Zombies bite, p.1
Zombie's Bite, p.1Karen Chance / Fantasy
Copyright 2015 Karen Chance
It came in the middle of dinner. An impossibly long, impossibly hot, impossibly mosquito-filled dinner on a terrace overlooking what a tourist brochure would call a vista and Kit Marlowe called a swamp. The once starched collar on his dress shirt had gone limp and was sticking to his skin along with the curls at the back of his neck, and that was despite the fact that vampires don't sweat.
Or, rather, they usually didn't. But everything sweated here. Even the diaphanous curtains around the French doors were hanging sad and dispirited, and the quiet murmur of conversation was broken by forlorn little drips from the rapidly melting ice sculpture in the middle of the table. It was a cherub, which should have been ironic considering that he was in hell, but was surprisingly apt since what looked like tears were streaming down its fat little cheeks to splash in the drip pan below.
Kit slapped another of the flying vermin and grimaced.
What genius had decided that al fresco dining made sense here? Under a sea of swaying lanterns, which might as well have been runway lights guiding the greedy bloodsuckers straight to their own dinner -- of his flesh. He hoped vampire blood gave them a sour stomach. He hoped it poisoned the lot of them. He hoped they'd rise after three days under his command, because he had a target in mind, oh yes, he did.
The target in question was visible through the sculpture, the dark eyes, perfect profile and wine reddened lips distorted by the ice into a ferocious scowl that, Kit reflected grimly, probably provided a truer glimpse of the creature than the usual flawless fa?ade. Since his own were likely equally as distorted, Kit allowed himself the luxury of scowling back.
Mircea, the suave bastard, was having a good night. He had somehow managed to turn a disaster of a meeting between the mad-as-a-hatter Latin American consul, ostensible leader of all vampires south of the border, and their own had-it-up-to-here-and-then-some lady, into something almost . . . . Well, pleasant was hardly the word considering the venue, but at least nobody had died.
But how long that would hold true was anyone's guess. Alejandro, the useless twit of a consul, was losing his grip on his senate, although he was too far gone to know it. That had suited Kit, since the last thing the North American Senate needed was an aggressive, expansionist neighbor. Alejandro was an idiot, but he was a predictable idiot, making him manageable.
Until recently, that is, when the master vampires who populated his court had started running amuck with what amounted to zero supervision. And soon thereafter had also run here, and not for the gumbo. Louisiana had become a hot bed of illegal paranormal activity, none of which followed the North American Senate's laws or even seemed to realize that they existed.
And the usual threats didn't work. Not when Alejandro's masters knew that their not-so-beloved consul was ultimately going to be held responsible for their actions, and didn't care if they lost him, would probably prefer it at this point, if half the things Kit had heard were true. And they were, he'd had his best people on this for over a year. No, Alejandro wasn't the problem; he was just the figurehead his court kept around to take the fall if anything went wrong. Someone else was the driving force behind this farce, this virtual invasion, and God, the thought of those bastards trying their usual tactics in his territory just --
Damn it, he'd bent his fork.
He slowly put it down. He couldn't taste dinner anyway, not tonight, not without knowing who. Who he was after, who was the target he'd been chasing for so long, whose head they had to cut off before anything was going to change. But they couldn't decapitate a shadow, and Kit didn't have a name, after almost a year he still didn't, and it galled him. Even more so with his lady's eyes on him, sloe dark and assessing, waiting for him to point out the culprit from the assembled villains when that was the problem -- they all bloody were!
His eyes swept the rogue's gallery around the table once again, only to be interrupted by a picture of his own scowling face that flashed before his vision.
Thank you, Mircea, he thought viciously, but schooled his features into a slightly more benign expression. Or maybe not. Another image flashed, this time of him looking cross-eyed and constipated. He sent back an image of his extended middle finger, which stopped the flow of visual rebukes, but was exactly no help otherwise.
Bugger it all! The smooth son of a bitch was looking cool and calm and decidedly not bug-bit as he laughed convincingly at some comment by that idiot Alejandro, who thought he was a wit. And he was, if you put a "nit" in front of it, Kit thought, as the wine steward stopped by his elbow.
"Make it a double," he told the man, who hadn't been bringing him wine. Not that it had helped.
God, the things he had on that vampire. God, how it galled him to sit here, simpering and smiling -- or watching others do so -- and paying court to an addlepated blight providence should have removed from the earth centuries ago. God, the things he'd like to --
Careful, Mircea's warning murmur was enough to let him know that he had started to project. Not that it mattered. Not with the level of incompetence in this --
He felt the scream rather than heard it, a soul-level reverberation that caused him to knock the glass the steward had just filled out of his hand. He saw it bounce on the table as if in slow motion, hitting the pristine white cloth and rolling off the side, crashing to the floor like a cymbal to underscore the voice in his head. The one crying out a single word: "Master."
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