Vampires shade 1 (vampir.., p.1
(Vampire’s Shade Collection)
Blue Shelf Bookstore
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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I backed the vampire into an alley, my knife out with the blade low and threatening. It gleamed in the almost-darkness of the alley, a reminder to me and my victim that the knife had silver in it.
A black chain was looped over my shoulder, weighing me down, but I had trained like this. I could deal. I was just trying to scare the vampire with my knife. The short silver blade wasn’t good for a kill, not for a vampire. It would do in a pinch, because the silver burned their flesh – not enough, but a little – and I could work the vampire over if I wanted to, but that would get my hands dirty, and I preferred to stake them.
Or blow their heads off. I had yet to see a vampire that could bounce back from that one.
The vampire tried to dodge me and escape, but I had the upper hand. I knew about the vampire’s speed; it had underestimated mine. I was in front of it before it could get past me.
It skidded to halt, gaping at me.
In a life-and-death fight, there isn’t a lot of time for questions. You get to choose – answers or life. The vampire had made the wrong choice.
I let the chain slip off my shoulder and swung it around, sheathing the knife with my free hand. When I flicked the chain, it twisted around the vampire’s wrist and the clip snapped shut around itself. This baby was going nowhere.
Blue and red lights suddenly danced on the street at the alley entrance, and we both froze. The battle between us was one thing; neither of us wanted the police involved. I didn’t, because my work had a lot of moral pitfalls. The vampire didn’t, because when a vampire and a human were caught in an alley together, chances were the police would take the human’s side.
There was also the small technicality that I wasn’t exactly human, and I supposedly didn’t exist.
When the car had gone past and the silence of night fell around us again, I looked at my victim and smiled.
I stepped closer, looping the chain, until my body was practically right up against the vampire’s. It squirmed and tried to fight, but it had been a long run to get here, and I was fitter.
The vampire squeezed its eyes shut, and I felt a hum emanating from it. It faded so I could see the brick wall right through its chest, but the metal I’d wrapped around its wrist stopped it from dematerializing completely, and when it stopped trying to, the humming stopped, too. I was going to win this one, and it knew that.
I flipped my hair over my shoulder to get it out of the way. In the tussle, I’d lost the hairband that kept my black mass of hair out of my face.
I killed for a living, and my biggest stumbling block was keeping my long hair out of the way.
Beauty was a bitch.
I wasn’t going to cut it. It hung halfway down my back, thick and healthy. My looks were just as deadly as my skill. And I had a lot of skill.
I whipped the chain around the vampire’s other wrist, too, and tightened it, pulling its hands up together. Then I slammed a silver stake under the vampire’s ribs and wrapped my fingers tightly around the smooth finish, fingering the pattern I’d carved out around its edge.
I carried a lot of heat. I had a gun in a holster under my jacket and another tucked into my waistband at the small of my back. But guns didn’t work on vampires. Their ability to heal rapidly was a pain in the ass when it came to self-defense or hit jobs.
The vampire’s eyes were wild, wide, rolling around in their sockets. The split second before death was never pretty.
A thick black mist surrounded us, choking me, making it hard to breathe. I gritted my teeth and ignored it. It was almost like poison, the vampire’s last attempt to hold on to life, like an octopus’s ink, but I was immune.
Never underestimate your enemies.
An image of Aspen flashed through my mind, her eyes dull and lifeless. Her body was bent at an impossible angle. Around her, the furniture was upside down and out of place, like a nightmare version of our home. Nearby, bloody fangs dripping menace.
A fire inside me threatened to consume me, and I leaned against the stake, pushing it through the vampire’s flesh, forcing it into the vampire’s heart.
Killing the memories.
The vampire focused on me, questioning, its eyes draining of life already, and a flicker of recognition passed across its face. Fast reflexes, stronger than human women, immune to the mist – it knew what I was. The pain of betrayal was the last emotion it displayed before its face went slack, its eyes rolled back, and the body slumped forward.
Yeah, this one was going to haunt me. Great start to my week.
I swallowed and gasped for air. The thick stench clung to my clothes even after the mist had gone, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of darkness and death clawing at my ankles. I shuddered. Guilt was about as ugly as death itself.
I pushed the dead vampire off me, letting the body crumple to the ground. Then I wiped the stake clean on my black leather pants and zipped my jacket up halfway to conceal the gun.
The silver line of dawn was on the horizon, bleeding into the inky night air, announcing the arrival of Tuesday morning. The rising sun would take care of everything else: the blood, the body. The darkness I just couldn’t seem to get away from.
I turned and walked away, but stopped before I turned out of the alley. I bit my cheek and turned back. I had to frisk the damn thing. This part I hated the most. There was nothing as bad as playing with the dead when you were the reason they were dead in the first place.
I ignored the seed of guilt that throbbed deep down inside me. I tried to shake the image of the vampire’s face when it had realized what I was. I might have been a half-breed, at least fifty percent one of them, but genetics was as far as it went. My loyalty lay with humans.
My phone chirped in my pocket and I answered it, clamping it against my shoulder with my cheek. Small miracle I hadn’t lost it in the fight. It wouldn’t have been the first time. High tech was worth nothing if it fell out of my pocket.
“Are you coming in before dawn?” Ruben’s voice was clipped.
“I’m on my way to the office now.”
“Cutting it a bit close, aren’t you, Adele?”
“I don’t tell you how to do your job, Ruben. Let me do mine.”
My boss was a hard-ass idiot who believed he knew everything there was to know about night creatures, even though he never set foot outside his office until sunrise. He knew what the dangers were, and he wasn’t going to take the fall. He trusted everyone about the same amount, which was not at all. I liked him best when he was riled up and it was my fault.
“Just get in here to do the paperwork. I don’t want any mistakes. That damn Clemens woman was here again tonight, and I don’t want a story about you in the news.”
“Since when do journalists do nighttime visits?”
Like it was my fault.
Ruben hung up the phone, and I shuddered in the silence that was left behind. Not a lot of people believed in half-breeds, and those who did wished us dead.
I shook off the feeling of foreboding that had come with the phone call, and headed downtown.
I worked as a vampire slayer for a living. I was good at what I did, and Ruben paid me well for it. It was quick work, even though it wasn’t always easy. And it wasn’t just the physical side of the business that was a problem. Every job had its emotional downside, and some people needed TV time to wind down after the daily grind. I probably needed therapy.
I worked for a thickset, sleazy man in a dirty world. Ruben Cross was about as human as they came, but his scent disgusted me. I could smell his blood, which was laced with alcohol most of the time. He was dead set on ridding the world of vampires. For him, it was a religion as much as it was racism.
From the outside, his company looked like a standard accounting firm. His after-hours advertising was directed at a few chosen individuals, a private affair among people who heard of us through word-of-mouth whispers around corners, and only a handful knew about what we did when night fell.
We weren’t exactly on the radar, and I liked it that way. My entire existence was under the radar. The unlicensed killing meant I never had to own up to anything, and we didn’t speak about a job once it was done. Vampires didn’t fall under any constitution of the existing laws. They were seen as part of society now, but those who didn’t fear them shunned them, and discrimination was everywhere. Human rights got a little blurry when the person involved wasn’t human, and the fewer questions asked, the better.
Vampires had a strange hierarchy. The ones we ended up taking out were the mundane vampires, the young ones, the ones that didn’t mean anything in the vampire world. The hit jobs were usually ordered by humans. The vampires that meant something, the powerful ones at the top of their own food chain – those, we left alone. They never had quarrels with humans, and we never ran into real killers. Still, when a cop found a body in the street, supernatural creature or not, it was going to attract attention.
The common consensus was that humans and vampires couldn’t breed. The existence of half-breeds was just a rumor; as far as most people were concerned, Aspen and I couldn’t even exist. Ruben knew what I was, but he kept me on because as a half-breed I had the ability to pull off looking completely human. I also had vampire characteristics, which gave me an advantage above the human slayers. It upped my chances of tricking the pureblood vampires and putting them down before anyone could worry about moral issues.
Betraying our own kind was a big deal, but I had a hatred for vampires that almost equaled Ruben’s. Why did I hate them? He had his reasons; I had mine. I had a strict don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
So far, it had worked for me.
When I stepped into the lobby of the office building where Ruben holed up, Carl was just coming down the stairs. He was a lot of man: muscle that made his shirt stretch tight over his arms, and thighs that threatened to pop out of his pants. But muscles were no good when they were only for show. If it came down to a life or death fight, I could have taken him easily. Muscle is worth nothing against a gun.
“Oh, you’re here too,” he said.
We didn’t often rub shoulders, not since he’d taken me out on his first kill so I could learn the ropes. He was always sarcastic about the job, calling it something a woman wouldn’t be able to do. But we both knew that within in a week I’d become better at his job than he was.
When I looked at him closely, I saw the toll the last couple of years had taken on him. He had new wrinkles. He didn’t look like the young, strapping lad who had taken me under his wing anymore. He looked worn. I wondered if the same was true for me. It was hard to stay in this line of work and look fresh at the end of the day.
“Just doing the final rounds, Carl,” I said. “I don’t feel like getting into a brawl tonight.”
“You’re in the wrong job for that,” he pointed out.
I shrugged. Carl was just a human. I didn’t know how he managed to do his job – the first night I’d seen him, he’d been quick, and that had been his only asset. Still, Ruben had kept him on, so maybe he had something going for him. Maybe he charmed the vamps to death. With his chiseled jaw and jet-black hair, he could get any woman to look twice. Maybe his icy eyes did the trick, hypnotizing the vampires into believing they shouldn’t run.
I passed him, and he tipped his shoulder so it knocked me in the arm. In the world of vampire slayers, there are no courtesies for women. I jabbed my elbow back faster than he could blink and caught him in the kidney. He made a strangled sound.
“You’d better watch your back, Adele. Sometimes humans can hold grudges too.”
“If you’re talking about yourself, I’m not exactly going to lose sleep over it. But thanks for the warning.”
He snorted and walked out into the silvery dawn.
Carl wasn’t a bad guy; I just didn’t like him. There’d been a time when we’d gotten along, but he’d gotten cocky about his kills, and somewhere along the line he’d picked up that I was a half-breed. That had made all the difference. He didn’t see me as an equal anymore.
Good thing I’d never really cared. I was good at working alone, and his smoldering looks might have worked on other females, but I didn’t have time for dating.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Ruben said when I walked into his office and dropped the ID card and keys I’d taken off the vampire on his desk.
His salt-and-pepper hair looked like he’d spent the night sticking his hands into it, and he was wearing a jersey over his shirt that I would bet hid the fact that it was creased. The smell of whiskey hung in the air, laced with the day-old smell of his cologne, and I crinkled my nose.
He picked up the ID and looked at the photo. He nodded, satisfied. “It took Carl a week, and he still couldn’t put this one down. And you do it as a quickie on the side.”
“Not my fault you’re not delegating right, Ruben,” I said. “I told you this one wasn’t going to go down easy. Some of them you have to get hot and heavy with.”
“Nothing as hot as a vampire slayer willing to get personal.” He shook his head. His amber eyes were bright, despite the fact that he looked like he could do with a year of sleep. “I wish there were more people like you on my team. Carl is good, but he’s not you, and I’ve already got your quota filled.” He leaned on his desk and intertwined his fingers. “About this journalist. You need to watch your back. She’s not letting this one go.”
“Nothing I can’t handle. You know that.”
He stretched his arms up, and his jersey pulled taut over the expanse of his body. When I glanced down, I noticed he was wearing slippers. I guessed if I’d been stuck in this office all night, I’d do something to get comfortable too.
“You’re not immortal, Adele. If anyone finds out what you are, what you’re doing is only going to count against you.”
“I’m doing what most humans are too scared to.”
“And you’re an abomination…”
I turned and walked out of the office before he could finish his sentence. He didn’t have the right to hire a killer and lecture her. He had to stay clear; I beat myself up enough without him joining in.
“You make sure you’re back here by sundown,” Ruben called after me.
I didn’t bother to answer.
Being a half-breed meant there were some rules that didn’t apply to me. My human genes had won out more often than not. I had a perfect set of blunt teeth – no fangs – and I didn’t need blood to survive, even though I could smell it and sometimes it called out to me. Sunlight was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t going to turn me into ash.
Ruben knew that, but we worked on a schedule that stretched from sunset to sunrise. He ha
Daylight was a better time to hunt vampires, if you could find where they holed up. But I had a thing about killing something helpless, even if it was a vampire. I’d seen enough of that in my life to know that everyone – everything – deserved a fighting chance, at least. I refused to slay in the daytime. Personal policy. Besides, everyone needs some downtime, and that included me.
I found my motorcycle three blocks away, in the opposite direction from my home, on the outskirts of Westham’s Business District. It was still sitting where I’d abandoned it, when the vampire had hopped a fence my motorcycle couldn’t.
I was attracted to raw power, and the MV Augusta M4CC was just that. It had a black body with smooth curves. It was an orgasm on wheels.
How had a civilian like me, with a slightly above average income, gotten her hands on something as rare as an Augusta? Vampires have resources, and I had happened to kill the right one. Who would have thought my job had perks.
The bike purred underneath me and the wind wrapped around my body as I raced down the street. The speed gave me the illusion that I was actually escaping for a change. I preferred riding to walking, not just because the Augusta was a hot piece of metal, but because the neighborhood wasn’t a great one and I was a girl who got attention.
Not that I ever had any trouble. The last man who had his hand up my thigh after I’d politely asked him to back off was still trying to figure out which way was up. Still, my ride was a reward, and after a night of kills, I wasn’t in the mood to play nice.
I turned into my street. It was another couple of blocks to my apartment building, and shadows were lurking in between trashcans and down the narrow alleys.
I twisted the throttle and ate up the distance. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the place. It was just that the threatening shadows reminded me of what could hide in them. Once you opened yourself up to the creepy-crawlies of the night, you could never really escape them again, and I wanted to be off duty at some point. I didn’t like killing after hours, and Ruben wasn’t going to pay me overtime.
A sharp scent flowed in through the air vents in my helmet and pulled my head to the right. I slowed down the bike, stopped, and backed up with my toes on the asphalt until I could almost feel the smell inside of me. I fought the urge, but it drew me.
Being a half-breed meant blood could call out to me, and I wasn’t as immune to it as I would have liked. It was a weakness I didn’t like to acknowledge.
I knew the smell of vampire, and it was sometimes my downfall that I couldn’t ignore the call if it was on the right frequency. This one had something else to it too. Something I couldn’t quite place. The draw was stronger than usual.
I switched off the bike and got off, pulled my helmet off and left it hanging on the handlebars. My hair fell into my face, and I shook my head irritably and followed my nose.
It wasn’t the safest place to leave the bike unattended, but I didn’t plan on staying very long. I looked up and down the street, but I was alone. In all-black clothing, I was camouflaged at night, but I stuck out against the silvery color of morning.
The scent pulled me, and I sniffed it out like a bloodhound. I walked into an alley that had walls reaching three stories up on either side. It ran into a dead end at the back, a chain-link fence that looked onto a dumpster. My nose prickled with the pungent smell. It was sour, and it spelled trouble.
When I moved the dumpster, a pale hand fell onto my foot, and I jumped. I wasn’t nervous as a rule, but this could be a trap as much as anything else.
I reached behind me and pulled the SIG Sauer P226 from my waistband.
I’d left my stake with the bike, and this gun wouldn’t do much damage to a vampire who could heal at will and had the force of fury behind him, but it would slow the vamp down long enough for me to get away.
I wished I had more bullets for my Smith & Wesson. The 500 packed a punch that could kill a large animal, and I had yet to meet a vampire that could hold on to its head after a good aim. The gap between life and death was only a hairline crack when you were staring down the right barrel.
The hand on my foot was limp. I pointed my gun and trailed it up a well-shaped arm. On the other end of it, I found a male vampire. Its skin was tight over its skull and almost translucent on its neck. It was unconscious, its cheeks sunken, dark circles around its closed eyes. Its skin wasn’t as pale as that of some of the older vampires I’d seen, but the dull, almost colorless appearance of its hair made it look washed out, and it had fresh puncture marks at the base of its neck. A couple of them, with the skin bruised around the bites.
This vampire was freshly turned, and had been left out here in the alley to die.
I looked around, preparing for company, but the alley around us was empty, and I couldn’t smell anyone.
A vampire didn’t become a vampire by accident. It took a lot of work – a person had to be held for a number of days and drunk from at regular intervals until there was nothing left to give. Then, the body had to mutate to survive.
Death by consumption. I smiled at my own joke.
Generally vampires bred to make more vampires. But humans were turned sometimes, too. Usually with good reason, but what that reason was remained a mystery.
After the sire had taken all that trouble to recruit this new vamp, why would it be left here to die at sunrise? Unless it had escaped…
I considered returning to the bike to get my stake. I should kill it right here; then there’d be one less vampire to deal with when the time came.
But when I looked at its face, I couldn’t do it. My values were twisted, but I had a set of rules I tried to live by. I couldn’t just turn away and shoot it point-blank.
I grabbed it by the ankles and dragged it down the alley towards the street. The sun would be heading this way soon, and even the first rays of dawn were fatal for a pureblood. It was heavier than it looked, but I was stronger than most girls because of my supernatural gifts.
Its arms flipped up, and the shirt rode up. The concrete was going to leave a hell of a graze, but if the vamp survived, it would be healed up in no time. Possibly even before it woke up, if it ever did.
I worked my way across the street, keeping an eye out for danger, but it was deserted. When I got to the other side, I kicked a closed garage door. It lifted enough on its hinges for me to work with. I worked my fingers underneath, and it rolled to the top with a groan. Clearly, no one had lived here for years. The vampire would be safe, and ready to dematerialize by sundown if another predator didn’t sniff it out first.
I shoved the body into the cold garage and slammed the door shut again without looking at it, then dusted my hands on my pants. As I walked away, I knew I was going to regret saving the vamp, but I didn’t like going after vampires who hadn’t done anything wrong.
I would get it another time.
Vampire's Shade 1 (Vampire's Shade Collection) by Vivienne Neas / Fantasy / Romance & Love have rating 3.3 out of 5 / Based on20 votes