew I had to have you." As he spoke, he could feel the passion of those remembered thoughts return, and as it flushed his skin he hoped that she could see that in his eyes.
“You could have asked for my phone number."
“Oh, really?" Erik was caught off guard.
“Yea. Wouldn't have given it to you, but still…”
“Quiet, Miguel. I'm being serious here." Erik yearningly looked back to Cynthia, desperate to make her understand “You sounded so sincere in that dark theater. I decided to follow you and watch you for the next few weeks. You never once noticed me. Every night, you would go back to the theater and would fall asleep during any other kind of film. But when they showed the Vampire movies, you'd begin a two-hour love affair with the creature on screen. I wanted to give that to you. I wanted to give you what, in your heart, you begged for each and every night. I was sure you would do everything you spoke of, the way you talked of it… vampirism… and went on about what you would do if you received the gift of eternal life… it was beautiful. I wanted that beauty in my life. And that is why you are not a ‘raving bitch ' because deep down, you know you always wanted this.” In Erik’s mind, she was the damsel and he was her dark hero, rescuing her from a life of ordinary years.
“So I took you. I made you. I fulfilled your fantasy. I thought it was perfect. From the moment I followed you into that alleyway… it was just like in those old movies you love. I thought you would appreciate it, the artistry, and the creativity. You hold such passion for the Blood Drinker. Now, don't you see? I wanted a companion and there you were, literally begging to be with me." Love me.
“Well.” Cynthia sighed. “I won't say it wasn't a nice thought; maybe even a sweet gesture. And all the flattery… well, every girl likes to be worshipped. But what I've got a problem with is this whole companion thing. I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you." She half laughed. “And, for the record, when I beg, I'm on my knees. I was fantasizing. That involves me on my back. Big fucking difference."
“I like that mental image. Shit, I like 'em both." Miguel snickered.
“You keep out of this." Cynthia spat, shooting him a brief but deadly look.
“Easy. I'm a lover, not a fighter."
- - - -
“As for you,” Cynthia shot her gaze back to Erik. “Did you ever once, when you perversely invaded my fantasies, hear me say, hint or even for a split second entertain the thought of a whiney, sniveling,” She looked him up and down, he wasn’t unattractive, not that she planned to tell him that. In fact, he was quite handsome, in an ‘I’m not quite grown way’, especially in his dress, he wore the low baggy blue jeans of the generation just behind her own, which did nothing for his stature. “And might I add short companion? No? Didn't think so. Strap on a set of balls and learn how to act like a man and not some lovesick little boy. Once you do that and prove to me that you are man enough, maybe I'll make time in my schedule to look at you. A friend? We'll see. But if you want me, you've got to earn me."
Cynthia turned to Miguel, who was now shaking with laughter. “That was great. Stop, cuz I’m gonna piss m’self."
“Could you stop long enough to show me to the dining hall?" Cynthia stood, feeling suddenly a bit tipsy. “Whoa, what was in that blood?”
Miguel fought back the laughter. “Sure,” He said, still giggling. “In fact…” He picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder. “I shall carry you, M’lady."
Cynthia laughed as he carried her out of the room. “You're a strange bunch. Just not sure what you're a bunch of."
- - - -
Erik remained motionless on the bed. He says nothing but innuendoes and she fawns all over him. I pour my heart out and get insulted in return. What is with women these days? He reached under him and pulled out Cynthia's tank top. He brought it up to his face and inhaled before dropping it to the floor and walking out of the room.
One vampire’s obsession may spell the undoing of them all...
New Orleans is a place full of culture, history, and a literary atmosphere, which draws people from around the world. Cynthia O’Connor is one of these people. A student by day and a vampire movie buff by night, she never suspected that in the dark of the theater among the dusty curtains was the very thing she salivated over, that as she dreamed of vampires, a vampire dreamed of her.
Ripped from the protective covers of her bed, Cynthia is awakened in another world, a world where the monsters are real, and a threat waits around every corner. For a blood feud long thought ended is about to begin again, and the clan Wrath is all that stands between the secrets of the night and a war that could rip the fabric of human reality asunder...
Did you like what you read? Want to know more? Than pick up your copy of Awakenings: The Wrath Saga exclusively from Amazon.