Sunday, May 29, 2011
Sample Sunday: Blood & Tears (Jane #3)
"Baby, I'm always ready."
"Getting cocky in your old age, I see."
"No, I just had a magnificent teacher." I grinned at Felipe as the men behind us grumbled and rolled their eyes. No matter how much the men moaned, though, I knew they would do anything to protect me.
Ronin, the vampire priest who lived in the sanctuary with Felipe and I, had taken up position at the back of the group. He was a lover by nature, not a fighter, always the first to lend a helping hand to those in need. He also refused to let his flock (aka: anyone with a beating heart) go into battle without proper spiritual protection. When I first arrived at the sanctuary, he'd simply been a priest preaching to the masses three nights a week at the cathedral located above the vampire enclave. But when Father Bellini put out the call six months ago for an elite team of vampire hunters, Ronin had stepped up without hesitation, and he became our steadfast rock, holding the rest of us psychotic killers together, both mentally and spiritually.
The human male between us and Ronin was Jax, a six-foot blond mass of muscle. He had no qualms about being part of the trained killing force. Years before, he had been a professional American football player. Then his younger brother was turned into a vampire. Jax accepted his brother's new future—after nearly killing the boy in a fit of uncontrolled terror. Jax didn't like to talk about that night, but I heard from Felipe that Jax's brother handed him the very stake Jax almost thrust through his heart. Finally realizing his brother was no threat to him or his family, Jax embraced their new future and together they joined a very profitable security force. But Jax craved action and as he was so big, he most often was requested by extremely wealthy businessmen who really didn't need that much protection. So when word went around the security forces of a less lucrative, but more exciting position, he jumped on it.
Guarding the back were Ado and Benton. Ado very nearly self-destructed after the death of his former partner, Victoria. Together, they were sent to the States to find the cause of a rash of freshly turned vampires. She had been kidnapped while he was asleep, which eventually led to her death by Felipe's hand. Ado, distraught and emotionally ruined, went AWOL. Such an act was intolerable in the vampire community and he would have been destroyed if not for the intervention by Felipe and Father Bellini. Together, they hunted Ado down and brought him back from the brink of oblivion. The defeated vampire found a new purpose on the team—hunting down Victoria's kidnappers.
Benton was the other human of the six-person group. His introduction into vampire society was less pleasant than the rest of us, though none of us on the team had a happy-go-lucky life to begin with. Losing Steven definitely isn't my idea of a fun time, but my heart goes out to Benton. He was fifteen when he met his first vampire, a scrawny, pale runaway. Having spent a week away from home, Benton was wandering an alley behind some restaurants well after dark, hoping to find some edible food that had been tossed away. The young goth wannabe, clothed in a ripped and stained black shirt and too-tight black pants, was buried halfway in a trashcan when he heard a throat clearing behind him. He stood up, terrified, thinking he'd been caught by a police officer. Instead, he gazed upon a pale man dressed in a dark suit. The man advanced on him, knocking him into unconsciousness, and Benton spent the next two years chained in the rogue vampire's basement with two other boys as unwilling food. When the man was destroyed, Benton and his companions were given their freedom and Benton pledged his life to his savior—Ado. He'd been forced to remain behind when Ado and Victoria went to the U.S. and he was convinced he could have helped to save Victoria from her horrid fate had he been allowed to go.
Felipe flipped a switch on a hand-held transceiver attached to his belt. An answering burst of static came back a second later and he nodded to the group. He began counting down from three on his fingers and I hefted my M249 light machine gun, leveling it at the door. As his last finger ticked down, Felipe stepped in front of the metal door and kicked it, blowing it clean off its hinges and into the dark interior of the building. I stepped just inside, standing in the small circle of light afforded by the entrance, and laid down a pattern of fire, covering the entire room from left to right, top to bottom. When my weapon clicked empty, Felipe yanked me out of the door and Jax stepped in, wielding a grenade launcher. It thunked three times as he pointed to other the three corners of the building, then he ducked back outside the door. We waited along the walls for the fire to clear before stepping into the interior.
Felipe lit two flares and tossed them at opposite ends of the room. He entered first, shotgun raised and ready, and I followed him in. Half a dozen bodies lay strewn about the space, tossed from the cots they had been sleeping on. I felt a slight twinge of guilt as I saw them, some blown into pieces, some still squirming as their bodies burned, struggling to hang on to the last bits of life. Then flashes of Victoria's writhing body and the body-wracking sobs of her sister Donna, my best female friend, flitted through my mind and I moved in with purpose, slitting the throats of those still alive, ending their suffering.
We heard the quiet pops of a weapon and an angry howl echoed from a door on the opposite side of the room. It burst open and two vampires, one bleeding profusely and spitting obscenities, stumbled into the room, where the wounded one collapsed. Ado and Benton were right on their tail, Ado with a stake in hand as he advanced on the uninjured vampire. The rogue turned on my teammate and I moved toward them.
Blood & Tears (Jane #3) is available for Kindle and Nook.
Other titles in this series:
Vampire Assassin (Jane #1) is currently available for $0.99 on Kindle.
New Blood (Jane #2) is available for Kindle and Nook.