Here are the first few chapters from my soon-to-be-released dark vampire fantasy, A Scarlet Fever, book 1 in the Bloodborne Pathogens series (see the blurb here). If you’re interested in an adult vampire story, where the main character finds herself unexpectedly transformed, and has to fight the beast inside her while battling the things that go bump in the night, all while trying to keep from reeling into the bed of the nearest blood sucker, I hope you enjoy!
A Scarlet Fever: Scene 1
‘But some guys are worth the trouble, Mina thought as she scanned the club again.’
Mina’s dark eyes scanned the faces in the crowded club, seeking the eyes that flickered red in the pulsing light. She found them watching her. Her mouth opened as if to speak, even though the owner of the eyes was too far away to hear her in the cacophony of the club. Instead, her lips twitched into a sly smile as she turned to Cam, who’d just returned with another round of beers. Despite being perennially broke, Cam always managed to score free drinks, the good stuff too. If asked, Cam would wink and say it was her winning smile; Mina expected it had more to do with her roommate’s cascading locks and bedroom eyes.
Mina took the beer Cam offered her, giving up on keeping a tally, then leaned towards her. “What do you think of him?” she shouted over the music, indicating the location of her watcher with her chin, forcing herself not to look in his direction. She took a swig of the beer, and her lips tingled and her ears buzzed: the good stuff was stronger than the swamp water she was used to.
“Him who?” Cam shouted back, looking in the direction she’d indicated. Mina looked over her shoulder. Amber Eyes had disappeared again.
“Hmm, he was just there,” she said as her gaze trawled the crowd. She took another mouthful of beer. “And I’d just started to have high hopes for the night.”
“Doesn’t matter what I think of him anyway. What do you think of this mystery man?”
Mina allowed herself a smile. “Hot. Sweltering.”
Cam grinned back, draping her arm around Mina’s shoulder. “Now aren’t you glad I dragged you out? Made you shave your legs and clean the paint from under your fingernails?” Cam turned her pearly smile on the hulk of a man who was checking her out before returning her attention to Mina. “All work and no play makes Mina a dull, tense girl.”
Part of her hated to admit it but Cam was right: she was enjoying herself. She didn’t know how Cam had managed to convince her to come out. Mina needed to go to school at frickin early o’clock in the morning to spend some time in the studio before her other classes, banging her head against the major art project she’d been struggling to complete so she didn’t fall even further behind. Then there was work in the afternoon since the rent wasn’t going to pay itself.
And she had an appointment with the executor of her mother’s estate tomorrow, in between school and work. She groaned. But maybe that was how Cam had managed it — she knew when Mina needed to cut loose. It always started with the reasoning that Mina needed to come to keep Cam out of trouble. But, more often than not, it ended up with Mina getting into trouble right along with her.
But some guys are worth the trouble, Mina thought as she scanned the club again.
The next song started, the bass pounding in her blood. Cam gave Mina a hug before going off to dance with the football player sidling up to her: her roommate had a soft spot for the beefcakes that Mina didn’t understand.
Still not finding the wolfish grin in the dark club, Mina sighed and downed the dregs of her beer, then jostled her way around the crammed dance floor to the bathrooms. She found the rear door ajar and went outside to cool off, making sure to replace the brick that had been left there to keep the door propped open. Despite the cool weather, the club had been close and sticky. She took a deep breath and looked up at the sliver of sky visible between the buildings. Part of the full moon was visible in the clear sky, but the ring around it presaged rain, or so her grandpa, smelling of salt, seaweed and cigarettes, had told her years ago when they went to visit him in his small house by the sea. She lit the cigarette she’d bummed from a woman in the bathroom. She felt buzzed but she usually only smoked when she was hammered. She could almost hear her mother’s disapproving voice.
“You shouldn’t do that, you know — it’ll kill you,” a deep voice said, definitely not her mother’s.
Mina felt a twitch in her gut. Her blood pounded a little quicker in her ears. She looked over her shoulder at the speaker. The amber eyes and puckish grin met her gaze. His skin was a warm caramel, even in the blue light of the night, and he had an accent she couldn’t quite place. Not Spanish, not French, but something Romantic.
She smiled and looked at him out of the corner of her eye. Long lashes framed the rich red-brown eyes and he had full lips ripe for kissing.
Throwing the cigarette butt to join the others that littered the ground, she crushed it with the heel of her boot.
“Yeah, there’s always something though, don’t you think?” she said, turning away and looking up at the sliver of moon again.
“Yes, there is always something.” He eased up behind her and placed his hands on her hips. “So we should make the most of each day. And each night.”
Mina’s breath tripped and her skin flushed. “Wanna dance?” she asked over her shoulder, trying to reassert her good sense. But that good sense got jumbled when she felt his breath whisper over the hairs on the back of her neck as he leaned into her. She could have sworn he was sniffing her, even though she had not perfume to smell.
“Not really.” He shifted a little closer. “But I will if you let me buy you a drink.”
She felt his lips move by her ear when he spoke. She weighed the effects of another drink on her good sense versus continuing their conversation here. She didn’t like the odds either way.
“Deal,” she said, resigned to getting into trouble again. She grabbed the hand that was moving her short skirt further up her thigh, threatening to expose the moth tattooed on her hip, and led him back into the packed club. After a couple of clinging, grinding turns on the dance floor, all good sense had left the building, and one of them decided it was time to head back to her place.
She scanned the club for Cam, or the football player she’d been dancing with, but couldn’t see either of them. Mina had a suspicion about where they’d gotten to. She pulled out her phone to let Cam know what she was up to but saw that Cam had beaten her to it: GONE 2 PLAY WITH A BALLER CU 2MORO.
Some wing man.
A Scarlet Fever: Scene 2
‘To watch. Not to interfere.’
Jack scowled down at the dance floor from the upper level of the club, ignoring the buxom brunette slithering up to him, trying to get his attention. Normally, he might have let her distract him for a while. However, tonight he was here to tail Luca, not a new assignment, and not one he enjoyed. So he scowled as he watched. Luca was unmistakable even in the mass of bodies. There were shades of his father in the lean, hungry look on his chiseled face, and Jack was more familiar with both father and son than he’d like to be. Luca was off to the side, at the edge of the strobe lights, nodding his head out of time with the music, as if he were listening to someone, though Jack couldn’t see who. What was clear to see was that Luca had a woman in his sights. Following Luca’s gaze, Jack caught glimpses of her: short skirt, lithe legs and high heeled boots, and black hair the kept obscuring her face, only allowing Jack glimpses of red lips and dark eyes. And the intricate tattoo on her bare shoulder. When she headed out back, Luca followed. Jack waited, tapping his fingers on the rail, not keeping time to a song he didn’t hear.
“God, you’re a pill tonight,” Bee said, coming to stand beside him. Jack glanced her way. Judging from her ruddy cheeks and the smell of her breath when she spoke, she’d had something to drink. He didn’t respond; instead he stepped away from the railing — and the brunette who hadn’t been dissuaded by Bee’s appearance.
“Where are you going?” Bee asked.
“To see what he’s up to.”
“What do you he’s up to?” she said, her eyes rolling.
“Who knows what he could be doing right now. Our instructions are….”
“To watch. Not to interfere.”
Jack looked back at the door Luca and the woman had gone out of. He was about to go in search of his prey when they came back, together now, and started dancing, though he was pretty sure her mom would not approve of those moves. Judging from her tattoos, he guessed she didn’t care what mom thought.
When Luca and the woman made to leave, Jack started to follow, ignoring Bee’s loud sigh, but he found his path blocked by a leather-clad woman with long, blond hair tied in a severe ponytail.
“Emily.” She sneered at him: she hated ‘Emily’. Em, one of his failures. Despite his best efforts, she hadn’t wanted to be rescued — she’d found a happy home in Matteo’s circle.
“Jack, is that the welcome I get after all we’ve been through?” She ran her red fingernails over his chest, up his neck and into his carefully tousled hair. She regarded the brunette with icy blue eyes then growled at her; the brunette, smarter than she seemed, backed away.
“I don’t have time for a reunion.” He picked Em up and moved her out of his way. She grabbed his arm, her grip strong, and dug her nails in.
“If you don’t leave Luca alone, you’ll have Matteo after you,” she said, flashing him a wicked smile of perfectly formed teeth, and ran a red fingernail along her cleavage. “I just say this because I have a soft spot for you. We’re supposed to be getting along now.”
“If Matteo doesn’t want me bothering Luca then he should keep him on a shorter leash.” Jack disengaged himself but by the time he and Bee got down to the main floor, Luca and the woman were gone.
A Scarlet Fever: Scene 3
Picking at a festering wound on his neck, his teeth flashed in a grimace and a gurgle rose in his throat….
He opened his eyes onto darkness. Sniffing the air, he found traces of metal and mould, tainted by a whiff of rotten eggs. His palms touched dampness, and where he lay was rough and hard, grating against raw flesh. The cold prickled skin stretched tight over taut muscles. Water dripped, and a low hum pulsed in his ears. His stomach ached and his body shook with the hunger.
He blinked, forcing his eyelids to open and close over gritty eyeballs. As he peered into the darkness, he started to pick out some tinges of gray amongst the black. Metal and concrete. He pulled his hulking frame off the moist floor, pushing himself up with knobbly knuckles. Sore muscles slid over aching bones as he moved stiff joints. He stood, hunched, and rubbed both hands over his almost hairless head. Picking at a festering wound on his neck, his teeth flashed in a grimace and a gurgle rose in his throat as a shadow slithered through his mind, carrying memories of freezing fire and burning ice. His hands were clammy and the skin was grey in the near dark. He looked at the oozing scab he’d picked off with a large, blackened fingernail. He stuck his finger in his mouth and sucked it clean.
An itch gnawed at his back, below his shoulder blades. He tried to scratch it with a grimy fingernail, but he couldn’t reach, no matter how he twisted or turned. He rubbed the spot against the rough surface behind him, but the itch niggled deep beneath the skin.
His ears twitched at a far off scratching, distracting him from his quest. He looked in the direction of the sound and thought he saw a lighter shade of black. Instinct took over. He shuffled his way down a corridor, searching for the moonlight, thinking of nothing beyond his gnawing hunger and burning thirst.
A Scarlet Fever: Scene 4
Maybe it was the drink, or maybe the stress. Or maybe it was the amber eyes.
Mina’s head throbbed and her mouth was dry. The unnatural sun shone cheerily through a kink in the blinds, piercing into her brain like a hot needle.
Sun? That’s not right. Why isn’t that right? Mina threw her arm over her eyes. “Because I have to be at school by 8:00,” she said to herself, her voice whiskey rough and smoke haggard.
That meant getting up before the sun did.
“Fuck.” Mina turned a stiff neck to look at the alarm clock. It wasn’t where it was supposed to be. She lifted her head and blinked to clear her bleary vision, the lids scraping like sandpaper over her eyeballs. Through narrowed lids, she saw that a lot of things weren’t where they were supposed to be. The usual state of organized chaos in her room had descended into just plain chaos.
Fighting a bone-deep lethargy, she sent a sore arm searching for the clock and eventually found it just under the edge of her bed. Setting it back on the bedside table, she looked at the time: 9:00.
“Damn.” Mina was about to draw her arm back and crawl out of bed when she noticed the mottled purple and blue. Bruises that hadn’t been there yesterday. She became aware of her phone ringing but it seemed very far away at the moment. As her gaze slid along her forearm, flashes of the night before played in her head. She noticed the crusted red under her fingernails. It wasn’t paint: Cam had made her clean them before going out. In her fuzzy memory, she felt them raking flesh. Then she saw the streak of dried blood on her other arm.
A metallic taste filled her mouth as bile rose into her throat from her unsettled stomach. Her mind was jumbled. Her last clear memory was inviting the man into her apartment; after that it was mostly shadowy gaps with a few jagged jigsaw images in between. Her cheeks burned as those fleeting images played in her mind. She’d never been much of one for the anonymous rough-and-tumble, hot-up-against-the-wall, on-the-pull sex, but she’d apparently been into it last night. Maybe it was the drink, or maybe the stress. Or maybe it was the amber eyes.
Her phone started ringing again, somewhere nearby, and she sent a hand searching for it. Finally she found it beside the nightstand, on the floor under her bra, just as it stopped ringing. Seeing the name, she groaned and dropped the phone on her jacket.
Mina lay back down. Her head pulsed and her stomach clenched. Tumbling out of bed, she stumbled to the bathroom, reaching it just as her stomach twisted again. Draping herself over the toilet, she retched. Mostly it was dry heaving but when she looked down, she saw flecks of blood in the water. When the heaving passed, she stood up on shaky legs and looked in the mirror. Her eyes narrowed at the bruises on her shoulder and the faint trail of blood across her chest. And a massive hickey on her neck.
Great. She hadn’t had one of those since high school. Good thing I like scarves. She went down on her hands and knees as her stomach heaved again, but this time nothing came up. She must have drunk more than she realized, though she could usually hold her alcohol. A disturbing thought crept into her brain.
Unless he drugged me. But she hadn’t let her drink out of her sight — she was too smart for that. She lay down on the tile floor, letting the cold numb her throbbing head. Maybe I’m getting sick.
“I can’t afford to get sick,” she said to the tiles. The tiles didn’t respond. Remembering that she was late for school, and hearing her mother’s voice tell her that a hangover was no excuse for skipping, she dragged herself up and into the shower, letting the hot water wash over her stiff aching body. She felt better by the time the water started to go cold.
Wrapping herself up in a towel, she headed back to her bedroom and surveyed the mess in front of her. The items from her bedside table were strewn across the floor, and the pile of books beside her desk had been toppled. She thought about not going to school, about going back to bed instead. This time she heard her mother’s voice telling her to do just that, if she was really sick, but Mina didn’t listen. Instead she shut her eyes against an untethered memory of her mother rubbing her back, saying she’d make her some kimchi jjigae.
Mina sighed and opened her eyes again. Her clothes from last night were scattered across the room. She picked these up and checked that everything that should be there was, not that she had anything worth stealing except her art supplies. The rest of the mess would have to wait. She tugged on a pair of dark jeans and a T-shirt that both passed the sniff test, then pulled on a pair of boots, high heeled black leather that hugged her calves — she needed to feel a bit more bad-ass today.
She put on her necklace, as she did every day, wearing everywhere except running and clubbing: a silver square, the Korean letter M, that her father had given her for her 13th birthday. The year before he passed. She turned it over, straightening out the chain.
Assessing herself in the mirror over the dresser, she took a few precious seconds to rub some lip stain into her pale cheeks and lips, and smudge on some eyeliner. She brushed on some mascara, somehow managing not to make a mess of it despite her shaky hands. She looked like a tarted up zombie, but it would have to do. She tousled her hair with the towel until it was barely damp, dry enough not to drip on her leather jacket.
Mina scratched at her neck as she packed up her bag, then grabbed a glass of water from the kitchen to wash down a couple of aspirin. Her stomach protested but didn’t revolt. She was starting to feel human again.
She rubbed her neck. The spot under the M pendant was itching, and the scratching made it worse. She checked out the spot in the mirror — a red patch had bloomed where it touched her skin. Mina frowned, then took off the necklace and placed it on her dresser. The itching subsided but the spot was still a petulant pink. Looking at the clock, she grabbed her jacket and messenger bag, collecting the few things she needed from the floor, including a scarf to cover the hickey, and headed to school.
There was still no sign of Cam.