Today, I'm going to share the first bit of a project I'm working on for my email list. It's a stand-alone prequel of The Clan-Vampire Clash book series all about how Gnash, one of Duncan's vampire lieutenants, became a vampire. Members of my email list (The Troupe) will get each chapter as I write and edit it for free. Better yet, they'll get a chance to vote on what happens next and other details of the story!
Without further ado, here's the first half-ish of Chapter 1 of Sam's story (Title TBD, The Clan-Vampire Clash: A Prequel). It takes place between the events of The Unleashed Creation and The Impossible Creation.
Her throat parched, Sam turned around. The desert’s stunted trees whirled about her, cold and unwelcome. Her toes dug into a gritty mixture of dirt and sand. A million scents assualted her nose, most of the desert, of a burning heat and baked earth and sage. Beneath those were the smells of civilization, of car exhaust and hot pavement, of fast food and sugary drinks.
A cool hand brushed against hers.
“Gnash, we have to go.” A man with a glittering black gaze stood before her. In a tight T-shirt and jeans, he dressed more plainly than anyone she’d seen in Los Angeles, save her fellow out-of-state interns. Above him, the night sky stretched out like a moth-eaten blanket. Its stars were backlit holes that pricked her eyes.
Sam squinted against them. Her mind moved slower than molasses. “Who’s Gnash?”
“You are, remember?” Those eyes of midnight snapped and fizzled with impatience. The man tugged Sam forward.
She stumbled over a dying weed for half a breath. Then she caught herself, far more graceful than usual. The thorns of a nearby cactus stung her ankle.
“We have to go. They’re coming.” The man tilted his head toward the horizon.
There, a cloud of dust obscured the base of the foothills rising out of the desert, a million shades of brown and tan dotted with olive green.
Sam licked her lips. The taste of salt and metal overlaid something sweet and sour, like she’d binged on her favorite candy. “Who’s coming?”
Sam’s brows furrowed. “Who’s them?”
The man’s fingers riffled through his locks, stick-straight and as inky as the night sky above them. His biceps flexed, pulling at the taut sleeves of his T-shirt. Starlight fell on the lines sweeping and swirling around his upper arms. “The Clan, Gnash. The vampire hunters. The ones who’ve vowed to hunt us down to the ends of the earth and kill us.” He glanced back at the horizon.
Ahead of the dust cloud, five silhouettes raced toward them.
The man’s frown deepened. “Never mind, we’re too late. We’ll have to fight.” Talons grew from his fingertips. He sank into a squat, his arms loose at his sides. Fangs poked between his lips, blinding white against scarlet.
None of it surprised Sam.
Angling his head toward her, he caught her in a beady eye like a raven’s. “Are you going to help or not, Gnash?”
A breeze whipped Sam’s hair across her face. Why did he keep calling her that? And what was she supposed to help with?
“You might as well give up. You don’t stand a chance out here. Not against all of us,” a deep voice called out.
I know that voice. Sam’s head popped up, her blond waves swishing over her shoulders. Her gaze widened with shock.
There Bobby was, her fellow intern, nerd, and friend.
There Bobby was, at the head of a pack armed with swords and daggers and wooden stakes.
There Bobby was, brandishing a fireball in either hand. His eyes burned reddish instead of their usual melted chocolate. They flicked to Sam.
Bobby clenched his jaw. Tension lowered his voice to something verging on a growl. “Sam, back away from it slowly, then come to me.” Shifting back to the man in front of her, Bobby raised a fireball. Its flames sparked orange. “One move toward her and you’re done.”
The man snorted. “Aren’t I done anyway?” But he stayed where he was, his feet planted in the dirt between two gnarled trees, nothing more than woody branches topped with prickly needles.
Sam followed Bobby’s instructions, picking her way between the low cacti and yellowed weeds so dry they crackled at the slightest touch. Once a Joshua tree separated her from the strange man, she sprinted to Bobby’s side. Through it all, the man didn’t move one muscle.
The instant she reached him, Bobby heaved a sigh of relief. Canting his head toward the others, he muttered, “I’ll take care of her. You take care of it.”
Clutching their swords and daggers and stakes, the four fighters charged the man. Unnatural speed made them a blur.
The man met that blur inch for inch. The hunters surrounded him, attacking, feinting, and parrying together like a pack of wolves around a prized buck. But the man held his own.
Bobby turned away from the skirmish and toward Sam, the fire still crackling in his hands. Clapping them together, he smothered it. Nothing of the fireballs remained but ash and charcoal smoke smelling of bonfires and childhood memories. The smoke disappeared into the night sky. The ash Bobby dusted off on his shorts. It came off his hands in gray puffs.
Sam jerked her chin toward the melee. “Shouldn’t you be helping them?”
“No, I’m more danger than help to them right now. And definitely more help to you.” His bushy brows furrowed, Bobby skimmed blazing-hot fingers over Sam’s skin, first along her cheeks and jawline, then down her neck to her collarbone. “Does anything hurt? Did it attack you…or bite you?”
Sam shook her head. Bobby’s fingers grazed her bare arms, leaving a warm, tingling trail in their wake.
Her stomach flipped. She’d never seen Bobby like this, strong and protective and…somehow predatory. It was the antithesis of the Bobby she saw every day at work, the one who was nice and friendly and smart and lacked even a whiff of danger.
“Good.” Bobby dropped his hands away from her.
It was like a punch to the gut. Gulping her disappointment away, Sam shifted toward the brawl in the desert. Dirt spat up from beneath the feet of Bobby’s four friends—or allies or whatever they were. They circled the man crouching in the middle. Using coordinated strikes, they fought the man, their blades oblong flashes beneath the stars. Even without a weapon, the man dodged and deflected their blows.
Beside Sam, Bobby’s hands closed into fists. His teeth ground together, his bright gaze glued to the combat.
“So, um, what are you doing way out here?” Sam asked.
Bobby’s eyes crashed down to hers. Something like anger smoldered within them. “What are you doing way out here, Sam? You know you shouldn’t be out here at night, even with me and the Cell protecting you.”
“Protecting me? What do I need protecting from?”
Bobby ripped up a dead plant. Using both hands, he molded it into a ball. “You know what, Sam. The Indestructible. I can only do so much against them, at least not without risking myself and everyone around me, especially out here.”
Bobby’s head snapped up. His fingers crushed into the ball of tumbleweed. “Shit.”
One of Bobby’s friends lay crumpled at the base of a Joshua tree. His limbs stuck out at awkward angles. He didn’t move. The other three kept their enemy at bay, but they peeked over their shoulders at Bobby.
Bobby glanced back at Sam. His Adam’s apple darted up and down. “Sam, you stay here, okay? I gotta go help.” With a frown, Bobby sprinted to the body. Once he was within five feet or so, he dropped to his knees and slid the rest of the way. Dust spewed up around him. His molded ball of tumbleweed at his side, Bobby glided his hands over the fallen fighter like he had over Sam.
“Sam! Sam, come over here,” a voice whispered in the dark.
This voice Sam knew like the back of her hand.
This voice Sam hated with the fury of a thousand suns.
This voice Sam couldn’t escape, no matter where she ran.
Spinning around on her heel, Sam snarled, “Logan.”
Her ex-boyfriend poked his perfect face out from behind a thick cactus a few inches taller than himself. His chiseled chin jutted out, his full lips as kissable as ever. He extended a lean, muscled arm toward her. “It’s okay, Sam. We don’t belong out here, us regular humans. Come with me. We don’t need to stay for this.” Logan gestured behind them where Bobby stooped over his injured friend while the others battled the strange man.
“And why would I do that?”
As beautiful as any angel, Logan stepped out from behind the cactus. A breeze tousled his curling hair, somewhere between gold and brown. The stars followed him like a spotlight. His amber eyes reflected their light.
Sam backed away from him.
“Because we belong together, Sam.” Taking another step forward, Logan offered his hand again.
Sam spat onto the ground at Logan’s feet. “Then why did you break up with me?” She raised a hand before Logan could tell her the same lies again. “And don’t give me that ‘I needed to be on my own for a while’ BS. You got together with Jessie about half a second after we broke up.”
“No, Sam, that’s not true. Jessie and I aren’t together. That’s just a rumor.”
Rage flowed through Sam’s veins, boiling her blood. “Oh, yeah? Then why did I see the two of you making out by the pool? We live in the same goddamn apartment complex, Logan.”
“Sam, I…” Logan’s breath shook. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t’ve… Jessie doesn’t mean anything to me. She’s nothing compared to you. I only want to be with you. Please believe me.” His voice cracked at the end. Something like tears glistened in his eyes.
Sam wrapped her arms around her ribs, holding herself together. It was like she dangled in the middle of a rope, her mind tugging on one end and her heart on the other. Together, they tore her in two.
Her front teeth digging into her lower lip, Sam shook her head. “No, Logan, it’s too late. Too much has happened. You’re with Jessie and I’m…I’m meant to be alone. It’s too late.”
“No, Sam, that’s not true. I love you. Don’t you get that?”
Sam swallowed, the lump in her throat the size of a goose egg. For months she’d waited for those three little words. For months Logan had said nothing, leaving Sam aching inside. Two weeks after she’d broken down and said it first, Logan had dumped her. He’d never loved her. He never would. It didn’t matter what she did or how she loved him.
“Please, Sam,” Logan begged. His gaze shone more gold than ever.
Even as she stood there hating him for what he’d done and for what he was doing, Sam stepped toward him.
Behind Logan, a shadow did the same.
Sam cocked her head, the ends of her tangled locks tickling her elbow. What was that edging out from behind one of those scraggly trees?
The inky silhouette stalked closer to Logan, weaving through clumps of ragged plants with more thorns and sticks than leaves.
“Logan, you should—”
The shadow stopped. Black eyes that swallowed every speck of starlight bored into Sam. They challenged her, saying you can’t save him.
“The hell I can’t,” Sam muttered.
A sword glinted in the dirt a foot or two in front of her. Her heart thundering in her chest, Sam launched herself forward and grabbed the blade. She hurled toward whatever it was behind Logan.
Logan did nothing. He didn’t ask what she was doing. He didn’t move to help her. He didn’t get out of her way. All he did was watch, his perfect mouth falling agape.
Slashing the sword as a warning—and testing its weight and balance—Sam charged the creature. It crouched, waiting for her with a narrowed stare. Lips stained with blood pressed into a thin line.
An arm’s length away from the beast, Sam swung the sword with all her might, both hands on its hilt like it was a softball bat and she aimed for a homerun.
She met nothing but air. Off-balance from her swing, Sam stumbled as she turned around.
Only a stunned Logan stood there, breathing through his wide-open mouth. He pointed at something behind Sam, his finger trembling. Like it took every single ounce of effort, he croaked, “Sam.”
Talons sliced into her shoulder. Beads of red blood bubbled beneath them. Pain radiated down Sam’s arm, sharp and unyielding. She dropped the sword.
Encased in Sam’s flesh, the talons whipped her around. They shredded her shoulder.
Agony exploded down Sam’s arm and into her torso. Her knees gave out. She crumpled toward the ground.
The beast dug its nails into her upper arms like giant fish hooks. It kept Sam on her feet.
Sam gritted her teeth against the pain and the fear and the despair. Gotta get away. She tried to wriggle out of the creature’s hold, but it only gripped her harder.
Looming over Sam, the monster with the face of a human parted its crimson lips. Fangs half the size of Sam’s pinky gleamed. In a voice that was more animal than human, the creature growled, “Gnash. I christen you Gnash.” Those awful talons yanked Sam toward its mouth, its canines sharper than any dagger. Those unnatural black eyes stole her breath.
Sam pushed and pulled at the creature. She poured every last bit of strength and energy into escaping it.
Nothing worked. It was like it was meant to happen. It was like there was nothing she could do to stop it from happening.
The creature sank its fangs into her throat.
To be continued...
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