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ONE

She couldn’t open her eyes.

No, they were open, but the room was pitch black. A wave of panicked disorientation passed over her. Was she drugged? How had she gotten here? Where the hell was here? She couldn’t remember the last thing that happened… or anything else, for that matter. A steady ache at the base of her skull made it almost impossible to focus.

She reached up to rub her face. Her hand hit something solid. Something close. Her breath caught in her throat. Her heart started to pound as she pressed both palms against a smooth, heavy surface only inches overhead. She was in a box.

Oh, god. I’ve been buried alive.

She swallowed a mouthful of stale air, thick and heavy, and tried to pound against the roof. She couldn’t summon enough strength to make any noise.

A sound reached through the walls of her enclosure, she froze. Her heartbeat drowned out almost everything else, but—there. Someone crying. Whimpering. Begging.

Goosebumps spread across her arms and back.

“Shh,” came another voice, muffled. “Lie still, sweetheart.”

More words, but she couldn’t make them out.

“No, please—” the woman cried, and then screamed. The sound was raw and desperate. A scream of pure fear and hysteria. It washed over her and threatened to unhinge her.

Something splashed. “Ugh. What a mess,” said the other voice. “On to the next one.”

The next one. Oh, god. They were talking about her. She reached up and covered her mouth with one hand, trying not to hear the woman’s scream in her head. She forced her hand down to her side as the door to her box swished open, fresh air rushed in. The floor she lay on rolled out, and light assaulted her eyes through closed lids, turning everything red.

She struggled to lie still as rough hands pulled back the thin sheet covering her body. Only then did she notice the tight underwear and bra that clung to her body. Were they hers?

“Damn waste,” a man’s voice said, very close.

“Back to work,” another commanded.

Fingertips traced over her face—wet, as though they were painting something on her. Down her neck and across her chest, and finally her belly.

One of the voices began muttering something, but the sounds didn’t make any sense. Some other language, but nothing she recognized. An odd pressure began to build inside her head. Every instinct screamed at her to run.

RUN.

She seized the edge of the tray and curled her knees to her chest, unfurling in one sudden movement. Someone shouted as she tumbled off the tray, her hands and feet slapping the cold, tile floor. She was in a kitchen, surrounded by banks of small refrigerator doors. Not a kitchen, a morgue. Bodies lay on trays, headless, dripping. She spun around, leaping back from the two men who stood in the room. One was a tall fellow with a shaved head and goatee, who dressed like a priest. He held both hands out in front of him, as though he were trying to calm her. His companion made that all but impossible, holding a large, bloodied blade in both hands.

It wasn’t paint. It was blood, scrawled in squiggly, illegible symbols.

There. A door, to her right. The man with the sword saw her eyes dart in that direction. He moved to block the way, and she ran, diving beneath the table that lay between her and the exit. Her knees hit the floor painfully, sliding across bloodied tiles, and she heard the whistle of a blade cutting through the air just above her.

She crashed through the door and sprang to her feet. The door swung both ways on hinges, with no handle or lock—nothing to jam it closed. Tile stairs led up, and she scrambled to climb them, leaving bloody marks on the rubber grip strips. The door behind her crashed open as she reached the next floor as tile gave way to cheap red carpet. Wooden doors, spaced evenly, lined both sides of the hallway. Gold numbers were perfectly centered on each one. The doors had no handles, only push plates. There was no where to hide they couldn’t come right in after her.

Where the hell am I? The place looked like a hotel, but what kind of hotel had a morgue in the basement?

She lumbered down the hallway. Her legs jerked awkwardly with each step. Her muscles were stiff and didn’t want to work. A set of double doors stood at the end of the corridor, each with a small window in it. Another stairwell was visible on the other side.

“Stop!” a voice behind her shouted as she pushed through the double doors. The men pursuing her were seconds behind her. She wouldn’t have time to make it to the next floor. The stairwell was empty, and there was nowhere to hide. Next to the door, in the corner, a glass box holding a fire extinguisher hung on the wall. Smashing her elbow through the box, she backed into the corner with the extinguisher raised over her head.

The door burst open. The man with the sword started up the stairs, gesturing for the priest to head down the other flight. She gripped the extinguisher tight. The priest stepped through the door, and she brought it down with all of her strength. The crunch was sickening. Blood sprayed across the wall and the man’s body dropped to the ground. Turning at the sound, the man with the sword looked down at the rapidly spreading pool of blood with wide eyes.

She yanked the pin out of the extinguisher and plunged the lever, shooting a stream of CO2 at the swordsman. The small stairway filled with freezing, blinding cloud of gas. Scrambling over the fallen priest’s body, she hurled the extinguisher over the railing. It clanged against the stairs below as it bounced from one railing to the next. She flattened herself against the wall, not even daring to breathe as the swordsman rushed down the stairs. She scrambled back up the stairs as quietly as possible.

The stairs terminated at another set of double metal doors. Sound vibrated through the walls in a frantic beat booming from massive speakers on the other side. She pushed through the doors and parted the blackout curtains that lay just beyond them. She entered a massive room filled with dancers. An immense bank of screens covered the far wall, each framing a different dancer on the floor. Cages dangled from the vaulted ceiling, each containing a man or woman—or both—as scantily clad as herself.

Someone grabbed her hand. Her heart caught in her throat as she spun to confront her attacker. Not sword-man, but a dancer who was almost too drunk to stay on his feet. Instead of pulling away, she tucked in close to him and slipped her arms around his torso.

“Baby, yeah!” Her partner grabbed her butt as she raised up on her toes to look over his shoulder. There. Sword-man stood on the edge of the stage, scanning the crowd. He didn’t have his sword, but she would never forget that face.

Time to move. If I stay here, even concealed by the crowd, they will eventually find me. Who that was, she had no idea. Her mind focused past the fear, the unknown, and her own lack of memories. A plan formed in the absence of that fear—disguise herself, find the exit, run as fast as she can.

She curled her arms up behind her partner’s shoulder and under his jacket. “Sorry about this,” she muttered. She brought her knee up hard. The drunk crumpled like tissue. His bulk collapsed against her as he fell. She pushed him to the side, pulling his coat off as he rolled to the ground. His hands clutched his groin, and he moaned from the pain. Shrugging the coat on, she pulled it closed and forced herself to move calmly, and deliberately as not to draw attention to herself. On the other side of the bar were stairs, and a bright neon sign that proclaimed—EXIT. Only handful of people remained between her and freedom.

Something tickled the back of her neck moments before a hand closed on her shoulder with enough strength to jerk her back and elicit a gasp from her. She didn’t have to look to know who it was. On instinct, she dropped to the floor. He didn’t let go of her shoulder as she fell. Her foot shot out behind her. Hard bone and soft flesh collided. He screamed as his shin broke. She pivoted her hips as he fell on top of her, sending him flying over her shoulder to land flat on his back.

She didn’t have time to stop and think. She grabbed the mop of brown hair and banged his head against the floor. Twice. His eyes crossed. She stomped her foot against his stomach as she passed him. No need for him to recover anytime soon.

No one stopped her as she jogged up the stairs to the exit. They curved up and behind the lounge into an alcove. Two large men with shirts that read security guarded the inside of the club. Her face fell. They weren’t guarding the exit, they were waiting for her. Beyond them, the night sky called to her. People lined up outside the front door, waiting for their turn to enter. Two more bouncers outside kept everyone from crowding the place.

They read her hesitance and moved. They’ll expect me to turn and run, or scream, something defensive…

She smiled at them. Put one hand against the wall to feign a dizzy spell. Not everyone could be in on the plan to decapitate women in the basement.

The first one, a broad black man with a pencil thin mustache, reached for her arm. She fell toward him. Instead of him grabbing her, she planted a foot on his knee and kicked off. His knee bent with a crack of cartilage that sent him screaming to the floor. Her other foot landed on the railing. Alexi shoved off with her leg, muscles aching under the strain. She sailed over the second bouncer’s head.

With a thump, she landed in a crouch at the door. The two guards outside would catch her before she got three feet.

“Look out, he’s got a gun,” she screamed, pointing at a man in the crowd. The guards turned to where she pointed, and that was enough to sell the crowd. The bustle of people outside went berserk. Some tried to barge in, others away. She slipped past the overwhelmed security to disappear in the rapidly thinning crowd.

She didn’t stop to make sure she wasn’t being followed. She ran. Her legs ached from the strain. Her heart pounded. Sweat poured off of her. Her calm facade vanished under the onslaught of decapitated women, and crazy sword wielding maniacs.

Her foot slipped on something wet. She crashed to the sidewalk and then into a garbage can. Bits of trash settled around her. She could barely breathe, heaving huge gulps of air. No man with a sword appeared no security guards rushed her, she got away. She let her self-rest for a moment. She didn’t recognize anything. The huge city spread out vastly before her. Towering buildings with thousands of lights blocked out the moon.

Adrenaline faded. Her limbs grew heavy and stiff. Her stomach growled at her. She tried to sit up but her body wouldn’t obey.

A hand clasped her forearm. Fear jolted her. It wasn’t the swordsman. It was a girl, barely old enough to be called a woman. Pale eyes twinkled from beneath a mess of black, tangled hair.

“Alexi? I’m so sorry I’m late.”

***

Dupree stood in front of a wide picture window, watching the yellow glow of the city mingle with the moonlight. The heavy tint on the glass blurred the view of his empire, but it was a price he gladly paid to avoid being killed by an errant beam of sunlight.

My empire. Pfft. As long as I’m allowed to rule it, in any case.

He gestured absently to his meal in the corner. Once, not so very long ago, she would have been described as beautiful. Repeated feedings left pencil thin scars on her neck and shoulders. Her skin hung off her bones from malnutrition and lack of care. She shuffled to him with her arm out. Like a junkie with collapsed veins, it was all she had left.

Dupree put his mouth to her skin, fangs pierced her weak veins. He sensed that she was done. He could no longer get the nourishment he needed from her withered husk. What essence she had left faded in seconds. Dupree released her arm, and she crumpled. Life fled, along with everything she was, everything she could have ever been. He pushed a hidden button under the edge of his desk, two servants emerged to remove the body, carefully avoiding eye contact.

There was a time, centuries before when his kind hunted. They killed whom they pleased, fed when they wished—they were free. Before the Accord, before the Arcanum. Before humanity developed ruthlessly efficient methods of killing.

Centuries? No, a millennium. Has it truly been so long?

His door opened again, and a frown tugged at the corners of his mouth. He wasn’t in the mood for visitors.

“Dupree.” A cold, feminine voice interrupted his thoughts. “There’s been an incident.”

He stared out the window for a long moment and then turned, gesturing for his visitor to continue.

Bella was not alone. One of her pets shadowed her, a husky young man who could not be more than a few decades old. At least he had the sense to kneel in Dupree’s presence. Bella herself bowed as Dupree turned to face them. Her face was rigid, bereft of the youth and innocence that had made her seem so beautiful to him once. What was the name of that village? Manarolla? Her skin had been much darker then, lightly freckled and kissed by the sun.

“Tell him,” Bella commanded her pet.

“I’m sorry milord,” the young man stammered over the unfamiliar honorific. “We tried to contain her, but she woke up too soon—it’s like she knew the way out. She killed Simms with a fire extinguisher and fled through the club.”

Dupree snorted. Raising one graceful hand, he pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel the beginning of a headache pulsing between his eyes. He needed to feed.

“Bella,” he said, turning back to face the window. “We have only two short months to prepare, yet all you bring me are reports of setbacks and failures.”

His tone was mild, but the air in the room suddenly changed, becoming thick and heavy with tension. He could feel the fear emanating from behind him. Almost, almost, it drew a smile from him. “Tell me, again, that I have not misplaced my trust in you.”

“No, milord. I swear you haven’t,” Bella replied. Had he not known her so long and intimately, he wouldn’t have been able to detect the faint trace of desperation beneath her silken voice. Smooth, but cold. Pure ice. “Give me permission to take what we need from the streets.”

“Humans are slow to respond, but when they do….” He frowned, brushing away distant memories of blood and fire.

“We are so close, milord. Surely in a city this size, a few hundred will not be missed until it is too late.”

Dupree frowned, considering. After a long moment, he nodded. “Do it, but start with the homeless. They are the last to be noticed, even when they’re not missing. At least this way, in their death, they can serve a noble purpose.”

“Yes, milord.” Bella cuffed her pet, and the husky young man bowed as he backed out of the room.

“Bella?” Dupree said before the door swung shut.

“Milord?”

“I’m hungry. Send in something fresh.” His smile didn’t reach his eyes.

TWO

Alexi cracked her eyes opened and groaned, moving her head to the side to block out the light. Weight pressed down on her, pinning her to the bed.

“You’re awake! Oh, god—I didn’t know what to do if you didn’t wake up.”

Alexi squinted at the speaker, trying to make out a face. The voice was familiar. All at once, the events of the night before flooded back to her. Waking up, the bodies, the club, running and running until…

She jerked awake. Her head slammed into the wall, sending dust and plaster into the air. Alexi pressed a hand to her forehead as she struggled to sit up. The room was tiny. She could reach out and touch the other wall. The green army cot she stretched out on looked older than dirt. A ratty blanket, with faded clouds and unicorns on it, rested over her legs. She blinked hard a few times to clear her vision. The girl sitting at the foot of the cot was the one she had met in the alley. Light brown skin, hair so black it seemed to soak up the ugly yellow light emanating from a naked bulb overhead.

“Why do I feel so fuzzy?”

She tried to swallow. Her tongue was dry and rough like sandpaper.

“Did I hit my head?”

“You’re probably hungry.”

The girl leaned closer, peering at her. Long, black lashes narrowed over wide, violet eyes.

“I can feed you in a little bit. Wow, you look just like you did in my… but seeing you in person—” She broke off, her cheeks flushing. “Sorry, I’m gushing.”

Alexi rubbed her face, searching her limited memory. “Do we—did we know each other? I don’t remember anything before...” she wanted to say last night, but she had no idea how long it had been since she escaped.

“No, we don’t. I mean—well, not really.”

The girl’s hands moved to her hair, tugging at the ends in a nervous gesture.

“I’m Savanna, and you’re Alexi.”

“How do you know my name?”

An uncomfortable expression flickered across Savanna’s face.

“Look, this is hard to explain, and it’s not going to make a lot of sense to you.”

Alexi flopped back down on the cot, weary from holding herself upright.

“Then it should fit perfectly with everything else that’s happened since I woke up. Seriously, just hit me with it.”

“Okay. Well, then… I’m a witch.”

Alexi shrugged. “I’m not feeling super friendly right now either, so I won’t judge.”

“No,” Savanna said with a short, breathy laugh, “not that kind of witch. The magic kind.”

Alexi cocked her head to the side and peered at the girl. Savanna was staring back at her with a wide-eyed, worried expression, as though she were expecting Alexi to laugh at her. But no… the girl was serious.

Oh, hell. Maybe she’s crazy. Mentally ill and possibly homeless.

She must have randomly stumbled across Alexi in that alley. It was bad luck that she didn’t remember anything. Hell, her name probably wasn’t even Alexi

“I’m messing this up,” Savanna said with an explosive sigh. “Let me show you, and then things will make more sense.”

“They would almost have to.”

Savanna reached down and pulled something out of the calf of one of her knee-high leather boots. It was a dagger, straight out of some medieval armory, the metal hilt turned with ornate scrolling. Runes covered a long polished blade, it reminded her of… runes scrawled in blood across her own skin. Alexi scrambled back on the cot, her heart suddenly pounding.

“It’s okay.” Savanna raised her hands. “This isn’t for you, it’s for me. I won’t hurt you, I promise.”

She laid the blade across her palm and squeezed. A drop of blood slid down her skin between the blade and her palm. It pooled in the creases of her hand before dropping to the blanket bellow.

“What the hell—” Alexi clutched the blanket, ready to spring for the door.

And then the smell hit her.

Iron and copper and… something else she couldn’t place. Something cloyingly sweet, and unbearably delicious. The world around her narrowed, her vision dimming to a point. The sound of traffic outside, even her own breathing, faded away.

She didn’t remember moving. One moment she perched on the cot, ready to bolt for the door, and in the next she held Savanna pinned up against the far wall. Everything was cold, except for the girl. Savanna reverberated with hot energy that poured off of her in waves. And the smell. It pulled her, beckoned, her, begged her to taste.

“I’m sorry,” Alexi whispered as she peeled back Savanna’s fingers to reveal the long, bloody gash on her palm. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“It’s okay,” Savanna whispered, “I knew this would happen.”

Whatever shred of willpower Alexi had, vanished. She bit down on Savanna’s palm. The girl whimpered. Heat flowed through the wound and into Alexi—something more than just blood. Time seemed to stop as she fed. The dull, heavy ache in her bones vanished, her eyes cleared, her senses woke and became almost painfully sensitive.

Savanna struggled, trying to push Alexi away. Instinctively, Alexi held her tighter, straddling the girl’s legs and trapping her against the wall.

“Alexi—” Savanna was crying. “Stop! I can’t—”

Alexi didn’t want to stop. She wanted everything. She wanted to take every last drop until Savanna was nothing but an empty shell.

Oh, god. Stop, stop, stop!

Savanna went limp, the dagger slipping from her hand and falling to the floor with a dull thump.

STOP!

Alexi tore herself away. It was the hardest thing she’d ever done. Savanna slid to the ground, collapsing into a heap on the floor. The wound on her hand vanished as if it were never there.

“Oh, god. Savanna?”

Alexi fell to her knees, a sudden wave of guilt breaking over her.

“Savanna? I’m so sorry!”

Savanna’s dim eyes stared vacantly over Alexi’s shoulder. Alexi pressed her fingers against her throat, searching for a heartbeat. There. Faint, but present.

“Alexi,” Savanna whispered.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t—I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do?”

“Thirsty,” Savanna coughed.

How much blood had the girl lost? There was no sink in the room, and no fridge. A faded green duffel bag lay crumpled in the corner by the door. Alexi dumped it out on the cot. A pink dress, sandals and a roll of tightly wound ones fell out. She flipped through the money, thirty in all.

You drank her blood.

Alexi thrust the thought aside. Savanna couldn’t be comfortable on the floor. Alexi lifted her easily and laid her out on the cot, covering her with the unicorn blanket. She folded the bag and stuffed it under her head as a pillow.

With the roll of ones in her hand she headed for the door and froze. All she had was the flimsy underwear, and the long coat she stole. The dress that fell out of Savanna’s bag would surely be too small, after all, she was much taller, and broader, than the petite witch.

You drank her blood.

She slipped it on over her head. The light pink summer dress had seen better days. The hem fell below her knees, and it was tight in places, but it fit. The sandals did too. Alexi looked down at herself, the dress was meant for warmer weather, but combined with the coat, it would do. She didn’t have time to care. The only person she knew in the world was dying, and she wasn’t going to be the one who killed her. She zipped the coat up halfway, it fit well enough to shield her modesty.

The foul-smelling hallway was no better than the apartment. A drunk slept off his stupor by the stairs as she left. Yellow lamps bathed the street in dirty light. All she could see were apartment buildings, no signs, no stores. Savanna didn’t have time for her to guess. She closed her eyes to think. The smell of gas burned her nose and forced her to cough.

You drank her blood.

The stench was strong enough that Alexi suspected there must have been some sort of leak. Not wanting to linger, she guessed which direction to go, and took off at a run. Her legs felt fresh, ready to run all night if need be. It took her five minutes to find the glowing sign above the street. There was no leak, no accident, just an old man filling up his compact car.

The store was open. Alexi blew through the door. The little bell rang frantically from the force. She found the drinks and bought four bottles of juice and some donuts for Savanna to eat. The clerk lazily rang up the food. It cost a third of what Savanna brought, Alexi didn’t care. Money could be replaced. She tapped her foot as he punched one button at a time. Taking precious seconds to find the next one. She didn’t wait for him to give her a receipt, she ran out the door with the plastic bag in hand. For all she knew, Savanna was already dead.

Her mind filled with a jumble of thoughts as she raced back to the apartment. She enjoyed it, the feeling of power over another person, the buzz of hunting, of controlling another.

No, that’s not me. It was an accident, and whatever made me do it, I won’t do it again.

She almost believed herself… almost.

You drank her blood.

***

“Get up, dog.”

The pointy toe of an expensive stiletto cracked against Victor’s ribs, sending a jolt of pain through him. Rolling his head to the side, he opened one eye to gaze up at his captor. Illyana looked down at him with a flicker of impatience in her long-lashed eyes. Victor waited a moment too long, and a crackle of something else passed through her gaze. Fire crawled up his spine, sinking tendrils of agony into his back. Victor leaped to his feet, slamming his head into the roof of the van.

“Ever the Alpha,” Illyana said in her strangely accented voice. She laid a hand on his shoulder, as though to steady him.

“Why do you resist me? Your pack has learned to obey.”

“They’re made to follow,” he said through clenched teeth. “It’s easier for them.”

“You can learn.” Her hand slid down to his chest, fingers gently stroking bare skin. “This doesn’t have to hurt.”

Victor didn’t pull away from her touch, remembering too well her rage the last time he rejected her. She was beautiful, but every time her full lips parted, he heard only the clanking of chains and the voices of pack mates she killed. Many of them died so she could prove her point. He wished fervently, and not for the first time, that she killed him as well.

The van rumbled to a halt.

“We’re here,” Demarco called from the driver’s seat. They were still thirty miles from the city, in a wooded campground just off the highway.

“I’ll set up the ritual here,” Illyana said, directing her words to Demarco and Ringo, who occupied the forward passenger seat. “The three of you will head into the city and find her. The medallion I gave you will lead you to her—bring her back alive, and unharmed.”

Demarco and Ringo glanced at each other, and then back at Victor. Aside from him, they were the only living members of his pack. Three altogether, out of twenty. Where he had once seen trust and respect in their eyes, now there was only hatred. Worse, he knew it was no less than he deserved. He was the reason their pack mates were dead, and why they were now slaves to this witch and her vendetta.

Victor could not guess why Illyana hated that poor girl. Whatever the source, it was personal. Illyana had used his pack to destroy an entire coven, and they had tracked the sole survivor of that massacre for a thousand miles. The girl was clever and resourceful, and after what Victor and his pack had done to her coven, he knew why she tried so hard to elude them. Still, it was only a matter of time. Illyana was powerful, and she had chosen her slaves well.

“Come on, let’s get this over with,” Victor growled to the other two men. They exited the van and stripped off their clothes as the moon rose overhead. Tonight it would end, and his failure would be complete.

He was the last of the three to change. It used to mean so much to him.

Now all it meant was death.

THREE

Savanna slipped in and out of consciousness during the night. Alexi managed to help her drink two of the bottles of OJ. After a few hours, her breathing deepened, and her skin flushed. She no longer hovered on the verge of death. The tiny room offered no views of the outside, but Alexi guessed it was near sunrise when she finally could stay awake no longer. She struggled to keep her eyes open, but fatigue settled on her like a heavy weight, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Alexi crawled on the cot and settled her back against the wall, letting Savanna use her lap as a pillow. Exhausted, she struggled to stay awake. Fearing that Savanna would need her during the night. She flipped the light switch next to the bed bathing the room in darkness.

Her sleep was restless, filled with confusing, terrifying dreams. Savanna was in it, one face among several others she didn’t recognize. The man from the club emerged from some dark corner with his sword raised over Savanna’s sleeping form. Alexi threw herself forward to block the blow. The sword turned to garbage and she found herself crashing down into the ally again. A word floated on the breeze, half whispered… Vampire.

Alexi jerked awake. She was alone on the cot.

She cleared her eyes by rubbing her face. A mournful, sweet song, drifted to her ears as she woke up. Savanna knelt next to the bed, using a bottle of water, and a rag to clean her neck and face.

“That’s a beautiful song,” she said with a yawn.

Savanna jumped. The light shone through her dirty blue dress enough for Alexi to make out a plethora of scars on her side, and some on her leg, just above the hem.

“Shit… what happened to you?”

She smoothed out the dress, a flush spread across her face, tightening her skin, and sending splashes of red on her nose and cheeks. The scars vanished under the blue garment. Savanna crawled on the bed. From her careful movements, Alexi could tell she was in pain. The night before haunted her, what she did, what she almost did burned in her memory.

“Savanna, I’m sorry.” She closed her mouth, took a breath, and asked the question to which she dreaded the answer. “What am I?”

“You’re a vampire, but I guess you figured that out.”

“No,” she whispered. “No, that’s not possible.”

“When I still lived with my family, what feels like forever ago, I would do these rituals. They would take time to prepare, sometimes days. When I finished, I could see the future. Not my future usually. People would pay me for my gift.”

Alexi quirked an eyebrow up. The future. That’s not…I’m going to have to revisit my definition of impossible.

“My mom called it precognition. I’m the most powerful my coven produced in a generation.” She didn’t sound happy about that, more like miserable.

“When I… left home I got by. I set up shop and told people winning lottery numbers, what girl they should ask out, that sort of thing.” Her face turned down. The donut package resisted her attempts to open it. Without looking up she held it out to Alexi. The plastic tore like tissue, powdery donuts fell on the bed. Savanna picked one up and nibbled at it like a bird.

“Two weeks ago I was living in Austin, and I dreamed of you. We were on a hill, there was a bright light, you looked at me and said, Come find me when you wake up, and I’ll protect you.” She sighed as the donut disappeared a crumb at a time.

Her shoulders slumped. “That’s all you said. I sensed that you were a vampire and that somehow you didn’t know. I hoped that I could help you, and you me.” Her eyes never left the bed.

Alexi resisted the urge to wrap her arms around the girl. After last night, she doubted it would be seen as a comforting gesture.

“Savanna, I’m so sorry. Of course, I’ll help you.” She reached out to lift the girl’s chin. “You saved me twice, and you don’t even know me.” Savanna glanced up with her big violet eyes. They were glassy and full of tears.

How long would she have had to be alone to trust her life to a dream? Alexi’s clenched her fist. Savanna’s obvious pain touched a well of anger in her and boiled it to the surface.

“We can’t stay here, then,” Savanna said. “They’re probably already coming for me.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Cassandra is an award-winning journalist, veteran of the armed forces, and jane-of-all-trades. She lives in Idaho with the love of her life and their three kids. After writing day in and day out for ten years, her spouse strongly encouraged her to try to make a living out of it. Since then, she's written under various pen-names and sold several stories of werewolves, witches, and the arcane. She plans on writing until the day she dies. Possibly after, if that's allowed.

Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
Isn’t it beautiful? The wonderful artists at www.vividcovers.com made this for me. We worked out the general ideas, then she made it gorgeous. I think the moment I saw the cover was the moment I felt like I had written a book! She's incredibly talented and I look forward to her doing all my covers.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
My webpage is www.cassandraskywest.com. I am also on www.facebook.com/cassandraskywest/ I would love to have and interact with a community of readers. It’s one of the things about being an author I really look forward to doing!
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
Writing Urban Fantasy is like living in the Wild West. We can do whatever we want. The genre is so new that there is plenty of room for creativity and interpretation. If I want to write about a gargoyle courting a mermaid during the zombie apocalypse, I can. In fact, think I found my next series!

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