Mia Blake wasn’t the first girl that was taken by the vampires.
She had heard all about the girls who were missing, and even though they were only “missing”, she knew in her heart that those girls were dead.
She felt sad for them, sure. But more than that, she felt glad that they had been strangers – not someone she knew, and certainly not her. Things like that didn’t happen to girls like her.
They always happened to someone else, and that’s why she barely blinked as she made her way across an empty football field, through a deserted parking lot, to meet a fate she had arrogantly assumed was reserved for other people.
She was a stupid girl.
She paid for it.
Writes Urban Fantasy / horror. Lives in Perth, WA. Loves expensive wine, gourmet coffee and all kinds of food. Currently working on a vampire novel (due May) and a mini-me (also due May). Grew up devouring Christopher Pike novels. Reads things by awesome people like Richelle Mead, Lilith St Crow and Kim Harrison .
Wombstone, Book 1 in the Vampireland series, is due to be released in March 2013. Read the first chapter here.
This is not a story about love. There is no happy ending. There is only darkness, and the struggle to avoid being consumed by it. This is a story about survival.
I don’t really know where to start, but there must be a place. A place before the world went dark, before I learned of the horror that existed in this world. Back when I was just a girl – though that seems so long ago, I sometimes wonder if it was just a dream.
I could start at the beginning, but where is the beginning? Was it the night I was taken? Or the balmy summer I spent falling in love, the last summer that I walked under the sun without it burning my flesh?
Maybe I should start with the night innocence came to a crashing halt. The night I was taken. Yes, I will begin my story there, in a frozen parking lot with a silent scream.
I was eighteen years old the first time I died. When I was first taken, I thought that that was it for me. I waited to die, to be torn apart by sharp teeth and vicious hands.
And I did die.
I just didn’t expect to wake up afterwards.
It was the last week of semester in our final year. I had just finished a mammoth session filling out college applications with my best friend, Evie. I remember little details – the way the last few falling blossoms from the Northern Red Oaks on campus looked like drops of fire on the early snow; the way my fragile human heart hummed with excitement that school was almost over; the way everything looked clean and new blanketed in snow. Most of all, I remember the stab of worry I had felt at taking the shortcut through the deserted football field to get home.
Blair Academy was smack in the middle of Blairstown, New Jersey. A hundred and fifty-something-year-old institution that sprawled luxuriously over four hundred manicured acres. It was preppy and expensive, and I was there because my father had attended school there, and his father before him. My father was dead. My mother was a high-powered corporate attorney who spent most of her time in her New York loft apartment with my stepfather, Warren. She had never really wanted children, and thought she couldn’t have any. She had lucked out with me – although she probably didn’t see it that way – and so I had never really had much to do with her. My father was everything to me. My mom moved to New York a few months after he died. She was meant to come home every weekend after her long week at work. She never did. I didn’t really mind. I didn’t resent her for not being my mother – I had never known or expected anything more from her, and I knew she loved me despite her maternal shortcomings. After Dad died I usually split my time between living on campus during the school week and spending weekends at our house, a few miles from school.
What I loved to do more than anything else was run. I was on the track team and when I was in the middle of a run, it was like I could fly. The college scouts had been at our annual running meet, and I had just filled out my application to a handful of elite track programs.
My best friend Evie was as poor as I was wealthy. She was on a full scholarship right through high school, and she was smart. She whipped my ass in most things academic. I had always been bright, but next to her I – and the rest of the general high school population – looked like a bunch of dumbasses. Needless to say, having a best friend who was a genius made study much easier. The girl had a natural talent for teaching and mentoring. Her parents weren’t dirt poor, but they struggled, and to have Evie at a school like Blair Academy made them so happy. Really, they were like my adopted family. People always asked if we were sisters, I don’t know why. We were both short and sarcastic but she was strawberry blond to my brunette, curly to my straight and had green eyes that were nothing like my blue ones. I had skin that turned brown after a day in the sun, where she had pale alabaster skin that practically glowed.
“You ok to get back to your room?” Evie asked, jerking me out of my idle thoughts.
I stopped as I realized we were standing at Evie’s car. She shook her set of keys and looking at me expectantly.
“I’m not going to my room,” I replied.
“Going to suck face with Jared?”
“You make it sound so endearing, Evangeline,” I said petulantly. “And yes, I am going to see Jared. I will most likely suck his face at some point tonight.”
“Gross,” Evie said. “He’s like my brother. I’ve known him forever.”
“So have I,” I reminded her. “And I sure am glad he’s not my brother.” I raised my eyebrows suggestively and laughed.
Evie made a face. “Get out of here before I throw up on you.”
I exchanged goodbyes with Evie and made a beeline for my own car. Teachers and day students got to park right at the entrance of Blair but most live-in students had to trek almost a mile to the regular boarding school parking slots. Sighing, I hoisted my bag higher on my shoulder and walked past a crown Victoria, a Bentley and a Ferrari before reaching the average-looking old clunkers in the student parking lot.
As soon as my feet touched the snow-covered oval, all thoughts of trigonometry and English lit dissolved. A jolt of adrenaline hit my stomach as I thought about finals, about Jared, about my eighteenth birthday in a few weeks. Everything was going so good.
Trudging through the silence, I began mentally making lists for an end-of-finals party at my perpetually parent-free house. Keg. Food. Decorations. New clothes. So, naturally, I wasn’t even looking where I was walking when the vampire stepped out from behind a shiny black truck. He was so close I almost tripped over him. I jerked back to reality, cursing myself for being so inattentive.
He was wearing jeans and a black sweater, and looked kind of like a thirty-something soccer dad with chocolate brown eyes, a hint of European heritage in his olive skin – Italian, maybe? – and black hair cut tight to his skull. He was the furthest thing from threatening I’d ever seen – during the day in a crowd I’d let my eyes linger on that handsome face – but at midnight in New Jersey, anything was possible, and all too often it was the threat of violence stepping out from behind a car. I averted my eyes and veered to the left, quickening my pace. My thoughts instantly shifted from beer and clothes shopping to serial killers and the can of bear spray in my handbag.
Pulse quickening, I passed hot dude and kept walking towards my car. It’s cool, he’s probably just a new teacher in the wrong lot. And then he spoke.
“Mia!” He called after me. I froze for a moment, then began to walk again. Faster, pushing my stride wider. Just get to the car.
He laughed, a deep, throaty chuckle that sounded like caramel and in any other situation would make me melt. Instead, it made me shudder inwardly, adrenaline spiking into my muscles.
“Sorry, gotta run!” I mumbled awkwardly, almost at my car.
“Mia Blake, don’t you remember me?” He padded casually after me, the timid mouse. “Ryan. We were in Bailey’s drama class together last semester.”
Bailey was a washed-up ballerina who liked to yell at her students. Of course I knew her, but I definitely didn’t know Ryan. He looked kind of old to be a student – not to mention,way too hot for me to forget.
I turned to face him, but kept walking backwards towards my car. The Honda Element sat less than twenty feet away.
“Oh, sure” I lied. “Bailey sucks.”
Ten feet to my driver’s door. I’m probably just being stupid, I thought, an unfortunate side effect of growing up two hours from New York. We might have been in a nice suburb, but even so – nice people generally didn’t loiter in parking lots and teenage girls rarely walked to their cars alone. Blairstown was a place where everyone was still on alert after 9/11, even me, and I’d only been eleven when the towers had fallen. Three girls had already gone missing from high school parking lots in New Jersey that year.
I am such an idiot. I should have gotten a ride with Evie.
Five feet. Walking backwards was harder than it looked, and my silver ballerina flats were getting ruined in the damp snow. Not that I cared about my stupid shoes.
“Well, gotta go.” I slid my key into the door of my car and unlocked it with a satisfying thunk.
“That’s not a bad idea,” he said, stepping so close, so fast, that I jerked back in fright. I heard the click of a car door opening nearby, and two more guys started to walk towards us.
I pulled the can of bear spray out of my handbag, the safety switch already off. He grabbed my wrist faster than I could push the nozzle down to spray a load of mace into his face, and squeezed so hard I could feel bone crunching on itself. I gasped and let go of the can. It bounced on the asphalt and rolled underneath a blue Camry a couple of cars away from us.
“Somebody help me!” I yelled, kneeing him in the groin.
He barely reacted. That figures, I thought to myself. No balls.
“Let go of me!” I demanded. “Help!”
“Stop struggling and be quiet,” he said calmly, his grip like an iron vice on both my wrists. He smiled, showing straight white teeth and matching dimples.
I opened my mouth and screamed as loud as I could, then fell hard against the car behind me as a fist slammed into my face. I saw stars and choked, warm blood dribbling from my nose.
Great, he probably broke my nose.
I looked up to see the taller of the two offsiders pointing a gun at my face. “No more noise,” he ordered in a thick South American accent.
With my eyes half shut, I gestured to my handbag. “Take it,” I said numbly, not feeling anything but utter shock at the turn of events in my otherwise normal night. “Here, take my grandmother’s ring. It’s worth at least-”
“Mia.” He cut in. “Honey, I don’t want your ring, or your Canal street knock-off.”
My heart dropped at what that could mean, and bile rushed up in my throat. Before I could swallow it back, I threw up all over his expensive-looking black loafers. I bet nobody had ever done that to him before.
“Goddamn it!” He swore, looking at the mess I had made. “Ford, get a towel or something.”
The shorter of the two guys – the one not pointing a gun at me – scurried towards a black van.
I stared in shock as he jogged back to us with a pink rag covered in oil, knelt down, and started wiping Ryan’s shoes.
“It’s not a knock-off,” I protested.
Nobody said anything.
“My boyfriend is going to kick the shit out of you.” Even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I couldn’t believe what I was saying.
“Boss, we need to get going,” the dude with the gun urged.
Ryan nodded, kicking “Ford’s” hurried hands away from his feet. “Dose her!” he barked, and something sharp stabbed into my forearm. My mouth formed a horrified ‘O’ as I saw the taller guy pressing the plunger down on a syringe that was already deep in my skin. He’d moved so fast, I hadn’t even had time to scream.
How did he do that so fast? “What-wha-” I spluttered through a mouth full of cotton wool.
A thousand thoughts ran through my addled mind, but I couldn’t move. Couldn’t yell out. Couldn’t even close my stupid mouth. I was literally frozen.
They are going to rape me and kill me and I am going to die.
They are going to bury me in the woods under the snow and nobody will ever know what happened to me.
Or maybe they’ll keep me alive in an underground basement.
Or maybe they want my kidneys.
I am so screwed.
And one terrified thought rose above the rest.
I don’t want to die.
The stuff stung as it made its way into my bloodstream, but the pain was short-lived. I didn’t even have time to collect my gaping jaw from the pavement and close my mouth before blackness descended over my vision and I crumpled like a rag doll. Rough hands carried me through the night air, and I landed somewhere that smelled like oil and cigarettes.
The last thought I could form before the darkness closed in was I should have run when I had the chance.
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