Friday, 30 October 2015

Happy Halloween



Well, I did it! I have to admit getting this book ready for publication by my self-imposed deadline of Halloween became a marathon this week. Pulling everything together, keeping an eye open for anything from a extra space between words to a hole in the plot so large no one had spotted it, and trying to stay sane, has been interesting to say the least.

So, if you're a fan of the genre, I hope you'll read the first chapter below, and like it enough to download it from Amazon or Smashwords.

And if not, have a happy Halloween!

Blurb alert:

Why is a rogue vampire targeting young women who bear a resemblance to Tatya? A master vampire, a shaman, and the alpha of the local werewolf pack team up in an unlikely alliance to defeat the new threat to Orleton's citizens. The second book in the Samsara Trilogy sees Tatya face a challenge that will make or break her. 


Vampire Sacrifice ©

Chapter One: Starting Over


They stood on a narrow unstable tower of rock jutting out above the encroaching maelstrom. The shriek of mountains shattering pierced the air; she watched as a thousand black splinters punctured the demon’s body and face as he fought for survival. Stinking yellow-green sulfur fumes seeped through the long thin slashes opening round them. The abyss was close.
She realized if the barriers sundered, he would do his best to drag her down with him. If he couldn’t have her, no one would.
Hellish screams rent the air as those he’d left behind eons ago howled their satisfaction at the prospect of their revenge at his return.
His face contorted; black and yellow bleeding into the brilliant blue of his eyes. “This is not the end,” he snarled baring his teeth, ignoring the low thrum of disintegration.
Tormented twisted shapes bulged towards him, trying to reach and haul him through the fragile barrier. Daemons howled and reached through the fabric of their world to pull them both into theirs.
His hands tightened around her neck, and she watched, frozen, desperate, terrified as a drop of red blood bloomed on his lip and slowly fell towards her.
Then the voice of another, chasing the nightmare away. “It’s okay, Tatya. It’s over. He’s gone and can never come back.”
And the golden link connecting her to the voice pulsed with reassurance and conviction.
Tatya jerked awake, covered in sweat, legs entangled in the bedding making it impossible to move. She froze at the sound of footsteps in the corridor till she remembered where she was.
The door opened, and Eva’s tousled blonde head and sleep filled eyes appeared. “The same dream?”
She nodded. “Sorry. Did I wake you?”
“No problem. It’s five thirty, and I wanted to be up early anyway. Coffee?”
“That’d be great. You up for a run before I leave?”
“You bet. Let’s see who’ll beat who today.”
They grinned at the old joke.
After pulling on a sweat top and pants, and downing a quick coffee, Tatya followed Eva down the steep cliff path to the beach. The house was in an isolated spot and saw only occasional visits from a few hardcore surfers. The tide was out, and the dampened sand created a firm surface for their morning jog.
Eva lasted an hour before staggering to halt, and gasping for breath. “How you do it is beyond me, but I’ve had enough. Don’t stay too long, I’m making pancakes for breakfast.”
Once Eva had left, Tatya let herself go, racing back and forth on the mile-long stretch of white sand for another hour. When she felt the kinks easing from her body, she stopped running and stood for a moment staring out to sea. Thin gray clouds lay in a line along the horizon, and the pale delicate blue sky hinted at fine weather after yesterday’s spring storm. This morning the water was as peaceful as a sleeping babe, its surface smooth and glasslike, tiny wavelets surging and retreating, sushurring softly on the seaweed and driftwood strewn beach.
She remembered the recurring nightmare.
She sat with others, young and old, men, women, and children on a beach. They shared a fermented drink laughing, joking, drinking, eyes twinkling, and teeth glinting in celebration. Red-orange flames danced under the bright moonlit solstice sky. The bard stared at her across the fire. He’d seated himself opposite where she couldn’t avoid his gaze. He smiled, his blue eyes hypnotic as dark gold snakes covered in flickering black lines crawled out of his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth and slithered towards her. She turned to Vanse for help, but as she touched his arm, he disintegrated into ash. Then the half-daemon, half-vampire grabbed her, and she was back on that ledge fighting for her life.
The memories and dreams never truly left her. And along with the dreams came thoughts of Vanse. Sometimes she dumped her pent-up lifelong hatred of everything vampiric onto him. At others, when she could scarcely breathe at the thought of being separated from him, she wondered why she was putting herself through the unnecessary torture of staying away. It was all she could do to stop herself driving as fast as possible to Orleton.
To say the relationship between them was complicated was an understatement. Vanse had saved her from the half-daemon, half-vampire, Angelus by giving her his blood, so for a time she’d been connected to both of them. Until she’d killed Angelus. But to keep the demon in hell, she and Vanse needed to stay connected. She could cut him off for short periods, but when either of them thought of the other, the link sparked. Regrettably she had no power over his thoughts. She did her best to rationalize the emotions he aroused in her, telling herself she’d deal with the situation when she returned to Orleton.
She’d miss the sea––its vast unceasing movement and unending changes of color eased her inner restlessness. But she would miss Eva more. They’d been roommates in college, and Eva had offered her shelter and solace while she grieved for the loss of her Aunt Lil and Sean. Tatya laid both deaths at Angelus’s feet; his need for her powers had destroyed the people she loved. She had never been able to confirm it, but her aunt’s illness must have had a psychic origin, with Angelus the most likely culprit. But she hadn’t died from her illness. The monster had orchestrated her death using Sean as his instrument.
The link flared and faded. She was always conscious of her connection with the vampire master. Sometimes it felt as if he was checking in on her, making sure she was managing. But he was discreet, didn’t push her. She knew he was waiting for her to initiate contact. And it was true he was never far from her thoughts. How could he be? If her memories were correct, she’d loved him for many lifetimes. And he’d waited, and saved her repeatedly over many lifetimes.
This new mixture of demon, vampire, and human blood that ran through her arteries and veins had changed her. The alteration to her metabolism after linking with Vanse hadn’t been obvious at the beginning, but during the months since, she discovered she beat Eva at every physical activity they undertook––unlike college when her friend had been the sporty one winning trophies while she practiced Tai Chi in the park. These morning runs on the beach had presented an opportunity to explore the potential of her body. Being able to run faster, for longer was only one change: when she tired, she recovered quicker; she didn’t need as much sleep; her skin glowed and her hair, already thick and curly, shone with deeper red highlights, and grew quicker than normal. She wondered how long her lifespan might be, seeing as how she was a hybrid, and wasn’t certain if she had the right to call herself human anymore.
Another benefit she enjoyed, and took great advantage of, was eating as much as she wanted, when she wanted, with no effect on her weight. In fact, her metabolism quickly burned up every calorie she consumed. She was often hungry and felt guilty at the huge amounts of food Eva prepared for her each mealtime.
As if she’d heard Tatya’s thoughts, Eva’s voice floated down from the top of the cliff. “Yoo-hoo! Breakfast is ready! You’d better get a move on!”
She was right. If Tatya had any chance of making her goal of being in Orleton tomorrow afternoon, she’d have to leave soon.
Looking at the long empty stretch of sand, she smiled. Coming here had been good for her. She’d needed time and distance to get the events of last autumn into perspective. At one point, she’d considered moving here, buying a property nearby, but her roots were in Orleton. Apart from Vanse, who she suspected might compel her to return if she didn’t do it of her own free will, she missed her friends, Bill Corwin, the local sheriff, and her mentor, Changing Sky, not to mention the people who came to her for healing. She’d grown up in the small mid-western town, knew it well, was familiar with its people, and didn’t want to resist its pull.
Even though the cliff path was a steep climb, Tatya was barely out of breath when she reached the top, and strode into Eva’s kitchen. She breathed in the delicious smells: fresh orange juice, coffee, piles of pancakes, and a large bottle of maple syrup were spread out on the kitchen table.
“Eve, you’re an angel.”
“That’s understood, but eat while the food’s hot. You can shower after. There’s your latte, and I didn’t forget the extra shot.”
Tatya eyed the large pile of pancakes on her plate with relish, before sloshing a generous amount of syrup over them. “Mmm ... my favorite! Seems a shame to leave when I’ve just gotten you trained.”
“You’re welcome anytime, Tat. You’ve always got a place here.”
“Yeah, you, me, and Jimmy. A cozy threesome.”
“You can keep me company when he’s away. Seriously, Tat, my door is always open for you.”
Tatya stuffed another chunk of maple syrup covered pancake into her mouth.
“Hey! Go slow there’s plenty more.”
“I may need to hire a cook.”
“How are feeling about seeing your old place? You think you can handle that yet?”
Tatya flashed on the image of Aunt Lil’s house, her childhood home after her parents’ tragic deaths in a train accident, with black clouds of smoke rising into the sky as it burned to the ground. She shrugged, serving herself more pancakes and syrup. “I haven’t been back since the fire, so I won’t know till I see it, but I won’t be going out straight away. I’ll finish getting the shop and my living space set up. Readjust to seeing the town again. Then when I’m ready, I’ll go take a look.”
Eva refilled their coffee cups. “Do you aim to rebuild? Or are you thinking of selling?”
“Sometimes I think I’ll do one, sometimes, the other. Watch this space. I’m not making any impulsive decisions. No matter what happened that place holds precious memories.” She patted her stomach. “I’m stuffed. That was delicious. Thanks, Eva. You’ve put me back together. And not for the first time either. You’re a real friend. You need anything from me, just ask, and I’m there for you.” As her confidante in college, Eva had salvaged Tatya’s broken heart from more than one relationship that ended in disaster. “You told Changing Sky you’re coming?”
The mention of the shaman brought a smile to Tatya’s face. “Nope. I haven’t told Bill either. I saw them both when I signed the contract on the building the other month. It’ll surprise everyone, but it’ll be so good to see them. I’ll need more sage bracelets and I need to restock all my supplies. The whole lot went up in flames along with the old house. That’s how I think of it these days. The old house.” Tatya was quiet for a minute as thoughts of happier times surfaced.
“It won’t be easy seeing people. The smallest thing can trigger memories.” Eva’s voice was anxious, the mother hen seeing her chick totter off on her own.
“I know. But avoiding it isn’t going to make it go away. And I need to work. I’ve been thinking of getting someone in to help establish the herb plots.”
Neither said anything, but Sean’s presence hung heavy between them. He’d been her best friend and partner in the herbal business they’d started two years ago.
“Be careful, though. Remember that card. You’ve pulled it every single time I’ve done a reading for you.”
Eva was a fortune-teller. A good old-fashioned seer who used a crystal ball, the I Ching, and her specialty, Tarot cards, which she taught Tatya how to use during her stay. The card in question was the Abyss.
The memory of Vanse turning to ash from her dream came to mind. “But in a certain way, there’s danger at every step. You can get killed just crossing the road.”
“In New York or Los Angeles, yeah. But Orleton?”
They laughed. The only time there was even a hint of a traffic jam in Orleton was the 4th of July parade, or on the odd occasion when the Winnebagos blocked Main Street during the tourist season.
“You haven’t forgotten any of your new outfits have you?”
One day Eva had surprised her by taken her on a trip to San Francisco’s Uptown Oakland district, dragging her from one shop to another, insisting she needed at least a few smart outfits for the next chapter in her life.
“People judge by appearances. You’re not a college grad anymore. You’re an upcoming business woman, and your clothes should reflect that.”
“And this is coming from a woman who wears hippy tie-dyed skirts from the sixties?”
“Hey, I’m a fortune-teller. I’m allowed to be eccentric. You should see some of my competition’s outfits.” And they’d giggled as Eva described get-ups ranging from the stereotypical gypsy to the Siberian shaman.
An hour later, standing by the truck, Tatya looked around for the final time. The stubby brown hills nearby, the darker purple mountains further away, and as she turned, the dark line of Prussian blue of the ocean in the distance. With her heightened senses she could hear the waves, soft in the background, and she breathed in the fresh salt sea air. Staying here had purified and healed her body and her mind.
“Looking forward to the first road trip in your new baby?” Eva asked, opening the passenger door of the vehicle and dropping Tatya’s bag on the floor.
Tatya had spent a part of her aunt’s inheritance on a brand new shiny black Chevy truck. She’d never owned a new vehicle. Every single one of her previous cars and trucks had been second or third hand. “I can’t wait to see how it handles. A long drive will give it a chance to stretch its muscles.”
“What time will you get there?”
“Tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to take it slow, enjoy the scenery.”
“Drive safe.”
“Come here, you. Thanks. For everything. I mean it. I won’t forget. I owe you big time.” She put her arms around Eva and hugged her tight.
Listening to the engine’s smooth purr, as she headed for the freeway, she calmed the butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She knew why she was nervous. Vanse. She’d put him out of her mind over the winter, while she cried her heart out over the two people she’d lost, and mourned their passing. Now she had to return to the land of the living––or in Vanse’s case, the land of the undead.
The link flared, as his emotions, knowing she was returning, poured through the connection, and her body shook with the strength of his feeling. She slowed down, and summoning her power, she cut the link. A short sharp cut. Her hands and fingertips glowed as she gripped the steering wheel. Good. Eva’s psychic exercises were working.
She no longer leaked power, a powder keg waiting to blow. She was stronger physically and psychically. He’d caught her unawares, that was all, but she’d be prepared next time. He should know overwhelming her wouldn’t make any difference to how she felt about him. Sparks would fly and rules made clear when they met. Keeping her speed down till her anger calmed, power retreated, and her hands steadied, she fixed her eyes on the ribbon of road ahead. But as she drove, her thoughts kept circling back to the tall dark and handsome vampire.
Vanse had waited centuries for her, but she’d comprehended nothing of this, till knowledge of her past lives had awakened. The trouble was in her first life she’d loved Vanse, and each time they’d met, that love had rekindled. When Vanse halted her transformation she’d experienced the intense emotions a newbie vamp has for its maker. This was now layered on top of memories of her love for him from the past. Vanse was waiting for her to return. Tomorrow she’d be in Orleton, and unable to avoid him. The problem was, despite her protests to the contrary, the thought of seeing him a shiver of anticipation up and down her spine.



Vampire Sacrifice, Book Two of the Samsara Trilogy, is an ebook available from:




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Vampire Sacrifice, Book Two of the Samsara Trilogy, is an ebook available from:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/589194












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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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