OMG, have I not updated this site since October?! I swear, I’m still here!
I won’t get into too much detail, but there were some issues with my current employer along with plenty of back and forth negotiations regarding my contract. With the backdrop of the pandemic, my parents nearly losing their home in a freak accident, and all the other day-to-day stresses, my focus had to narrow to work and my family. But I’m finally starting to peek my head out from under the rubble and slowly get back to the things I love doing (i.e. writing). I’m so glad COVID-19 cases are decreasing in the US thanks to vaccinations, at least for the time being. It’s good to see a little bit of normalcy and sunshine up here in New England.
Since it’s been so long, I wanted to share the first scene of FURIOUS ANGELS with you all (my newsletter subscribers received the entire first chapter, so make sure you’re signed up to receive more goodies from yours truly)! I’m still hoping to get this book finished by the end of this year, assuming another personal or national disaster doesn’t happen. Fingers crossed, but I hope you enjoy it, because it’s a pretty brutal opening to this crazy dark addition to The Order of the Senary Series.
*Please note, this is opening scene is not edited and is in first draft form.*
The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
Twentynine Palms, California
Fifteen Years Ago
The vampire’s skin was still sizzling as he slid across the floor, halting within inches of Kasen’s bare feet.
The door to the examination room slammed shut, trapping them both inside as Kasen stumbled back a few steps, instinctively raising his fists in a defensive stance. His heart somersaulted in his narrow chest, dread congealing in his gut like tar as he stared at the fallen vampire sprawled out in front of him.
The leech groaned, a terrible, wet gurgle, the whole right side of his face and arm roasted to a crisp. Angry red fault lines split his blackened skin as blood oozed from the crevices like lava. Dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit, the male looked like a prisoner, except this convict bore a wicked pair of fangs.
Kasen swallowed the taste of burnt flesh, resisting the urge to cover his mouth and nose with his sleeve, the stench cloying and tremendous in the confined space. He glanced at the mirrored wall across the room, sensing their eyes on him from the observation deck, even though he couldn’t see them.
They were always there, safe behind their fortress of privilege.
Wireless electrodes stuck to Kasen’s temples and bare upper body, the sticker pads pinching at his skin and hair. All he wore were his gi pants; no socks, no shirt, nothing that could inhibit movement. Sweat popped on his brow and dripped down his spine, his stomach roiling in a sea of acid and bile.
Another trial. Another nightmare.
Another day on death row.
“It’s okay, son.” The calm, deep voice of Dr. Robert Cronin resounded in his earpiece, sending a jolt through Kasen’s already primed nervous system. “Remember what we talked about.”
Kasen focused his attention on the pain-ridden vampire, the leech whimpering and trembling like a heroin addict in withdrawal. The vampire was also young and half-naked, maybe a little older than Kasen, but barely legal.
Had he been turned purely for this purpose?
The male dragged his broken body across the sterile floor, crawling toward the door in a futile attempt at escape, leaving smears of blood in his wake. When the leech sidled past the stainless-steel drain at the center of the room, he moaned again, a desperate, defeated sound that made Kasen flinch.
Cronin’s words kept him grounded. “You need to practice. If you don’t learn it in a controlled fashion, it’ll teach you in an uncontrolled fashion. And we don’t want that, do we?”
Kasen didn’t respond, his chest tight, too tight, panic snaking around his throat and wringing the courage out of him. The leech wasn’t tied up. He wasn’t even bound with tungsten chains like they usually were. And none of the Marines were in the room to protect him.
“Don’t worry, we won’t let anything happen to you,” Cronin reassured him, as if the doctor had read his mind—or his stunned expression. “Go on. Pretend he’s one of your brothers.”
Too bad the suggestion wasn’t entirely far-fetched.
The vampire raised his head, face twisted with agony and teeth bared, cringing under the harsh fluorescent lights. He glared at Kasen through the infinite black tunnels of his eye sockets, an endless void that sparked with the slightest gleam of fear.
Afraid of him…the leech was afraid of him?
Adrenaline jacked up Kasen’s heart rate until his breath shallowed and his pulse batted in his throat like a trapped bird. The vampire caught it, eyes flicking to his neck briefly, and the newfound power inside of Kasen triggered.
“That’s it, Kase,” Cronin resonated in his ear with an undeniable note of excitement. The frenzied beeping of the monitors erupted in the background. “Concentrate.”
Kasen reinforced his stance, steeling his spine, clenching his fists so hard the bones of his knuckles practically popped through his alabaster skin. A chill shook him and goosebumps spread over every inch of his body, the air humming with the electric buzz of his otherworldly energy. Just like Cronin had said, the more he used his trait, the better control he’d gained, and he somehow managed not to run screaming from the room.
The vampire choked out a gasp, obsidian eyes widening, while Kasen focused on slowing the energy down, hoping it wouldn’t just burst out of him like last time. He’d passed out back then, much like the first time the power had kindled inside him, and he’d been so embarrassed about the incident he refused to summon it for weeks.
But now he’d become accustomed to the gruesome visages brought before him.
Craving them, even.
His chi amplified, ushering him forward as he closed the distance toward the vampire. The leech was panting now, shaking his head over and over with obvious terror. The male scrabbled away from him like a cockroach, pressing up against the door as if he could disappear through it, and Kasen couldn’t deny the rush of satisfaction coursing in his veins, injecting him with a sense of dominance he’d never felt with his brothers.
Now he was the predator, not the prey whining and bleeding on the floor.
Kasen latched on to the vampire’s leg, gripping the leech’s muscular calf above his ankle. The male yelped, kicked at him, but Kasen hung on and pushed his energy into him.
An awful burning sensation ignited at Kasen’s elbow and swept up his arm, pain branding him as if he’d been the one who’d faced off his brother, Blaze, in the next room. But Kasen never let go as the vampire gawked at him with alarm and something close to wonder.
Then the male stopped fighting altogether.
Starting at the crook of his elbow, the leech’s seeping burns reknitted, the blisters deflating, and his raw skin smoothed as if a flame had never touched him.
Kasen gritted his teeth at the singeing in his own scalp, his every cell alight as he absorbed the burden of the leech’s pain. And like a soothing river of cool water, his chi mended the vampire completely, restoring his enemy to full capacity while Kasen suffered the male’s injuries in exchange for the power surge.
Even then, Kasen had quickly learned that his power—all power—cost a hefty price.
And he’d pay for it dearly.
When the agony finally subsided, Kasen released the male with an unsteady hand and retreated, back-peddling much like the vampire had done earlier. The leech blinked at him, once, twice, the sudden silence between them laden with foreboding. The male assessed his wounds, all of them gone, while Kasen cradled his own arm against his chest, the phantom sensation of being burned alive still reverberating through his bones.
The instant the leech leveled those Hadean eyes at him, Kasen saw it—the fear vanished, the only recognizable remnant of humanity left in him, submerged under the feral sheen of a monster with an opportunity for bloodshed.
And the vampire took it without hesitation.
Launching from the opposite corner in a blur so fast Kasen could hardly process it, the leech tackled him to the floor, all slashing claws and snapping teeth. The air burst from Kasen’s lungs on impact, his back slamming into the tile with his head following suit like a high striker at a carnival. Stars exploded before his eyes as he blindly shoved his forearm under the vampire’s chin in a vain attempt at protecting his own hide. Blows landed from every direction, as if he were battling a gang of monsters and not just a single leech, blood spraying everywhere as the male gashed him in the cheek.
It took a minute for Kasen’s shocked brain to circuit the sound, but he finally made sense of what Cronin was screaming in his ear.
Reverse it? How could he—
Another brutal jab to the head and a knee to the groin. He could barely think past the pain, but he’d somehow wrapped his hands around the vampire’s throat. The leech hissed and spat, limbs thrashing as Kasen held him at bay, his own fangs sliding into place at the threat to his life.
“Undo it, son! Undo the healing.”
The omnipresent darkness inside him yawned, serrated jaws opening long and wide, a black poison swelling in his veins and pumping through his heart, staining everything in its path. His vision changed, honed to a razor’s edge, pupils dilating much like the rabid creature on top of him, his gums throbbing with the need to kill, kill, kill. The desire consumed him, devoured every last ounce of his civility, eroding him to base instinct as he clapped his hands on either side of the leech’s head and rammed his thumbs into those bottomless sockets.
The vampire shrieked, a sound so horrifying it interred itself into Kasen’s gray matter for him to exhume later when he could regret it.
“No, Kasen,” Cronin, miles away now, “No!”
Kasen pinned the leech down now, reversing roles, digging his fingers in until he felt two consecutive pops, and those tunnels overflowed with blood and vitreous. The vampire’s flailing limbs sagged, now swiping at him to stop, but Kasen didn’t stop, couldn’t stop, possessed by a demon he could no longer control. Wrenching the male’s chin up, Kasen plunged his teeth into a muscular throat, sinking his fangs to the hilt, a gush of salted iron hitting the back of his tongue like a tonic. He sucked hard, tearing the leech open, the rush now a torrent of bittersweet ecstasy that left him moaning and burrowing for more.
Before he knew it, Kasen was hauled up and away, sputtering and gasping, drenched in the blood of a monster who’d been no different than himself. He glimpsed the lifeless body on the white floor, surrounded by a jagged halo of crimson, a syrupy stream racing toward that awful drain in the center of the room designed just for that purpose. Strong hands gripped him by his arms and nape, a cold swathe of tungsten carbide cuffing his wrists and ankles.
Now they use chains, he thought almost hysterically, but he didn’t resist them, his belly full and his head lolling to the side as the high took him for a ride.
In the short span of his sixteen years of existence, nothing had ever felt so wrong and so very right.
Cronin’s stern expression swam into view as a hand fisted in Kasen’s hair and jerked his head up. Kasen smacked his lips, licking them obscenely, reveling in the afterglow. Dark brown eyes—human brown eyes—stared back at him behind wire-rimmed glasses, enraged and…sad? Heartbroken? Cronin’s mouth was a hard slash across his pale face, stress lines furrowing his brow and carving into his cheeks. His dark hair was disheveled, like he’d yanked on it a few times, while his long white coat remained pristine. Kasen tamped the impulse to spit blood on him, so he could sully the doctor like himself, like the dead vampire, like the once immaculate floor.
This is all your fault.
Cronin reached out, grasping Kasen’s slick jaw, and he let him. The doctor’s warm thumb parted his bottom lip, then his top, exposing Kasen’s knife-blade fangs. Cronin’s eyes shone too bright, too vivid, like polished walnut, and Kasen’s sinuses stung with shame, his vision filling to the brim with hatred.
“You wanted me to reverse it,” Kasen rasped, still caught between boy and beast. “So I did.”
Hurt stormed over the doctor’s features before he looked away, releasing Kasen, ultimately giving up on him. Kasen’s heart fractured down the middle as he watched his surrogate father’s hopes and dreams circle the drain with the leech’s blood.
“Lock him up in solitary,” Cronin ordered his men, the words landing harder than any physical blow Kasen had endured.
Kasen struggled in the soldiers’ grip, furious at the doctor, at himself, at this fucking life he’d been given.
“You did this to me,” he roared as Cronin turned his back on him, another lost cause, another failure in the doctor’s quest for genetic perfection. “You made me a monster!”
And as Cronin stepped over the vampire’s mutilated corpse, eyeing it with a disappointed grimace, he murmured, “No, son. You did. You always had a choice. And now you don’t.”
Betrayal sliced into Kasen’s chest, sharp and marrow-deep, and from that point forward he knew his life would never be the same again.
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Until next time…
Hope you enjoyed the opening scene of FURIOUS ANGELS! COMING SOON! 😀