Muse: "He has to die."
"Are you sure?"
Muse nods, then eyes me from the reflection in my mirror. "Yes."
I blink once, then shrug. "It's not like I have any say in the matter, so..."
Muse grins: "I'm glad you finally see reason." She pauses, considering me closer. "Now, the question is how?"
If this sounds like you took a ride on the crazy train, then you know what it's like for me. I'm an author. Our characters talk to us, and our muse is even worse. Mine, in particular, has no respect for day or night. She doesn't care whether I'm in the middle of a REM cycle or in the shower. When she has something to say, I listen...and hopefully I have my laptop at the ready, if not at least a pen and paper near by.
It's nuts, I know. But that's part of the creative process. I've found this notion fascinates most people. They often ask if I have to force myself to write a death scene or if I experience guilt when my story develops to the point I know someone has to die. The answer is no.
That doesn't mean I don't regret losing characters. Villain or hero, each one is my creation and like most authors I get very attached, but when the story calls for it, they have to go. I usually know who pretty quickly, and it's not always the bad guy. Killing off a character is often cathartic, both for me as the author and for the remaining characters in the story. Real life isn't always fair, and people suffer collateral damage every day. I try to keep that feel throughout my books, their paranormal settings notwithstanding.
Collateral Blood is the latest in my Cursed by Blood Saga, and from the very first chapter I knew who would die and how. Like all of my books in this series (and most in my other series) the main thrust of the story is suspense. Romance? Yeah, there's that too, but I love a plot driven thriller, and that's what I try to give my readers.
Want a taste? Here's chapter one of Collateral Blood.
The Red Veil
Vampire Club, New York City
“You asked to see me?”
Rémy lifted his eyes from his cellphone. “Abigail. Come in.”
The strawberry blonde vampire stepped through the doorway, her expression guarded. “You have news?”
“Sébastien is not returning to New York as expected.”
She frowned, watching the elder shrug into his trademark period-style frock coat. His dark gold hair luminous against the dusky brocade, its silky length dipping to hide the ruined side of his face.
“Why? When last we spoke Sébastien claimed he had outstayed his welcome at Dominic’s villa. I assumed that meant his exile was at an end.”
Rémy grunted. “Exile. Leave it to my brother to invent extraneous drama. He wasn’t exiled, Abigail. He was removed from his seat on the council and his so called sabbatical was more house arrest than holiday. To be honest, Sébastien is lucky he still has his fangs.”
Face impassive, she didn’t comment.
“Your marked lack of curiosity speaks volumes. Then again, your loyalty to your sire was always commendable if not misguided. I will forgive your silence and answer your unasked questions.”
Abigail waited, eyes unblinking.
“Sébastien is not ready to return to his place with us. The council deems him too volatile yet, thus the delay in his return.”
“Council?” She frowned. “You mean you deem him unfit.”
Rémy tucked his wallet and his phone into the inside breast pocket of his coat. “Volatile, Abigail. Not unfit. Although that particular failing does lend itself to your interpretation. It doesn’t matter. Dominic thinks him unstable and Carlos and I agree.”
“Dominic? Good God,” she repeated, annoyed. “How can he make an assessment? He hasn’t stepped foot in New York in over a century.”
Rémy nodded. “iPhones are truly a blessing.”
She stared at him open-mouthed. “Dominic facetimed his decision?”
“I was as surprised as you. Over a millennium old and yet it seems he’s embraced the twenty-first century. As the song says, The times, they are a changin’.”
He watched her stunned silence. “Nevertheless, Sébastien has been Dominic’s guest for six months and yet he remains impenitent for his actions against his own kind. Humility was never Sébastien’s strong suit. Not as a human and even less so now. You can’t spend nearly half a millennium lording over those you consider beneath you and not ruffle a few feathers. He has much to account for.”
“Abigail sank into the nearest chair, stunned. “All this because he refused to let the wolves help with the Jane Street shadow house?”
The older vampire stiffened at her question. “Abigail, it’s time you saw your maker for what he is. Sébastien refused help when it was greatly needed. He broke the cardinal rule of a Council Supreme and put his pride ahead of the community. He slaughtered an entire shadow house, vampires and donors alike, because of an imagined insult.”
Rémy’s irritation softened at the pained look on Abigail’s face. “You must understand, my dear. Others have suffered much worse than Sébastien for far lesser crimes. In this day and age news travels at the speed of light, and Sébastien’s involvement in the shadow house destruction is no longer a secret. He may yet face a much uglier fate.”
She exhaled. “He should never have agreed to leave the country.” Her mumbling earned a questioning brow from Rémy.
“You are certainly your sire’s progeny, Abigail. Rome was the perfect choice for what we needed Sébastien to accomplish, and Dominic the perfect mentor. He’s nearly twice as old as Sébastien and myself, so who better to teach any one of us how to adapt?”
Her lips parted and she blinked, but then closed her mouth in a tight line. “I see.”
“Our world is very small, my dear. You would do well to remember that.”
She exhaled again, lifting her eyes to his before nodding in acknowledgement.
“I’m going out. Please make sure the residence is secure once the club closes for the night. The safety of those living within Le Sanctuaire is paramount.”
“Of course. I always do.”
He moved to his desk and lifted a copy of the Daily News from the top of a pile of mail. “I’m sure you’re aware the city has a new scourge.” He turned, handing the newspaper to Abigail.
She shrugged. “So I’ve read. New York has always had its fair share of nutcases. There have been gang related subway slashings for over a year now. It was only a matter of time before a serial killer took center ring.”
“The police came to see me today.”
“Why wasn’t I informed? You shouldn’t be bothered with human minutia.”
“They wouldn’t take no one’s available for an answer. You were at your rest, and my age made me the only one available for a daytime tête-á-tête with New York’s finest.”
Abigail stood, leaving the paper on the chair. “I’m sorry, Rémy. I should have a procedure in place. This will never happen again.” She inclined her head, but jerked her chin up at the sound of his chuckle.
“Abigail, when will you finally realize I am not Sébastien? My brother may enjoy keeping his nose in the air, but I don’t. I was happy to help.”
At her silent nod he gestured to the newspaper. “It seems the latest victim of this serial maniac had a Red Veil stamp on her hand. The police came to canvas the staff, questioning if anyone remembered seeing her at the club recently.”
“I see. Were any able to help?”
“A few. The detectives requested our surveillance tapes.”
“But the backrooms…” she started.
Rémy lifted a hand. “Those are of no interest to the police. The girl in question was not on the VIP list nor was she anyone’s special guest. The surveillance we provided for their investigation was of the club’s main floor and bars. No more. Do you understand?” He fixed her with a pointed look.
“The ugly incident was most likely a coincidence. However, I want extra security in place just in case. Every door, inside and out, especially the ones leading to the backrooms. The NYPD has a job to do, but I draw the line there. The Red Veil is both our sanctuary and playground. I’d like to keep it that way.”
“I’ll make the arrangements as soon as I get downstairs.” She watched as he finished readying himself for the night, and a small smirk tugged at her lips. “Meeting Jenya?”
A genuine smile lit his face, softening the ruined flesh scarring his one side. “She’s hunting tonight. It’s a new moon.”
He nodded. “She likes to clear the vermin, if you know what I mean.”
“And who better? New York is overrun with the two-legged kind these days.”
He shrugged. “I told her I would keep her company.”
Abigail didn’t comment, but she understood the subtext. Rémy needed to keep Jenya in line. The Russian vampire had come a long way in channeling her cruel beginnings into something positive, but she definitely held the inclination to kill creatively.
“Will you be back tonight or should I call the Shadow House on East 81st Street and arrange for dawn accommodations? They have the rarest blood types, and Jenya’s favorite is currently in residence at the donor hall.”
Impressed, he smiled at her. “As efficient as ever, Abigail, but I sense thoughtfulness in your resourceful nature that wasn’t there before. It seems your time with the wolves has tempered you.” He paused, meeting her eyes. “Personally, I find this softer side very becoming.”
She blushed, as much as a vampire can, and the two walked out toward the private steel-reinforced doors in silence. With a nod, Abigail headed back to the club and Rémy turned toward the exit and the alley outside.
The scent of fresh blood and residual violence hit his nostrils the moment he stepped into the darkness. Holding still, his fangs pierced his gums, descending instinctively, and he peered into the encompassing shadows. No body heat or movement registered in the concentrated gloom.
He took a step and an unexpected crunch drew his gaze. The Red Veil’s motion-activated spotlights lay in smashed shards on the pitted asphalt. “Damn.”
It wasn’t the first time vandals and thieves had tried their luck. If they knew what horrors awaited in certain backrooms at the Red Veil, they’d avoid the alleys surrounding the club like the plague.
Still, the scent of blood was too overpowering for superficial cuts from a few shattered lights. His fangs tingled.
Tall concrete on either side of the alley made for thick darkness under normal circumstances, but no light and no moon made the gloom nearly impenetrable. Even for a vampire. He thought to call for Dash or one of the other wolves, but then dismissed the idea. Night vision was not his strongest gift, but he had other skills that more than compensated for any bump he might encounter in the night.
He focused his senses and walked into the murk toward the heady copper scent, allowing his eyes to adjust.
“Damn,” he muttered again, along with a string of other expletives. A lifeless body dangled from the side of the building. A woman. She hung by her feet from a steel reinforced pole, vandalized brackets on either side of her dead weight.
Rémy exhaled and dug in his pocket for his phone. “Abigail. Have security come to the south exit. Now.”
Slicing the yellow nylon rope holding her suspended, he moved the dead woman to the ground. Her throat had been slit wide, yet only splashes of blood coated the blacktop in a hollow circle directly below where she hung.
Rémy drew his fingers through the viscous fluid, lifting the bloodstained tips to his nose. Still fresh and barely cooled. She’d been dead less than an hour.
But why? Her blood was barely congealed, so it was obvious she was killed here. The asphalt should be a river of blood, not mere spatters.
Rémy glanced over his shoulder and frowned. Where was security? He scrolled through the contacts on his phone again, the blue ambient light from its screen casting shadows along the ground No doubt, the woman was murdered. They were going to need specialized help clearing this mess.
A flash of silver caught him unawares, a hand knocking his cell phone from his grip. Before he could react, searing pain sliced through his cold flesh as a razor sharp blade slashed his throat, burning silver puncturing his jugular.
Rémy’s hand flew to the wound, his eyesight narrowing as his fingers tried to stem the flow of black blood. He peered into the darkness for his assailant’s identity but his vision failed. He slumped to the ground beside the dead woman, the sound of muffled panic and footfalls thick in his ears.
I hope you enjoyed the snippet.
I hope you enjoyed the snippet.
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