Back Cover Blurb:
Sexy shifters, tortured vampires, and powerful witches fight the evil horde on the Las Vegas Strip…
In this short prequel, Connor Beckett is on a mission to thwart his cursed future and kill Oleksander the Destroyer. The vampire warlord, however, is locked away in a secret army prison. In order to find him, Connor must confront his very first vampire.
Except he can’t possibly comprehend the violence awaiting him.
With the help of his best friend, the witch Roz Carrera, Connor will track a vampire along Las Vegas Boulevard as he defies his prophecy and his future.
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Prophecy #616: Connor from Cleveland will release the Destroyer and trigger the
sleep, Connor Beckett propped his arms under his head and clenched his eyes
tight as he contemplated his prophecy. What a way to prove himself a fuck-up.
The damning words affected him as deeply this morning as they had the first day
he’d read them in the newspaper.
he’d seen the post, he’d known to his core, it was meant for him.
Connor from Cleveland.
onto his side in the nylon four-man tent and drew his knees toward his chest.
What else was he to do about the prophecy except thwart it?
shifted uncomfortably, and the entire structure quivered. “It’s so freaking hot,” she
complained. “What time is it?”
“Around five. I thought you’d be used to the heat. You’re from
Miami, aren’t you?” He seemed to remember she’d talked about Miami. How she’d
ended up at the University of Chicago, he still wasn’t sure, but he was damned
glad she’d enrolled. He couldn’t have chosen a better partner, though he
wouldn’t have guessed it until she’d outed herself at a frat party as a
“It’s humid in Florida,” she returned. “This is dry as fuck.”
Las Vegas at any time of the year was bound to be both dry and
hot, and there wasn’t much they could do about it. They’d spent most of their
combined funds to purchase the tent, a couple of packs, and two flights out of O’Hare.
The little money they had left was to keep them from starving to death and not for
luxuries like hotel rooms with AC.
“Get some sleep,” Connor said. “We’ll search the casinos again today.
You’ll be in the air conditioning, then.” They’d been searching for days for
leads—eyewitnesses to vampire activity or a real, live infected. They’d run
into a lot of rumors and cosplayers so far. No actual vampires. “Any new
“Not really.” With a huff, she spun and punched at the extra clothes serving as
a pillow. Connor turned the opposite way, his back to her. Maybe another guy, a
regular guy, a guy without a prophecy hanging over his head would have pulled
Roz closer and enjoyed her long, lithe body.
But Connor wasn’t a regular guy, and he did have a prophecy
hanging over his head. So, he settled in, closed his eyes, and tried to catch
one more hour of sleep. Their partnership was all business, and he needed the
witch on his side much more than he needed a hookup.
Besides, Connor preferred blondes.
“I can’t sleep,” she announced. “Do you mind? I
need to change clothes.”
Connor roused, stretched, and stepped out of the flimsy structure
into the sizzling desert air. Around him, people slept on, oblivious, in other
tents, trailers, and RVs across the campsite sprawled in the shadow of the Le
Sort Hotel. Squinting, Connor stared up at the shiny towers and endless rows of
reflective glass blocking out the sky, imagining staying in a resort with all
the luxuries money could buy at his fingertips.
“Must be nice,” he grumbled.
He’d grown up poor in Cleveland, the only child of a single
mother. An engineering degree from the University of Chicago was supposed to
change his trajectory, but then he’d gone and carpet-bombed his life by running
off to Vegas with a strange witch.
There may still be hope for his fiscal future, though. His
grandfather had died recently and left him an enormous trust fund, but then an
aunt he’d never met had contested the will, and the money was still tied up in
probate. Connor might never see a cent of it, which was fine with him. He had
so many great memories growing up with his grandpa, and they were worth more
than any fund. Somehow, he and Roz would make their plan of finding a real
vampire work. Money, or no money.
He dismissed the view of the resort and grabbed his pack, rifling
through it for a sketchbook and pencil. Perching on an upturned log, he
balanced his book on his knee and picked up where he’d last left off—practicing
eyes. Dark, comic, feminine, furious. He drew and drew, spitting out every
variation he could think of, trying to improve his style with each stroke of
But even while drawing, thoughts of vampires were never far away.
It had been a long twenty years since vampires—or infecteds—roamed
free in the Ukrainian mountains, spreading vampirism and wreaking havoc. Twenty
years since Oleksander the Destroyer had been picked up by the U.S. Army after his
failed attempt at invading Prague and been squirreled away somewhere in the
Nevada desert along with most of his horde. It had been so long, and vampires
had been so quiet since, that people had begun to forget. Connor believed,
though, that they were still out there, the leftovers.
“Hope you like potato chips for breakfast,” Roz said, climbing out
of the tent with her laptop under one arm and carrying a crumpled bag of chips
in the other hand. “It’s all we have left.”
“Go ahead.” He’d rather skip breakfast.
In the lavender glow of dawn, she dropped crisscross onto a patch
of synthetic grass and opened her laptop. She munched a couple of chips,
clicking the touchpad.
“More emails?” he guessed. She’d been sending messages to wealthy
people and companies with known interests in the paranormal asking for help.
She had a whole wish list of vehicles, weapons, and tech she hoped to acquire
for their mission to find Oleksander’s prison.
The only problem with super secret, underground military prisons
was they were really hard to find.
“No, but do you remember the missing persons cases I told you
about?” she asked. “I cross-referenced the ones from the last year looking for
patterns that might indicate supernatural events.”
Even though he’d gone to the same university as her, Connor only
understood about half of that. What he comprehended very well was, he needed to
locate a vampire to lead him to Oleksander. Whatever it took.
“Find anything?” While she chewed and scrolled, he put away his
sketchbook and started tearing down their campsite for the day. The tent stayed
to hold their spot, but he loaded everything portable into one giant pack. The
last thing he did was strap a hunting knife in its sheath to his hip. Just in
“I don’t know, yet. It’s gonna take some time.” Her voice trailed
off as she leaned into her screen.
Connor swung their pack over one shoulder, keeping his wallet and
a bottle of water out for their walk. “I’ll go check in with Remy.”
Roz grunted a goodbye.
Remy and his common law wife Precious were sprawled on an outdoor
sofa in front of a piecemeal singlewide trailer near the center of camp. Over
time, Remy had added a front porch, a roofed garden, and a wraparound wooden
deck to protect from the blistering heat, and the structure looked more like an
arts and crafts project than a home.
“Can I leave this with you?” Connor greeted, indicating his pack.
“Hey, man.” The grizzled slice of human-shaped beef jerky peeled
himself off the sofa. “You bet. Where you off to today?”
Connor propped the heavy pack against the trailer wall. “Casino
crawling,” he said. “What about you?”
Remy grinned. “I am the king of all I survey, dude.” He swept his
arm out to indicate his campground kingdom.
“Some king,” Precious snorted.
A U.S. Army decal in the trailer’s window caught Connor’s eye.
Giving Remy a second look, Connor considered whether the guy could have served
in the Vegas area around the time Oleksander and his infected horde disappeared
into secret prisons.
“Remy, what do you know about vampires?”
The older man cleared his throat. “Well, just about everything
there is to know,” he replied. “Back in my army days, I was ordered to guard
“You’ve seen them? You know where they are?”
Remy put one finger to his lips and winked.
“You think you’re going to hunt vampires?” Precious eyed Connor up
and down, all six feet of him, a huff of a laugh escaping. “Good luck.”
“What she said,” Remy replied.
The couple’s out-of-tune laughter followed Connor all the way back
to Roz and his campsite.
“Ready?” Roz stuffed the laptop and chips into a knapsack and
stomped off toward the road fronting the camp.
It was only a meandering half a mile to The Strip, not far enough
to warrant hitchhiking. So, they walked in silence through eerily quiet and
empty streets. The only other people up and on the sidewalks before six a.m. were
fitness nuts and gamblers who hadn’t gone to bed yet.
Roz bowed her head over her phone. “Whoa. Four days ago,” she said
without looking up, “a waitress named Tara Reeves was attacked in the wee hours
and drained of blood. She survived. I can’t believe I didn’t see this earlier.”
“Any details?” This could be the break they were waiting for. This
Tara person could point them toward the vampire who hurt her.
“Not in the press,” she said, scrolling and clicking at warp
speeds. “But social media is a different story.” Roz nearly stepped into a
light post, but Connor steered her around it in the knick of time. Still too
invested to look up, she added, “Here it is. She works at the Lucky Hand.”
Finally, peeling her gaze from her phone, Roz quickened her pace. “Let’s go.”
Inside the cavernous casino, Connor and Roz roamed the floor,
checking nametags. A cute little barmaid passed them named LeeAnn.
“Is Tara Reeves working today?” Roz shouted after her.
“Tara’s working the poker machines, love,” the woman said in an
adorable British accent that landed pleasantly in Connor’s ears. “Northeast
From there, it wasn’t hard to find the right waitress.
“Tara Reeves?” Connor questioned.
A tall and svelte woman with overdone brown hair startled at the
sound of her name, her tray of half empty tumblers rattling. “Sorry, honey,”
she said, avoiding eye contact, “I’m extra busy today. Gotta cover for my
friend who didn’t show up.”
Connor elbowed Roz and gave her a nod, indicating she should take
this one. Roz had bite to her, but he sensed Tara might talk to a female more
easily than him right now. It had only been four days since the attack, and she
still sported bruises under a layer of make-up.
The unlucky woman wouldn’t change into a monster, though. He and
Roz had done their homework. Vampirism was spread through infected bodily
fluids entering a person’s blood stream through a cut. It was usually
intentional, not accidental. Tara had been a meal to her attacker, nothing
Roz hurried to catch up to the fleeing barmaid. “I know you’re
busy. This job probably sucks ass. Can I just ask you a couple of questions? We
heard you told the police you were attacked by a vampire. We’d really like to
know the details.”
Tara stopped fast, and ice cubes clinked. “You want to know about
vampires? Are you two a couple of idiots, or something?”
Roz made an incomprehensible sound before Tara rolled right over
“Yeah, I got bit, but the cops don’t give a shit. They talked to
him, he had some BS alibi, and they let him go. They weren’t that excited about
a serial biter, you get me?”
“You can identify who attacked you?” Roz clarified with more than
a little zeal shining in her eyes.
“You really are idiots,” Tara scoffed. “Go see him, then. He calls
himself Adrian, and he hangs out at the blackjack tables across the street.
Real great guy. Have fun.” With a disgusted snort, she was off again, weaving
into the crowd.
Connor sent Roz a nervous look. Could it be that easy?
“They’re really in the city,” he breathed. “It’s not just rumors.”
Roz nodded. “This is why we’re here, right? Let’s go find him.”
A vampire playing blackjack didn’t fit Connor’s preconceived
notions of mindless, rabid predators feasting on fountains of blood, but it
didn’t sound too dangerous. They’d be in a crowd, after all, and captured on
probably a hundred different recording devices.
With a nod, Connor turned and led the way outside into the suffocating
heat. Buffeted by the growing crowds, they crossed the street on the pedestrian
bridge and strolled into the casino. A Scandinavian-themed mega-resort, there were
probably dozens of blackjack tables studding the main casino floor, not to
mention private games on other floors for celebrities and high rollers. It
might have been a needle in a haystack sort of issue, except the casino floor
was nearly empty and Connor knew the infected in the room almost the moment he
Adrian, who’d attacked Tara the barmaid in the early morning hours
and almost drained her to the point of death, hunched over one of the only game
tables operating before noon. He was by far the best looking man in sight—glossy
auburn hair, a bit of scruff across a well-defined jaw, and a suit that hung tailor-made
on his athletic body.
But he didn’t look so tough. He may be handsome, but handsome didn’t
threaten Connor. He’d been training for this daily from the moment he stepped
off the plane. He could take him.
After readjusting the sheathed knife on his hip, Connor made a
beeline for the infected at the blackjack table, only slowing down when he marched
to within striking distance. At Connor’s approach, the vampire glanced up.
“Room for one more player?”
Adrian didn’t even let the dealer answer. With inhuman strength
and speed, the vampire slammed the woman on the stool next to him into Roz’s
arms, toppling them both to the thick carpeting. Connor turned his attention
away for a split second just as Adrian struck at him. Teeth, meant for Connor’s
carotid artery, sank into his shoulder instead. Cloth and flesh tore. Sinew and
All Connor wanted to do was talk to the infected. A couple
questions about the army, Oleksander, and how to kill the warlord. He hadn’t
expected Adrian to attack without hesitation.
Vampires were a lot faster and stronger than he’d anticipated.
Connor’s arms finally came back online, and he pummeled the
vampire’s ribs, first his right and then his left, hard punishing blows that
didn’t seem to faze Adrian one bit.
A pair of beefy security guards arrived and startled the vampire who
tossed Connor to the ground like a discarded toy. He leapt on top of the
blackjack table and fled through the crowds at top speeds. One of the security
guards halfheartedly ran after, while the other radioed for paramedics as he knelt
“Buddy, how you doing?”
Not too well. “Roz?” Connor called out
instead. “You okay?”
“I’m here,” came Roz’s brusque yet annoyed voice in the crowd
right before she smacked the guard’s bicep. “He’s fine. Worry about the asshole
that did this to him.”
Roz grabbed Connor by the shirt and shook him, not an easy task
considering he outweighed her by over fifty pounds. In a lower voice, she said,
“Get the fuck up before they call the cops.”
It was difficult to explain to the police why Connor was on a
mission to find vampires. They didn’t always subscribe to the Oracle’s
prophecies. Best to stay off their radar, so Connor rose on shaky legs and waved off any help from the rent-a-cop.
“I’m good,” he assured. “He was too drunk to do any damage.”
Wishful thinking. The blood may not be visible
through Connor’s dark clothing, but he could feel it oozing down his chest and
arms, just enough to piss him off.
Stumbling out of the casino and onto the sidewalk, Roz directed
Connor into the next public building and a family restroom.
“What are you doing?” he demanded as she locked the door.
“You’re bleeding.” She spread her arms at her sides and said,
“Blessed is my power. I call upon thee.” A magical windstorm whipped into
being, swirling around her legs and hips. It started at her feet, ruffling her
clothes as it spiraled up her body and played with her long dark tresses. When
she raised her eyes, they shone with power. “Heal,” she whispered.
As she spoke her spell, repeating words of healing and comfort,
Connor watched her. Rozlyn Carrera was a remarkable sight. She seemed to
sparkle from her feet all the way up to the crown of dark hair on her head as
magic oozed out of her pores.
He stared, mesmerized, as a tickle began in his shoulder. He
rolled the wounded arm and sensed the bite was closing up. “It’s working.
You’re doing it.”
A few minutes later, her power exhausted, she ceased casting.
Connor’s shoulder wasn’t good as new, but it was markedly better than it had
“Thanks,” he said, holding the door for her as they made their way
back onto Las Vegas Boulevard. “I don’t want to lose him, Roz. He’s the first
vampire we’ve even gotten close to.”
“He’s had a taste of blood,” she said. “But he’s not full. I have
a hunch he’ll stick around here until he finds a victim he can drain.” She sent
him a look full of nervous energy. “We need backup.”
Roz stomped onto the camp manager’s front porch amid Precious’
half-hearted protests and settled her hands on her hips. “Remy, do you know
anything about vampires, or not?”
“Who do you think locked them up?” Remy inhaled, puffing up his
chest. “I was a wet-behind-the-ears private back then, but the army had me
pouring cement and bolting steel doors together so the infecteds couldn’t escape.”
“At least one of them got away. He’s on The Strip right now.”
“What?” Remy coughed, his chest deflating. “Are you sure?”
“We’re sure.” She laid a hand on Connor’s shoulder and drew away a
blood-red palm. “You in?”
“You want to kill him?” Remy waggled his eyebrows at Precious. “I
know places you could dump a body.”
“No.” Connor huffed an uneasy laugh, not sure if the older man was
kidding. “No killing. I just want to ask him some questions, but he’s a little
hesitant to talk. I need your help convincing him.”
“I’m guessing he’s not too friendly.” Remy locked his front door
and jangled his keys at Connor. “You need stitches or something first?”
“Nah.” Connor ignored the pain throbbing through his chest and
blinked away a dizzy feeling. “This is more important.”
“Fine.” Remy pointed ahead. “Let’s go.”
“I’m coming, too.” Precious peeled herself off the outdoor sofa. “I’ll
get the guns.”
Remy rolled his eyes as Precious hobbled inside the trailer on plastic
wedges. When she reemerged, she carried two large handguns. With much pomp and
circumstance, she handed a .357 to Remy and a .44 magnum to Connor.
Not sure where to hold it, Connor tucked it into the waistband of
his jeans, concealing it under his shirt. He really hoped he didn’t have to use
Remy stashed his handgun as well. “What kind of information you
all looking for?”
As a group, they meandered toward the lights and noise of The
“I have to find Oleksander the Destroyer,” Connor said.
Remy stuttered a step. “You must be kidding.” When Connor didn’t
answer, he added, “Twenty years ago, the army was so scared of that monster they
had him drugged and chained until he was as helpless as a little baby. What are
you gonna do with him?”
“Do you know where he is?” Connor pressed. “You said you were
“Well… I was around, that’s for sure, but the army moved them a
lot and I don’t know…”
Connor grit his teeth. So, Remy was more storyteller than
legitimate asset. It didn’t change what Connor had to do.
“Anyone else want a shot of tequila first?” Precious asked,
veering toward a casino bar. “Liquid courage?”
Remy pulled her away from a grinning bartender. “Later.”
Ignoring the couple, Roz touched Connor’s arm, snapping his
attention onto her. “You good?”
He nodded jerkily. “The walking helps.” He attempted a smile.
“What’s the plan?”
“Well, he’d be an idiot to go back to the same casino,”
Roz said, dropping her hand. “The security staff knows his face, and now he won’t be able
to walk through the front door without being recognized. But he seems to like
the casinos,” she added. “I think he’ll strike again in the same area.”
“We have to find him,” Connor said. “This is the best lead we’ve
found since we got here.” While Remy was distracted taking care of Precious,
Connor leaned in toward Roz. “I have to kill Oleksander,” he whispered, staring
directly into her anxious brown eyes. “I can’t be the guy who lets him out and
starts the fucking apocalypse. I can’t.”
“Okay. We’ll talk to Adrian.” Roz started walking again. “But there
are thousands of people on the street in constant movement, thousands more on
casino floors, not to mention the people in hotel rooms, restaurants, malls, theme
parks… I’m estimating a less than one percent chance of finding him before he
feeds and disappears.”
“You’re not helping,” Connor grouched as they hit the street in
front of the last place they’d seen Adrian.
“This is it?” asked Remy. “This is where he took a chunk outta
Roz ignored the retired soldier and searched the crowds. “If I were
him, I’d have left here in a hurry. And there are so many other places I could visit.
So many options.”
Yeah, no kidding.
Roz continued, “But if I was hungry, I might go across the street
and start over.” She nodded her head in the direction of the palatial resort on
the other side of Las Vegas Boulevard. “More blackjack. More victims. And a
security system that won’t recognize him. Let’s check it out.” She graced
Connor with a concerned glance. “What do we have to lose? Right?”
No choice, he thought glumly as he
followed her across the pedestrian bridge and into the marble-lined entrance
Precious stumbled in her preposterous shoes. “Can we get a drink
“Soon,” Remy assured, steadying her. “Very soon.”
Adrian lounged at a low-limit blackjack table near the hotel
elevators. He wore the same immaculately tailored suit, completely unruffled
from their earlier fracas, betting on a new hand. The vampire appeared
unperturbed, but Connor could still feel the blood on his skin, dry and scaly.
“You’ve got his habits figured out,” Connor applauded. “Now, I’ll approach
him. Stay back and cover the spells in case he gets mean again.”
Connor rolled his aching shoulders, and the vampire caught his
eye. The bastard smiled a warm slow smile and wiggled his fingers at Connor
before turning back to his game.
“Son of a bitch,” Connor swore. Adrian was going to make this
difficult, he could tell. Connor didn’t want to fight him. He only wanted to
ask him a few questions.
“Is that him?” Precious asked
“That’s him,” Connor agreed, not taking his eyes off the vampire.
Adrian folded his hand, swept his chips into a pocket of his suit,
tipped the dealer, and sauntered casually toward the hotel elevators.
“You and I,” Remy hissed at Connor, “grab him and hold him still.
If he tries anything, I’ll shoot him. That seems like a good plan to me.”
Connor nodded as he and Remy followed in his wake. Once the
vampire looked back, giving Connor a flirty glance before heading past the
elevators into a suite of meeting rooms. Connor started to run. The vampire popped
open a locked door and slipped into one of the closed meeting spaces.
“Blessed is my power I call upon thee.” With those words, Roz
brought a small invisible windstorm indoors.
Betting an awful lot on Roz’s magic, Connor ducked through the
door a step ahead of Remy. The dim space was in varying stages of transformation—the
floor was stripped to the bare concrete, one stage had already been framed in,
and a multitude of electric and hand tools lay strewn about the room.
Connor didn’t have a chance to locate the vampire before a fist
with the power of a battering ram behind it hit him on the side of the head,
and he went down. Remy got tossed in the opposite direction, the weapon in his
hand skittering across the floor and under the stage.
Connor’s vision dimmed. On his knees, he reached
for a handgun that wasn’t there. Damn it. Why hadn’t he kept tabs on his gun?
went any and all magic in the room. Roz didn’t perform well under pressure.
“Hold on a goddamned second,” Connor roared.
“We’re not here to hurt you.”
Adrian chuckled. “You think you’re the wolf? No,
sweetheart, you’re the bunny.”
“Roz, run,” Connor hissed. But when he caught
sight of her, she was frantically trying to call her power.
Connor fumbled for the blade on his hip, missed,
grabbed it again and slid it across the floor in Roz’s direction in a lame
attempt to protect her.
She didn’t pick it up. The infected did.
Connor watched, numb, as Adrian threw it overhand
at Roz. She put her hands up to deflect and thwack
the blade pinned her palm to the wall beside her head.
Precious stumbled into the room, brandishing a
pocket-sized pistol. “Where’s the bloodsucker?”
Adrian’s arm snaked out, his hand closing around
the woman’s throat. As Connor watched, paralyzed, the infected slung her pistol
away and crammed his hand into her mouth. With a solid punch and a little
wiggling, he reached into her chest cavity via her esophagus.
Vomit spewed uncontrollably as Connor scrambled to
his hands and knees. He retched hard enough to cry.
“Roz?” Connor gasped. Good God, where was she? He
tried to tell her again to run, just get out as fast and as far as she could, but
he couldn’t force the words past his lips as Precious flopped onto the
concrete, blood splattering everything within a six foot diameter.
Remy, finally gaining his feet, rushed the
vampire, but Adrian used his momentum to spin him face first into the wall.
With a sickening flourish, Adrian bowed over Precious
and tore organs from her throat as she spasmed beneath him—lungs, liver, Connor
couldn’t differentiate. Whatever the vampire found, he took big, hungry bites
Groaning, Connor struggled upright even as his
head spun. A concussion was the least of his concerns right then.
“Roz,” he tried again. “Go.”
Remy, coming to, made a move for the vampire and
got in a nice tackle before the infected noticed him, but it was no use. Adrian
tore a two-by-four the size of a Louisville slugger from the half-constructed
stage and captured Remy, holding the board to his throat. With a bloody smile,
Adrian pulled back.
He’d made a
terrible mistake. Roz was going to die. Remy was going to die. Connor was
going to lose everything.
He was an even bigger fool than his prophecy forewarned.
Bracing himself, he saw with perfect clarity all
the things he’d done wrong today. Everything from letting himself be led away
to bringing Precious along. There had been a lot of errors, and the learning
curve was steep when it came to vampire hunting, but he wasn’t finished yet.
could do this. He and Roz could figure this out.
His weapons long gone, Connor picked up a
discarded screwdriver and staggered forward.
“Roz, answer me,” he called into the dim room, not
daring to look back and take his eyes off the vampire.
“I’m fine,” she whimpered. “Don’t worry about me.
Just kill him.”
“I’m so happy you returned.” Adrian chuckled as
Remy turned horrific shades of plum. “Thank you. Really. I tried to make it
easy for you to find me, and here you are.” He jostled Remy, whose body
appeared to be seizing. “And you brought more snacks. Today could not have gone
Adrian leered as Connor slid through Precious’
blood, his weapon up. The moment Connor was close enough to hit, Adrian kicked
out, knocking him flat without ever letting up on Remy’s throat.
The only mistake the vampire made was letting
Connor fall within striking distance. Connor stabbed the screwdriver into the infected’s
thigh with as much strength as he had left. The tool scraped bone and hit with
a wet little punch all the way to the handle.
“Where’s Oleksander?” Connor demanded. “Where’s
The vampire swatted Connor in the back of the
head, but for a moment, his grip slackened on Remy and the man twisted free,
sputtering and puking all over the cold concrete floor. Connor pulled out the tool
and lodged it again in the vampire’s thigh. Higher up. This time when he pulled
it out, a hot gush of blood spurted. He’d hit an artery.
“Where is he?”
“You little shit,” the vampire spat. “Stay the
fuck down.” He hammered his head.
Connor didn’t so much hit the floor as floated
there, half conscious, his vision wobbly and corrupt.
Remy had gathered his strength and swung at the
back of the vampire’s skull with the board. Over and over. Fast, brutal blows.
Blows meant to not only incapacitate but to kill. Three or four of those and
the vampire lay motionless beside Connor, his crushed face a mess of blood and
“No,” Connor cried. A dead vampire couldn’t lead
them to the army’s secret prison and Oleksander. A dead vampire was of no use.
“Does he have any money?” Remy demanded, ignoring
Connor and ransacking the vampire’s pockets. He must have found something
because he arched his back and howled like a wolf into the open space. “Wooie,
motherfucker. What a rush!” Then he turned on Connor. “What about you,
dipshit?” He pulled and patted, thrusting his hands into Connor’s pockets,
discovering his last four hundred dollars. Money meant to feed him and Roz for
the month. Money that would keep them alive and off the streets.
Then he pilfered Connor’s class ring, his watch,
and his shoes.
“Thanks,” Remy guffawed. “I always liked your
When he went after Roz, Connor pushed himself to
his elbows. The whole room tilted so far to the left he was sure he’d slide
right off, and his stomach whined in protest.
“Leave her alone,” Connor slurred.
Remy slammed the end of the board into Roz’s gut,
doubling her over. She cried out, and the sound twanged through Connor.
There was an awful moment when all he heard were
the sounds of cloth rustling and Roz’s quick, pained breathing.
“I’ll kill you,” Connor said, on his knees now.
“Who are you going to kill?” Remy swung the bat
across Connor’s back.
He fell to his side, his body a mass of pain.
“I’ll kill you for hurting her.”
“My girl’s gone.” Remy brought the board down hard
on Connor’s lower leg. The angle was all wrong, the trajectory too. His bone
snapped. “But you don’t have anything to say about that, do you?”
Connor curled upon the floor as the lights
flickered and the only sound that reached him was the two-by-four bouncing
against concrete as Remy dropped it and fled.
Someone was calling his name. Connor peeled open
“Get the fuck up!” Roz smacked him with bloodied
hands. “We have to get out of here.”
“Roz?” Everything hurt.
“Get up!” she hissed, yanking at his shirt.
He slid his hands underneath him, found the .44
magnum wedged under his ribs, grabbed it, and with Roz’s help, he climbed to
his one good leg. They lurched further into the darkened room.
“I wrecked the cameras outside,” Roz panted,
pulling him toward an emergency exit door. “But we gotta hurry. We can’t be
here for long.”
Connor’s thoughts cleared enough to remember the
vampire. Precious. The blood. The organs. He looked back. There was no body on
“Gone.” They stumbled through the door into a dark
loading area. “He took Precious’ corpse and ran.” She elbowed him in the ribs.
“Just keep your head down, and don’t pass out on me.”
Connor knew where he was before he even opened his
eyes. Hospitals had their own unique vibe. And he knew he’d been there for a while,
because his body didn’t hurt the way he expected it to. His leg was
surprisingly numb. His head, too. And he was in a soft, comfortable bed that
smelled of detergent instead of stale sweat and sleeping bags.
He finally opened his eyes to find Roz hovering at
“It’s okay,” she assured. “By some miracle, you’re
He made a pathetic noise to mean, What happened?
Somehow, she understood. “I didn’t tell the cops
anything, so don’t worry about that. If you’re asked, we were jumped at a house
party. But,” she sighed, “Remy ran, Precious is dead, the vampire ghosted, and we’re
on our own.” She added, “I haven’t gone back to the camp, but I’m guessing whatever
gear we left behind is Remy’s now, too.”
Feeling a little stronger, Connor sat up. “Your
hand?” he managed.
She raised her neatly bandaged right hand.
“Stitches and some physical therapy. No permanent damage.”
He squeezed his eyes closed, so many conflicting thoughts
and memories chasing each other inside his head. Their first real encounter
with a vampire had been a complete fuck up. A woman was dead. Connor was
broken. Maybe he was asking too much of Roz.
How could he expect her to stay in such an awful
situation, hunting creatures that could maim her with the flick of a wrist? The
prophecy was his, not hers, to bear.
“You don’t have to stay,” he told her.
She swatted his bicep. “Shut the hell up.”
She was so brave, smart, and driven, but he feared
he was an anchor around her neck. “You should go home.”
“No.” She scowled at him as if he’d hurt her.
Again. “Don’t you remember when you sold me on this little catastrophe back in
Chicago? You said—hunt vampires, kill them, find Oleksander, kill him, and do
it with my magic backing you up. And I didn’t take you that seriously, I’ll be
honest, but then I saw you ready to die to cancel out your prophecy and it hit
me how important this is to you.”
“It’s not your fight.”
“I’m not abandoning you. I don’t care about your
honor or any of that other crap.” When he didn’t respond, she asked, “When you said
you believed in my magic, was that bullshit?”
It wasn’t bullshit. He’d seen her call magic. She was
spectacular when she controlled her power.
“I believe in you,” he amended. “But I can’t watch
you be stabbed and beaten anymore.”
“Agreed. We need a better plan and better
He sighed. She wasn’t getting it. “Roz,” he began.
“No. Shut up. Listen to me for a second. After seeing
you lying like a broken, bloody corpse on a dirty Las Vegas sidewalk, I
realized how much help you really need. And I decided, then and there, I’m here
for the long haul. I promised to support you with every ounce of magic I have,
and you promised we’d do some good in this world. Ridding humanity of the
vampire infection is damned good work.” She crossed her arms tightly. “I was
there in that room with you, don’t forget. I saw him eat Precious alive. I
smelled the blood. That creature is
too dangerous to live. We need to stop him and everyone else like him. For
Connor shook his head. Watching her in pain and
being unable to help had nearly split him in two. He couldn’t do it again.
But Roz spoke first, “Don’t ever tell me to go home
again. I don’t have anything to go back to.”
He caught her nervous gaze and read her
determination, fearing if he cut her loose, she’d only hunt vampires on her
own. He couldn’t risk her getting herself killed.
“Me, either,” he admitted softly. “This is it for
me. I don’t have a plan B.”
make a promise. We don’t leave until the job is done.” She stuck out her
uninjured hand. “Deal?”
Finally, he took her small but strong fingers in
his and shook on it. He took a breath to say more when her phone chirped. She
frowned at the screen. “It’s an international number. New Zealand, I think. That’s
weird. Do you care if I answer it?” she asked, already reaching for the green
button and then the speakerphone. “This is Roz.”
“Roz Carrera?” the female voice queried. “The
vampire huntress? Is it really you?”
“In the flesh.” She shrugged helplessly at Connor.
“Oh, my God,” the woman said, a bit of a Kiwi
accent emerging. “Anton,” she shouted over the phone, “it’s her. Get in here.”
Then, “Roz, this is Natasha. I got your email last night.”
“I’m sorry,” Roz said, leaning back in her chair,
“what is this about?”
“Oh, right.” The lady laughed. “Sorry. My brother
and I want to fund your hunt for Oleksander the Destroyer, and we have a lot of
ideas to discuss.”
Connor’s eyes widened in cautious excitement.
“That’s amazing,” Roz said. “I have a lot of ideas
of my own. First, though, if you’re serious about funding us, we need a place to
stay and some very specific gear—today.”
“Absolutely,” the lady said. “Do you know where the Le Sort Hotel is? Daddy went to university with the CFO. I’ll get you a suite for as long as you want it. As for gear, we’ll ship you anything you need. But first, Roz, you gotta tell me—what are vampires really like?”
The story continues in Shopgirl’s Prophecy (Beasts of Vegas #1)…
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