Excerpt – Blood Rage

Well, guys and gals, I’ve been toying with the idea of posting an excerpt and decided to finally go ahead and do it! So, hopefully this will entice you/excite you enough to add Blood Rage to your To Be Read (aka to buy when it’s out) pile!

Chapter One

From the Bureau of Non-Human Affairs’ FAQ Page: Telepaths

Question: What should I do if I catch a telepath (species unimportant) using telepathy to read my mind and steal my personal information?
Answer: Call your local Bureau office immediately. The Privacy Act of 1974 makes it illegal for anyone to scan another person without a court order. Such orders may be granted to determine guilt or innocence of a crime, if requested by the accused.

            “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

            Dara rolled her eyes at her assistant’s lazy inquiry as she paced in front of the elevator. “About three hours later than it is here, which means you’re probably in the middle of a date, Ronnie, not in bed.”

            A delicate giggle escaped the other woman before she said, “Who says I’m not in bed in the middle of my date, darlin’?”

            “Spare me. Just swear to me, one last time, he’s not on the guest list.”

            Her assistant groaned loudly, likely for effect on whoever the lucky man was to emphasize her put-upon status. “Dara, you’re calling me at nearly eleven at night to bug me about that man again?”

            The elevator doors “swooshed” open in invitation. Unwilling to risk losing her connection because she suspected Ronnie would ignore any subsequent call, Dara shook her head at the car’s occupants and spun to stalk down the hall toward her suite door. “Please, just tell me he’s not going to be here!” She heard the whine in her voice. How could she be so pathetic? Two hundred years of life experience should give me more dignity than this.

            She could practically see the other woman’s eyes roll as she said, “According to the Society’s president’s secretary when I talked to her three hours ago in anticipation of this discussion, no. Anthony Caldwell declined his invitation three weeks ago and has made no attempt to reverse that decision.”

            Dara’s shoulders slumped in relief. Everything would be fine then. No known child-killers in attendance at the Society’s 80th Anniversary Bash made for a good evening. “All right, thanks,” she murmured in genuine appreciation.

            “How’d the LeTourneau dress look when you put it on?”

            She blinked at the abrupt change in topic, and her gaze dropped to her half-bared chest where fluorescent lights glinted off the pale, ropy scars that marred the surface. “I feel like an overstuffed sausage, Ronnie. I wore a corset when they were fashionable and hated them. I almost needed one today to get into this infernal outfit.” So she exaggerated, a little.

            Ronnie snickered, and Dara heard a low male whisper in the background. “I don’t need my powers, or a picture, to know you’re lying to me. Sarah would never put you in anything that didn’t look spectacular. Go make your speech, darling. Tell me all about it when you get back to Tampa.”

            Dara slowly pressed the disconnect button and wandered back toward the elevator with a sigh. Ronnie was right, knowing Dara’s insecurities about her appearance entirely too well. Sarah, the last descendant of her little sister, Caila, had exquisite fashion taste. The LeTourneau dress, the first and only one she’d ever bought from the exclusive werewolf designer, was a new purchase, bought specifically for this party.

            Attending the Bash on behalf of the Bureau of Non-Human Affairs certainly hadn’t been Dara’s idea. But when invited as the honoree and keynote speaker, one must attend, especially when one’s boss said to go or be fired. Therefore, she’d allowed the Society to fly her out, put her up in the exclusive Bearings Hotel and Casino for three nights with Sarah, and had agreed to give a single speech and attend a ball afterward in exchange. Overall, it really was a good deal for her. The short, enforced vacation offered her an escape from the wet heat of Florida in late August.

            She pressed the down-button on the elevator and tapped her foot with just the first hint of impatience. Less than thirty minutes remained before her speech. As the keynote speaker, she didn’t intend to show up until she had to, to avoid the inevitable attention that would be focused on her. At least Anthony’s absence was assured.

****
            “Would you care for another drink, Mr. Caldwell?”

            Anthony looked up from the blackjack table as the leggy blond waitress leaned over to ask her question. He gave her a lazy smile and finished the last of his blood and gin, noting the faint flush that spread across her cheeks. Another lifetime, perhaps he might have asked for her phone number, but not now. Not when his objective of so many years was almost at hand.

            “No. Thank you just the same, madam.”

              She flashed him a smile that revealed just a hint of fangs and sauntered off. He eyed the long legs for a moment more and repressed a scowl that he felt nothing at turning down what could have been a very pleasurable evening if he’d accepted the implied invitation. What was the world coming to?

            “Ante up, gentlemen,” the dealer said.

            After a glance at the rose-gold, Atlas watch around his right wrist, Anthony shook his head. “I’m out. Duty calls.”

            Duty didn’t call, not yet anyway, but the time was close enough at hand that his conscience didn’t prick him for the slight inaccuracy. If he intended to track down his quarry before they met in the ballroom, he needed to go. His senses, on constant alert in the crowded casino, had yet to detect her, but she couldn’t be much longer. Even she wouldn’t be late to a ceremony intended to honor her.

             Then again, when has Athdara Genevieve ever been on time for anything? he thought with faint amusement.

            He closed his eyes for a moment to filter through the hundreds of minds pressing in around him from around the casino. For a younger vampire, it would have taken much longer. After more than twelve hundred years of practice, it didn’t present that great a challenge, regardless of the population density.

            About to give up the current search, he paused when he recognized her presence. Anthony turned. With little effort, thanks to his height, he looked across the main room to see her just exiting the elevator.

            The breath he didn’t need to draw in caught in his throat. It had been sixty years since their paths had crossed, a deliberate move on his part out of respect for the hatred, however well-deserved, she held for him. Sixty long, boring years.

           Athdara looked the same of course, eternally twenty-six as a vampire. Unfashionably curvy, lush, and perfect. She’d pulled her long red hair back in an ugly braid. The coiffure failed to detract from the fragile face. So many hours spent brushing that hair. She wore a long, black satin ball gown, LeTourneau if he were any judge, that swished when she moved past a bank of bleeping and flashing slot machines.

            Anthony allowed a trace of a smile to curve his mouth upward, and he turned toward the staircase leading to a landing that would give him an unimpeded view of the main room. Now to have some fun.

****

            Dara spared a glance at the delicate diamond and emerald watch attached to her wrist. Twenty-six minutes, plenty of time for some blackjack before she went to the ballroom. Her best friend, Chris, who was attending with Sarah, would text if the speaker ahead of her moved more quickly than the program indicated. If nothing else, gambling would take her mind off the unpleasantness to come.

            Her hand trembled a little as it fell back to her side, the first hint of nerves. God, why do I agree to these things? I detest public speaking.

            As she approached the tables, something felt off. She saw nothing concrete, no sign of anyone acting out of place, but instinct guided her. After falling in love with a murderer, she always paid attention when she got that little tingle at the base of her neck. Other than a dapper human who seemed fascinated by the expansive view of her breasts that the low-cut gown offered, no one seemed to be looking in her direction.

            Such realization didn’t alleviate the impression someone was watching.

            The moment passed, and Dara shook her head in annoyance. “You’re paranoid, girl,” she said to herself. “Ronnie said he won’t be here.”

            Her palms itched, and unease returned as she reached the tables. Her eyes narrowed warily. Someone was definitely watching her. But who? And from where?

            She brushed her tongue against one of her razor-sharp fangs, took a deep breath, and brought her mental barriers down. Few other vampires her age would dare lower the protective barriers that blocked out the chaotic mishmash of thoughts from other beings when amongst a large gathering. She prided herself on her strength, the only gift from her unknown sire that she was grateful for.  

            The rush of hundreds of minds would have overwhelmed someone less well trained. So many poor souls around her believed the next roll of the dice or pull of the bandit arm would bring them great wealth, and so many were desperate for the money. It hurt, feeling their pain and knowing she couldn’t help any of them.

            Dara forced herself to concentrate on the matter at hand, despite the whispers of mental voices seeping into her thoughts. The other races simply didn’t have the ability to keep their thoughts completely private.

            She filtered out exterior distractions, such as noise and flashing lights, with painstaking care and then began sorting through the minds pressing in on her. Whoever watched wasn’t human; she could tell that much. Human scrutiny almost never bothered her.

            “C’mon,” she said. “Where are you?”

            After fruitless moments trying to find the guilty party, her temples throbbed. Dara built her barriers back up and felt her shoulders slump in relief at the abrupt silence in her head. The presence was gone again, but she knew it would return.

            Lifting her chin in defiance, she nodded to herself. If, or when, they let their presence emerge again, she would find them. Per the Privacy Act of ’74, if someone used non-human gifts to spy on anyone without a warrant, much less a senior manager at a federal agency, they were guilty of a misdemeanor. It was her responsibility to find them and warn them to tread cautiously.

            “Would you like a drink, ma’am?”

            She glanced at a voluptuous auburn-haired waitress who stood several inches taller than she, even with her three-inch heels, and shook her head. As the woman swaggered away, she fished out her cell phone to make certain she hadn’t missed Chris’s warning text message. Still fifteen minutes remained before she needed to go.

            Harry Myers, CEO of Savage Enterprises, the largest non-human run corporation in the world, was presenting her with an award for her part in the Great Awakening. She considered the whole presentation ridiculous, coming some eighty years after the non-humans made their presence known. If not for her boss’s order, and the need to drum up constant public support for the Bureau, she would be at home in Florida where she and Sarah belonged.

            About to place her first wager, she felt fingers stroke her left palm. Dara’s fingers jerked, and she stared down at the rose-shaped scar that lay in the center. It was one of the more spectacular, and visible, “gifts” from the monsters that had raped and converted her in 1810. Since no one stood to her left, the caress indicated telekinesis, unusual in the extreme.

            Telepathy came with the fangs and hunger for blood. Telekinesis did not. Telekinesis took decades of practice and a great deal of personal power to master. Few vampires less than seven centuries old possessed the skill. Her watcher was back, and they were very old.

            She hissed and waved off the dealer. This game of cat and mouse ended right now. Her watcher needed to learn not to toy with the Bureau. The folds of her skirt swirled softly around her ankles as she squeezed through the crowd to find a solid wall to lean against. Dara wanted a solid surface to brace herself against while she lowered her barriers this time, to save more strength for her search.

            The onslaught didn’t stun her as much this time. She honed in on the vampires around the casino, fifteen in all. The mage-born wouldn’t toy with a vampire, not out in the open, and the assorted were-creatures didn’t have the capacity for either telepathy or telekinesis. In less than thirty seconds, she found him.

            Her barriers slammed back into place as she pushed off the wall and pivoted to her right. She lifted her gaze to sweep the staircase, finally settling on the balcony above. When she focused in on him, her mouth dropped open in an unattractive imitation of a trout gasping for air. She knew what the expression looked like, had ever since a photographer once caught her staring at someone.

            Anthony Caldwell, unchanged by the passage of two hundred years, leaned on the glass and metal railing, looked down on her with a slight smirk. Clad in black and white formal wear, his dark blond hair just touching the collar of his jacket, he might be posing for GQ or some other gentleman’s magazine. Photographs and television appearances didn’t do the man justice. If one ignored the dark heart that beat in his chest, the packaging around it was spectacular.

Well, there you have it! Hope you enjoy and have a great weekend!

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6 Comments

  1. @Sheri – Glad you got sucked in to read all the way to the end. That's the sorta thing a girl likes to hear. :)@Jennifer – Yay, glad you found it worth adding to your TBR pile.@Brenda – Now that's a new one on me – "Holy doddle". I must remember that. Hehehehe. As to the sale – WOOT! ;P Seriously though, glad you enjoyed it that much.

    Like

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