Here is another excerpt from Stone of Cruento available at Cerridwen Press on May 1, 2008.
The excerpt is rated PG-13.
The room was cleaned, the bed made with fresh linen and Claren was dressed. She waited in the main dining room with three vampires. Claren could smell the death on each of them. She wanted to go home and shower. She knew she had the smell of death on her. Jack’s death. Once she’d planned to marry him. Then while at the cemetery to visit her recently murdered parents her life changed forever.
She was attacked. Essentially killed when a monster of some kind ripped her throat out. When she recovered from having her throat ripped out, Claren discovered she was a vampire. Not in the real sense. She could still attend church. She attended night services. Not because she couldn’t stand the light but because daylight was uncomfortable giving her the equivalent of a nasty sunburn. However, after her first kill, Claren felt uncomfortable attending church with so many heartbeats around her. Heartbeats that pumped blood that called to her.
She contacted the human resources department at her corporate job and resigned. She also contacted Jack and told him that she was unable to continue seeing him. She didn’t give any reason. He assumed it was because she was fragile after her parent’s murder. It was because she didn’t want to kill him.
Like I did tonight. Claren shuddered. She watched as the bartender spoke quietly to each of the three vampires. Next would be her turn. She swallowed hard as he came up to her.
“You know the drill?”
Claren shook her head.
“King Geoffrey owns the club and several like it. We supply the venue for you to hunt safely. If you turn your mark that person is your responsibility. If you kill your mark…”
“Jack wasn’t a mark. He-he was a friend.”
The bartender shrugged. “Whatever. If you kill your mark we clean up the mess. We make it look like a death due to an accident. We show you the accident so you can approve it. You know, if your mark doesn’t swim then a shark attack would not be feasible. Because we take care of the mess you owe King Geoffrey a favor. Those three,” the bartender jerked his head at the vampires. “Will be doing night work. Since your mark was in a high profile position in government the king may want you to do several things. Right now, he needs some people taken out of the picture.”
“You want me to kill?” Claren asked, horrified.
“If you hadn’t already done it once, here in the club, you wouldn’t be obligated to the king, now would you?”
Claren sighed. She had to pay for her weakness. She vowed it would never happen again.
She nodded to the bartender to continue.
“Since you are able to withstand the sunlight, your assignment will take place this morning,” The bartender handed her a slip of paper. “Here is the address and the time you are to meet with your mark. Collateral damage is acceptable however you must kill the mark. If you fail, well, other vampires have failed and were ashed. I don’t know what the king would do to you.”
“Why do you associate with vampires?” Claren asked lightly.
“Why do you live as a vampire? It would be simple enough to end your life.”
“You’re right. My question was rude,” She looked at the slip of paper. It was a restaurant in her neighborhood. She looked up at the bartender.
“Normally I don’t give explanations to the suckers. But the king told me that if you had a question to tell you what you wanted to know. King Geoffrey knows you keep your neighborhood free of crime and of suckers, except for you, of course. There is a human criminal who is killing off vampires.”
“A vampire hunter? What is unusual about that?”
The bartender shook his head. “No, a normal vampire hunter the suckers could handle themselves. This is a man who is starting a gang—low end crime but moving into drugs, prostitution, extortion and the protection racket. He is killing male vampires and enslaving female suckers. He uses some kind of drug to control them. Then he keeps them practically starved. He gives them just enough blood to keep them from ashing. He is moving into your neighborhood. He plans to have lunch at that restaurant. Actually, he plans to set up his headquarters in that restaurant and take over your neighborhood. He seems to think your neighborhood is a nice safe neighborhood and that makes it easy prey.”
“Why can’t you just do something about it?”
The bartender hesitated, considering how much to tell her.
“They have a vampire with them. Like nothing you’ve seen. Some creature that feeds on human and vampire alike. The suckers can only go out at night when it is alive. Evidently the thing sleeps in the wine cellar. It wakes when humans try to kill it and devours them. Humans aren’t fast enough or strong enough. You are.”
Claren crumpled the slip of paper in her hand. “Thanks for the information. Collateral damage is acceptable you said?” The bartender nodded. “How did you get this information?”
Be sure and stop by Cerridwen Press on May 1, 2008 and get your copy of Stone of Cruento by Charlene Leatherman.