After three hundred years of unlife, sexy vampire Zara Lain has seemingly done it all, and she's now making a living as a successful thief-turned-assassin. Her newest assignment seems simple enough-kill the aging leader of the O'Connor Coven and his only heir, and she'll have another ten million in the bank. But in the dangerous world of the supernatural, few things are ever "simple." When a massive assault decimates the continent's population of powerful witches and warlocks, and its orchestrator has vampires being hunted down and captured, Zara realizes the tables have turned and now she'll be playing the hero. Forced to join with a smart-mouthed fellow vampire, a demonologist who's also a fan of hers, a recently widowed-and frequently brooding-warlock, and her best friend's mom, Zara's grudgingly willing to do what she can to save the day. If only people would stop ruining all her outfits...
Skyla Dawn gives an overview of the book:
Chapter One - Easy Prey
Someone was following me.
I had known about my pursuer for the past seven blocks. It wasn't difficult to tell he was there. As his sneakers hit the cement, they made three times as much noise as my black boots. A shallow heartbeat and heavy breaths, though not noticeable to a mortal, pounded in my ears and through my skull. The sound of human breathing is near unbearable to me, which is probably why I am often the cause of it permanently ceasing.
Though I had been weaving through the narrow, deserted roads and alleys, still he followed. After spending over three centuries of undead life looking like a woman in her late teens, I've grown accustomed to men stalking me in the night.
That doesn't mean I don't still find it bothersome.
The streets in the lower east end of the city were always empty that time of night. From dusk 'til dawn, the humans stayed in their homes. Two dozen corpses emptied of their blood all within a month tends to teach people a bit of caution. Not that I bothered much with feeding from the humans there, but it had been a popular haunt for the undead since the city was a little hamlet in the late nineteenth century. It seemed that after almost a century and a half, the humans had finally grown wiser. Multiple gruesome murders often do that. Even as parents tell their children not to fear the monsters in their closets, they are sure to lock their windows, bolt their doors, and always sleep with some sort of weapon next to their beds.
But for whatever reason, my stalker decided not to heed the whispered warnings of the human residents, and was doing some street prowling of his own. Someone ought to have a talk with him about that.
I wasn't really in the mood for talking, though.
I pretended not to notice him as I walked with purpose along the sidewalk. I kept my stride casual while I made out his exact position. When we started this game, he was a block behind me, but the distance was closing at an exponential rate. He was growing impatient, and even from so far ahead of him, I could feel lust fill his body with heat. One couldn't blame him. Though I was five feet, nine inches tall, the huge apartment buildings that lined the cramped streets dwarfed me. From his location, all he could see was some leggy chick with waist-length black hair. Pity he didn't get a look at my icy blue eyes, though, as my chilly gaze often gave mortals pause. To him I was simply a fragile, little girl. Easy prey. For a moment I imagined myself whimpering, "Oh, please don't hurt me." That thought amused me.
An average of one in five of the streetlamps worked, as no one from the city council thought this part of town warranted any repairs. Still, I managed to stay in the hideous, artificial orange light as I walked. I had to remain in his view...for now.
I heard a soft click. My gaze shot to the store window across the street as a flash of light flickered across the glass. A few seconds later, I saw it again, just as my stalker passed under a streetlight. Either he had opened a compact mirror to check his make-up, or he had a switchblade. Sadly, even the latter did little to even the odds set against him should he decide to attack me.
A few feet ahead, an alley intersected the street. Perfect. With his eagerness growing, I could hardly expect him to wait much longer. I calmly rounded the corner.
In the blackness of the alley, I glanced up to the top of the pawn shop to my left. I pushed off the ground and leapt with grace and ease onto the roof, clearing the fifteen foot difference in height. I crouched in the shadows and waited.
A few moments later, he appeared, nearly breathless from running to catch up. He paused after taking only three steps into the alley and looked around. I could see his thought process through his actions: first he glanced ahead of him, thinking he just couldn't see me, then he stepped back to the corner in case I was still in the street. When I wasn't there, he stalked over to a trash bin and, with the knife poised in his hand, he checked to see if I was hiding behind it. Still, I was nowhere to be found. I smiled to myself. Poor guy. A rapist without a victim was such a sad sight to behold. Really, my heart was breaking for him.
Studying him, I put his age at twenty-five or so. Ridiculously large jeans and some sort of sports jersey did little to differentiate him from any other male human his age. A red bandana was tied over his brow, possibly signifying some sort of group he belonged to, though I wasn't sure. Mortal social politics didn't exactly me--I was much more concerned with the black, knee-length jacket he wore. It would certainly go with the black boot-cut jeans and wide-necked top I was wearing, and it looked to be about my size. Perhaps I'd get more out of our encounter than just dinner.
I was about to jump down when something halted me. As I examined the darkness across the street at the end of the alley, I thought I spotted movement. Then I noticed my stalker was continually glancing down there, and making a shrugging gesture. Hmm, so there was someone else around. Possibly a few people. He probably had...what was it humans called them? A gang? A posse? Whatever it was, he probably had a few of those. I couldn't just kill this one--I had to make it a show. And I do enjoy a good show.
He stood there for another minute, then started down the alley again. I followed on the roof, keeping myself low and out of the moonlight. After a few minutes of walking he stopped again to look around. Now he was really confused.
I silently leapt off the roof and in seconds I was standing only inches behind him. A moment later he turned around.
"Fuck!" he shouted, his eyes huge as he stumbled back.
"Hi there," I said with very wide, innocent eyes and a grin. "Looking for me?"
He opened his mouth to say something, but all that came out was a jumble of intelligible sounds.
"I really like your jacket," I continued. "Would you mind taking it off? I'd hate to get blood on it. Despite some product commercials to the contrary, it's damn hard to get that stuff out."
At last he seemed to regain himself. He straightened his back and thrust the knife toward me.
"D-Do what was I tell you and you won't die, bitch!" he shouted. "On the ground! Now!"
I rolled my eyes. In what passed for only a second to mortal eyes, I grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the pawn shop wall, holding him a couple of feet in the air.
He blinked a few times, then looked down at me. His gaze went to the ground. Suddenly he realized he was being dangled in the air, and I was only holding him with one hand.
"That's right," I said. "I'm strong, I'm fast, and I totally kick ass. It's great to be me...but that means right now it sucks to be you."
He stared at me in horror, then slashed out with his knife. Damn, I forgot about that thing. The blade grazed my inner right arm, slicing my top and drawing blood, then stabbed into my gut.
I dropped the guy to inspect my wound.
"Goddamn it," I muttered, and returned my attention to him. "You damn well better have some money to cover the cost of a new shirt, or I'm going to be rather unhappy with you. I just bought this, you know."
When I didn't fall down mortally wounded, he started to get really scared. Somewhere in his head he must have remembered all the stories of strong, healthy men being found dead in the streets, and despite how absurd it seemed, he was cowering before a girl who didn't die when he stabbed her.
He turned and raced down the alley, stumbling every few steps as he glanced behind him to see where I was. He reeked of fear. My stomach rumbled.
Within seconds I was in front of him, and he stopped dead when he saw me.
Before he could take another swipe at me with the knife, I grabbed his hand and squeezed. The weapon fell, but I continued to tighten my grip until we both heard the bones start to snap.
He opened his mouth to shriek, but I clamped my other hand over his lips.
"You were following me," I accused, pretending to look hurt. "Presumably with the intent to violate me. I suppose you were going to kill me too."
He vehemently shook his head in response, so I squeezed his hand tighter.
"I don't like people who lie to me."
His eyes teared up, and he made some sort of moan of protest against my breaking his bones.
"I really have a problem with people who try to rape and murder me," I continued. "Do you have any idea how terribly rude that is? Here we are, in the twenty-first century, and despite the progress women have made, men still think they can dominate them. That makes me so angry. Doesn't that make you angry?"
Weakly, he nodded.
"I mean, what is humanity coming to when in this day and age a woman can't even walk down a deserted alley, all alone, in the middle of the night, without fearing being attacked?"
He continued to whimper.
"Tell me, are you at all aware of how this night has affected me? How am I ever going to trust men after what you've done to me? Did you even think of my feelings when you started stalking me?"
He mumbled something. I removed my hand from his mouth so he could speak freely.
"Yes?" I said. "You were saying?"
He parted his lips and his high-pitched scream filled the air. He turned his head and looked at the other end of the alley behind him. "Help me!" he shrieked.
"Something tells me they aren't coming," I leaned in and whispered, then I flung him by his broken hand right across the alley. He hit the bricks hard and crumpled to the ground.
I strolled over to stand just in front of him, and then offered my hand to help him up. Not surprisingly, he simply stared back in fear. I hauled him to his feet by the collar of his shirt.
"Do you now see the error of your ways?" I asked him.
He nodded, still cowering.
"Do you promise not to try to rape any more girls?"
Again, he nodded.
"Good," I said with a smile. "Now go my child, and sin no more."
He didn't move.
"Okay, okay," I said. "Of course you aren't getting off that easy. Brace yourself 'cause this will hurt...quite a lot, actually."
My gums throbbed for a moment as my fangs grew. Saliva formed, swelling through my mouth as I reached out and yanked my would-be-killer toward me. His body went limp in my arms, then contorted and shook as my teeth pierced his skin. The hot blood swirled past my lips, but rather than satiate my thirst, it made me want more.
I held him there in the moonlight as I drank, ensuring his friends would see. With any luck, that would serve as a warning to them. If they came after me, I'd be forced to kill them, which--though enjoyable--was a waste of perfectly good blood. I couldn't very well feed from all of them, as one human was enough to fill me for a week, and overfeeding would leave me feeling ill for a few days afterward. Besides, I was already late for a very important meeting.
Generally, I don't take enough blood to kill. It doesn't make sense in the grand scheme of things--if the human lives, he can always produce more blood, so there's no danger of ever having to go without a meal. I rarely ever drain a human.
But sometimes I just can't stop myself.
About Skyla Dawn
Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever. Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She signed...
No one would ever guess that RIVER is a debut novel unless you told them! Skyla Dawn Cameron has perfectly captured the angst of the teenage years in a format that will appeal to adults as well as teens....