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First pages

Preface

If her head being in the clouds wasn’t enough of a sign, then the butterflies that flapped in her stomach every time his name rolled off of her lips was. Sam. He was everything Jules never knew she wanted. Jules was always independent, almost to a fault. Sam was the only one she had ever really let inside and it felt better than she expected.

Jules had never been one of those girls who measured a relationship by the size of the bouquet she received on Valentine’s Day. Truth be told she didn’t care that much for flowers at all; they had a funny way of always ending up dead. With Sam, though, she practically counted the hours they had been together. She couldn’t help it. It was like she didn’t want to forget a single minute of it.

And speaking of minutes, Sam was taking his sweet time getting over to her place. That wasn’t unlike him, and by now she had come to expect his utter disregard for punctuality. It was still kind of cute, and Jules hoped that she would think of his personality quirks as cute forever instead of finding them annoying like so many couples that had been together a long time. Sam could have done just about anything and she would have been fine with it. So she wasn’t exactly mad, but she was starting to wonder where he was. Her phone, dark and quiet, was not providing any answers. She checked it again anyways, and was disappointed.

Jules put her phone back in her purse and realized that she had been sitting by the door for almost half an hour. At first she felt a little bit embarrassed even though there was no one else in her apartment. It wasn’t like her to be the one waiting around for someone. At least, not until Sam began to tame her fierce independence. But that didn’t give him a free pass to just go silent- even if, who was she kidding, she would wait all night for him but she wouldn’t be happy about it.

If she did anything else to her hair she knew it would end up worse than when she started. Sam was romantic in a subtle kind of a way, and even though she usually hated surprises she didn’t seem to mind them so much when they were his idea. Jules didn’t know exactly where they would be going but she could tell he had big plans and she was getting tired of waiting. How childish of her, she thought. Strange what love can do to a person.

Jules contemplated whether or not she should look inside the fridge one more time, but was interrupted by the violent rattle of her phone against the zipper of her purse.

“Finally,” she scoffed, looking to the empty sofa for some validation that she wasn’t crazy.

She accepted the call without even looking at the screen.

“Look who it is,” she said with sarcastic annoyance.

“Jules. It’s Daniel. Are you home?” the voice on the other end was frantic, and it instantly made Jules uneasy.

“Daniel? Yeah, I’m home. Where’s Sam?”

“Thank God. Stay home, Jules. Don’t go outside. I’ll be right there.”

Jules was confused, and so was the heart that began to frantically beat in her chest. She spent the next few minutes calling Sam and getting nothing but his voicemail. The texts weren’t doing much good either. Did something happen to him? Daniel sounded scared, almost hysterical. It wasn’t like him at all and it wasn’t like Sam to fall off the face of the Earth like this. Then, the knock on the door shook her out of her thoughts.

She swung the door open and Daniel stood there, eyes blood red, panting.

“What the hell is going on?” Jules demanded.

“Jules, I’m so sorry,” Daniel cried. “He’s gone. Sam’s gone. They killed him. They…”

Jules couldn’t hear the voice of the man in the doorway anymore. All the noise in the world was replaced with a ringing in her ears that wouldn’t stop. She felt the ground fall out beneath her and her stomach fell close behind it. She wanted to pull the dagger out of her chest, but when she reached for it there was nothing there. In that moment, she wished there would have been.

1
Forget About it, Jules

Jules wouldn’t let herself drink, now. At least not like before. She still wanted it, there’s no denying that. It was the easy choice. She knew, deep down, it would never make her feel better. It could end the pain, permanently. But Jules was stronger than that. There was a new path in front of her now. Forget sadness. Her body almost shook with anger. The change in emotion wasn’t so bad.

Jules didn’t love the taste of the stuff, but she did love the numbness that came bundled with alcohol. When the options were feeling like death or feeling nothing at all, it didn’t take much thinking. Easiest choice of her life, in fact.

“Kid, you alright?” Daniel asked in his usual concerned, weathered tone. Jules didn’t realize how long she had been silent. She was deep in thought about the building in front of her. It was the kind of bar you could smell from the end of the block. In fact, the smell was the only thing that made it apparent the building was open for business at all. “Yeah, I’m fine,” Jules murmured. Maybe just missing liquid courage, she thought.

“I thought this would be good for you. I thought this was what you wanted,” Daniel put his muscular frame between her and the nearby door. “I said I was fine. Just thinking, that’s all,” she reassured him. Daniel looked like a man who held strong convictions, but he was always ready to change them for the sake of Jules. “Alright, good, because I don’t need my rep ruined in this place. I need you to do me proud,” he placed his arm around her shoulder. “Let’s just get this over with, alright?” Jules didn’t whine, but she was antsy.

“This is only the beginning, kid, you know that, right?”

“Yeah, you’ve made it painfully aware to me. So let’s just get the introduction over with already.”

“OK, remember what I told you.”

“Open with a joke to break the ice, got it.”

“Jules.”

“C’mon, I remember. You first.”

Daniel had done his best to prepare her for the motley crew that hung out inside the Rustic Den; or as it was unofficially known on the inside, the Hunter’s Den. Jules had spent the better part of the day inside of her own head, anxious, but ready. She half expected a boxing gym mixed with a gun range, full of dedicated, deadly individuals that looked as rugged as Daniel. She had the rugged part right, but she couldn’t help but feel a little let down by the denizens of the Rustic.

There were more people staring at the bottoms of bucket glasses than down the barrels of guns.

“This...is not what I was expecting,” Jules whispered as the door closed behind them. “These guys are the best in the city. They’ve just seen some shit,” Daniel looked past the wall, at nothing, “like we all have.” Maybe she didn’t give them enough credit. They were a surly bunch, but clearly not a group of drunks. Each of the patrons was wracked with scars, either physical or emotional ones so bad they hung like the neon signs outside. Maybe she would be more at home in the place then she thought.

The two of them maneuvered past the bar and towards a dimly lit table in the back. Jules felt the energy of the place shift towards her, and quite a few gazes with it. Come to think of it, not to many other brown-eyed girls in the place.

The man at the table looked older than he probably was. His beard and long hair were as faded as his camouflage jacket, but the gray had long since taken over. Jules got the sense he was more veteran the soldier, but of what war he couldn’t be sure.

The man cleared his throat. “You Julian?” he groaned. “That’s right,” she said a little too loud. She was doing her best to project confidence. “Daniel told me about you. So did Sam. Goddamn blood-sucking bastards.” He slammed his drink back, and Jules felt the blood run out of her face. Sam was the reason she was in that bar, she knew that from the beginning, but it didn’t make it any easier to hear his name out loud.

“Sam was a good hunter and a good man. But he should have known better than to get you mixed up in all this. And so should he,” the old man jabbed a thumb towards Daniel. She looked at Daniel, and he nodded towards her instead of speaking up. “Listen, Pops,” her words came through gritted teeth. The old man suddenly started paying attention. “Pops?” he quipped, genuinely shocked.

“I can handle myself, alright? I’m not looking to put anyone else in danger. We’re just looking for information. Nothing floats through this place without hitting your ears first, right?”

“Hrm,” the old man growled as he leaned back in his chair. He raised an eyebrow and looked at Jules, allowing himself to enjoy the compliment. “Look, I’d like to help the both of ya. But it’s not about saving your skin. It’s about ours. You start running out there, waving a stake and a cross around-”

“I’m not an idiot,” Jules interrupted.

“I get that. I do. I’m just saying, you start attracting the wrong kind of attention, you’re gonna bring that attention right back here. Then what.”

She tried one more time, even though she didn’t want to bring it up. It was hard enough to think about, let alone to say out loud. “Pops, I know why you’re in this place. Why all these hunters are here. You’ve all had your world ripped away from you, right? I know the feeling. I’m no different. I want the same thing you do.”

The old man looked at Daniel, who remained silent, then back at Jules. “OK, miss, I’ll bite. What are you after?”

“I want to know who I need to kill,” she said.

“Yeah, I suppose I figured as much. Can’t tell you that, though,” the old man had a smirk on his face. Jules hated being on the outside of a joke, especially when she was putting herself out there. For a moment she thought maybe she should have just kept her date with the bottle.

“Why can’t you do that? You still think I can’t handle it?”

The old man took a sip of his drink. “No,” he groaned, “I can’t tell you that because I don’t know.” What the hell, she thought. Everything Daniel told me about this guy was BS. “But, I can tell you this. Your boy was onto something. Not sure what, never did get the chance to ask him. All I know is, he never struck me as the tourist type, but he was pretty convinced something was up around Hollywood and Highland. If I had to guess, maybe he found it was turf for some group of vamps.”

“He tell you anything else?” Daniel finally chimed in. He’d never mentioned anything to Jules about it, that’s for sure, and she hoped he wasn’t hiding anything now. “Like I said, didn’t get much of a chance to chat,” the old man said. He leaned over the table and stared at Jules in the eyes, close enough to make her uncomfortable. “Don’t get too close, and don’t look ‘em in the eyes.”

“I’m gonna get close, don’t worry,” she declared with all the confidence in the world.

The two of them stood up, and the rest of the bar had long since stopped paying attention to Jules. She was more than a little annoyed by Daniel, and couldn’t wait to talk to him about it outside.

“Thanks for the help in there, jerk,” she said and gave him a light shove. “What? What did I do?” he put his hands up. So typical of him to either play dumb or be dumb. She wasn’t sure which was worse.

“The one time you keep your mouth shut. You made me do all the talking. I felt like an idiot.”

“He wanted to talk to you. Plus, hey, it worked, didn’t it?”

“Yeah, but. Still.” It did, but she wanted to play on her own terms. No one else’s. “Plus, why didn’t you just tell me about this before?” Daniel opened the passenger door to his 1972 Chevy Nova and Jules hopped inside. He went around and fired up the engine. It was ridiculous that Daniel drove around in that old thing, but he swore it would run forever. At least it sounded cool. “About Sam, hunting in the tourist trap?” he asked. This time he wasn’t playing dumb. “Yeah, he didn’t tell you anything about it?”

“No, he didn’t. Must have been a fresh lead. But goddamn. Why would he go alone?”

The two of them sat in the thunder of the engine for a few moments. Jules was determined to stay out of her own head. Determined to move forward.

“Let’s find out,” she said.

2
Believe It or Not

“Why would a vamp choose that block? It doesn’t make any sense,” Jules said as she rolled the window of the Nova down. She could feel her nerves rising, and thought the cool air might keep her in check. “Think about it, Jules. It’s better than hiding in plain sight. We’re talking about thousands of people walking by, thousands of different people. Every hour.”

“Yeah, that’s true I guess. Plus, they’re all tourists. If someone goes missing...”

“No one’s gonna notice, at least not right away.”

Hollywood proper had never been interesting to Jules. It wasn’t just the tourists. It was the swathes of polo-shirt adorned drunks. The crowds. The people shoving CDs in your face. Two-for-one, every hour is happy hour highlighter green drink specials. OK, maybe that part wasn’t so bad. But now, vampires? Like she needed another reason to stay away from the place. Highland was the worst block, but it was really just a landmark. More than that, it was a gateway, just a launchpad from the hills into the rest of the city, or from the casual luxury of West Hollywood into the actually hip neighborhoods to the east.

Jules turned from her window and looked at Daniel. His chiseled features made the five o’clock shadow on his face look like it was put there by a makeup artist. He could have been on the side of one of those buildings. No way he could act, but the Hugo Boss might as well have designed a line around those shoulders. Maybe if he hadn’t gotten mixed up in all of this. Way too late for that now.

Too late for Jules, too. Too late for Sam. Can’t think about him, though. Hard not to, seeing as how she’d be following his footsteps. Her nerves crept up with her heart into her throat, and she brought her arm back inside the window and clicked on the radio. Daniel noticed.

“Hey, it’s gonna be alright, OK? It’s just a lead. We might not even find anything, and remember, all those tourists, all those people. Nothing’s gonna happen to you. I promise,” Daniel said. He took his hand off the steering wheel and it hovered in between them for an awkward second, then he set it back.

Sure, there was uncertainty ahead. They might be about to enter the lion’s den. It wasn’t so much the potential for danger that she was worried about, though. In fact, Jules was more scared of the possibility that she was looking forward to it. She just wanted to feel something different, something other than empty despair. The line between sadness and anxiety was one she had straddled for months now, and it was time to see what was on the other side.

“I’m not worried about it,” she told Daniel and herself aloud. “Alright, well,” he responded, looked at her, then turned back to the road, “good.”

It was still early in the night, but the streets were packed with revelers. A group of girls in identical tiny black dresses stumbled across the sidewalk, past the car. They all had their phones out, no doubt competing to see who could take the better selfie. Jules felt a twinge of jealousy. Was she happy, when her life used to be like that? Maybe not, but it wasn’t much better now. Those were normal friends. Sure, she had Daniel, and he was a good friend. He’d always been there for her. Maybe it wasn’t the friendship, it was that attitude, that complete and utter lack of caring. The kind of place she couldn’t get to, at least, not since… not since…

“Help me find parking,” Daniel said, and she was shaken from her thoughts.

“Huh? Oh, yeah. It’s Friday night. It’s gonna be a complete disaster,” she groaned. “We should have just taken the subway. Or an Uber.”

“I don’t do public transportation, you know that.”

“I’ve never quite been clear as to why. Shouldn’t I be the one that demands a black car?”

“Too sealed in, you know? No exits. It’s too dangerous.”

“More people die on the road, though. Right? Especially all the crazy drivers in this city. What’s wrong with Uber?”

“Sure, just hop into a stranger’s car; let him take us wherever he wants. Seems legit.”

“You’re out of control.”

“No, I’m just safe.”

“Says the man about to go hunting vamps in the middle of Hollywood. OK.”

“Can we just find some parking? Jeez.”

“There’s one! Nope, it’s green. Turn down there.”

They turned off the main drag, up towards the hills. “There’s a parking garage, through this alley. It’s huge. We should be good to go in there,” Jules said. The Nova rolled into the driveway and Daniel grabbed a ticket. “How do you even know about this place? I thought you hated this part of town,” he laughed as he asked her. “Maybe I haven’t always been the shining beacon of hip that you see in your passenger seat. Maybe don’t worry about it. Anyways, shouldn’t we have a plan? What are we supposed to do? Just hop out, walk around until we see something suspicious?”

Daniel made his thinking face. Usually, when he went to his thinking face, he didn’t come out of it with an answer. “Hm. I guess so. You have a better idea?” he asked as he pulled the car into an open spot. “Don’t we have some gear, besides this religious stuff? Something more high tech, like a thermal temperature gauge detector or something?”

“Huh. That would be pretty cool.”

“So, no. Well great.”

“Remember Jules, it’s called hunting for a reason. It’s easier to spot them then you think, once you know what to look for.”

A piercing screech bounced off the concrete of the structure. The walls made it difficult to tell where it had come from, but it was further down, around the corner, maybe further. Jules and Daniel looked at each other, smiles gone. The joking around was great to calm the nerves. The time for that had gone just as quickly as it showed up. “You heard that, right?” she asked, even though she already knew the answer. “Yeah. Maybe our guy. Sometimes you get lucky. Let’s go check it out.”

From the street, the garage didn’t look like much, but from the inside the place was massive. It looped around in interlocking circles, down, down, deep underground. The place was built like a maze, but at least there were directions on every wall. Jules felt a strong urge to hold her crossbow out in front of her, but she knew it was a bad idea. Not a good look for innocent bystanders. Not a good look for the cops. Even still, not a good look for the vamps- Daniel had taught her that the element of surprise was one of their most important weapons. So instead, she just touched it a few times inside of her jacket, just to make sure it was still there. The feeling reassured her.

After the unknown sound, there was only silence. No more cars, no more screams, just the footsteps coming from Jules’ boots. Guess she still needed to break them in some more. Strange how there could be so many cars, and so many people just a few floors above them. But based on the cold, quiet cement they walked on, the whole place might as well have been abandoned.

Until they heard it again. It was clearer now, but deeper into the labyrinth still. The cry was high-pitched, a girl’s voice. Daniel stopped for a moment and looked around, then behind the two of them. “Alright. We gotta get down there, now. You can run in those things, right?”

“I’m way ahead of you,” Jules said as she took off running. She needed to take the lead, not to prove to Daniel that she wasn’t afraid, but to prove to herself. No more time on the sidelines waiting for something to happen. This time, she would make it happen herself. Her heart pounded in her chest, matching the beat of her boots on the cement. She did her best to take deep breaths to calm herself down, but at that point, it was no use.

Jules rounded the corner first and stopped in her tracks. She saw the figure in the corner, and although the light was dim, the shape was undeniably human. They inched closer to her, slowly, quietly, now. It was tough to tell from a distance, but it appeared to be the girl they had heard, hunched over, heaving up and down. Jules felt a chill on the back of her neck, but it was more than that. It was almost as if someone had dropped an ice cube on her. She turned to look, but there was nothing, and she figured her nerves were playing tricks.

“What do we do?” Jules whispered, “where’s the vamp?” Daniel had his hand on his gun, so Jules followed suit. “It’s a dead end down here. Don’t know how it could have gotten away. Looks like she’s already been bit, she’s probably dazed.” Daniel said. “Unless, you know, she’s the vamp.”

The girl’s hunched over figure was disturbing. Is that what happened after you got bit? How long until she would come to? As they crept closer, she stood up stiff and straight and wailed again and Jules had to cover her ears. She couldn’t have been charmed… maybe she was turning.

“Hey, are you alright?” Daniel had hidden his gun again and called out to her. Jules, on the other hand, was less trusting. The girl slowly turned her body, and her face followed suit. Black liquid ran down from her eyes, covering her face. She clutched something close to her body in both of her hands. Jules couldn’t tell what it was or what happened to her face.

“They left me here!” she screamed. Apparently, the girl had only one volume: ear-shattering. “Hey, it’s ok, calm down. Who left you here?” Jules asked her. “They left me here!” the girl wailed, “they left me and I don’t get any fucking service in this place.”

Daniel and Jules looked at each other. The girl was just drunk, and by the looks of it, pretty lost. Of course, she had been staring at a cement wall for an undetermined amount of time, so who knows what her next move was. The object she clutched so intently was, upon closer inspection, nothing but her phone. It was evident that she had been crying. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the girl, there did not appear to be any evidence that a vampire was to blame. Jules had seen that look before. Mascara all over the face, mad at the world for no good reason. The only thing this girl needed was a fistful of Advil, a gallon of Gatorade and at least 12 hours of sleep.

On top of that, Jules could still feel something off. That chill on the back of her neck was still there. She couldn’t tell if it was the structure itself, or someone inside of it, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that they had picked the right building. She looked around behind her. Nothing but cars and trash. There was only one way out, and there was nowhere to hide. It just felt like an extra presence was there with the four of them.

“I think maybe driving is a bad idea,” Daniel offered. Apparently, he understood the girl’s situation just as well as Jules. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the same intuition about their surroundings. “We can take you upstairs, maybe get you a cab,” he continued, his voice a higher, more sympathetic pitch. His total shift in attitude annoyed her.

“We can? We’re just going to play babysitters now? Jules wasn’t so hot on the idea. She didn’t have anything against the girl. She was probably lovely. It was more that Jules had expected action. She had craved it. She needed it to become her new purpose of being. Action is not what she received, though, and she didn’t want to revert to the way she felt before.

“Why don’t you just put her in the backseat, Daniel? We can drive her straight home. It’s not like we have anything else more important going on. Oh, wait.”

Daniel gave a single fake laugh. He was offended. “I’m just trying to help. Besides, there’s no one else here. Let’s just go.” Jules shook her head, but followed suit and grabbed the girl’s left arm. Daniel was right. There wasn’t anyone else in the building. There wasn’t someone watching them. That would be crazy, and it had to just be first day nerves.

3
Nothing to Eat

The three of them swayed from one side of the lot to the next. The girl in between them was stronger than she looked. That or she just had that enhanced momentum that can only come from brown liquor. It wasn’t the start to the evening that Jules had planned, but at least they were almost at the top.

Once they reached it, the girl’s phone started working again and she hailed herself a ride. Jules was happy to see her go, but didn’t get the warm and fuzzy feeling that only comes from being such a humanitarian. The only thing that could melt the ice in her stomach was revenge. The problem was she wasn’t getting any closer to that feeling. “OK, I guess we got our good deed out of the way. Now what?” she asked.

“Well, back to the original plan, I guess,” Daniel said as he tried to brush the leftover makeup off of his shoulder. “Which was what exactly?” Jules already knew the answer. But Daniel wanted to sell her on the idea. “I’m telling you, they’re easy to spot,” he said, “even in this part of town.”

That part of town that he referred to was full of crazies. Even the people who looked normal clearly weren’t, because they wouldn’t be anywhere near that square mile if they were. The problem was she didn’t have any better plans at the moment.

“Alright, let’s get creeping, I guess,” she said and set out onto the sidewalk of the boulevard. She wasn’t entirely sure what to look for, but the task gave her a renewed sense of purpose nonetheless. The key now was to separate the drunks and the weirdos from the real threats. To separate the predators from the prey. The hunting grounds surprised her- she hadn’t expected the vampire hunt itself to take place in plain sight. Across rooftops, maybe, or through some derelict mansion, maybe. Rooftops would be fine; she hadn’t spent the last six months doing yoga and sprints every day for nothing.

Unfortunately, she didn’t get to use her newly refined talents. Instead, they brushed past hundreds of people. They were mostly groups out for a good time. She started looking for individuals, loners, people that weren’t part of the normal flow. You can’t drink on the street in LA, so people move from bar to bar like they are hopping along islands in lava. If anyone is taking their time, if anyone looks like they’ve been waiting a little too long for no good reason, maybe they’re a suspect. Her whole theory goes out the window if the vamps hunted in packs, but Daniel hadn’t mentioned that.

Then she saw a vampire. A real old one, judging by his dress. He was something straight out of the Victorian era, with ruffles and big baggy pants tucked into boots. Aside from the cape and the dress, the man’s face was white and chiseled and attractive. People walked up to him, completely unafraid. They put their arms around him and took pictures, and instead of giving him blood they gave him money. There were other characters, too, like Batman and Elvis and even Marilyn Monroe.

The whole scene made Jules’ stomach turn into knots. These people thought vampires were some big joke. Getting your life ripped away isn’t some joke. That means vampires aren’t a goddamn joke. That idiot isn’t the problem, though. He wasn’t going to make the night any better. Forget about him.

Jules and Daniel continued past the photo opportunities and towards the heart of the neighborhood. It wasn’t much more than a conglomeration of bars, all there only because the other establishments were, too. It was also where all the drinkers ended up, almost like they were pulled to it. If anything bad was going to happen, it would be in that vortex where frozen drink machines, bachelor parties, and first-time aspiring actresses collide.

“You see anything yet?” Daniel asked. Jules shook her head. “Nope, except for Party City Dracula back there. Part of me wants to stake him, but the other part of me doesn’t want to go to jail.”

“I hate jokers like that too, but you can’t let them get to you. We got bigger fish to fry, alright?”

“Yeah, yeah. It just feels like we’re going in circles.”

“Look, we’ll check The Hub. If this vamp is looking to hunt in plain sight, he’ll be there. The place might as well be a fully stocked deli.”

“What the hell, Daniel.”

“Sorry, I’m just saying. Let’s check it out.”

Getting away from the hustle of the boulevard sounded pretty great to Jules. Unfortunately, (the Hub) wasn’t much better. The two giant bouncers that guarded the entrance of the club gave the impression that they had something to protect. Once Jules walked inside, though, she got the complete opposite impression. It was packed wall to wall with bodies, every one of them holding at least one drink each.

“Hookah smoke or frozen margaritas?” Jules yelled over the bass of the evening. “You know don’t smoke,” he shouted back. “You do love girly drinks,” she laughed, “I guess let’s split up. You take the right side, I’ll take the left. We’ll meet back at the ‘Big Queasy.’”

The Hub was like the United Nations of booze. Jules’ first stop was Mexico, painted with wall murals and lined with bottles of tequila. Nothing. Then, she ventured through Japan, a house of sake and sushi.

She hadn’t had sushi in months. It was her favorite food, once. She didn’t eat it anymore and she didn’t even like to think about it. It came with nothing but a chain of bad memories that dragged her down into a dark place. So now, she hated the stuff and hated the restaurants that served it.

Maybe it wasn’t about the food, though. In fact, she knew it wasn't. It was about the experience. Not just the sitting down at the little bar, the sake and beer drinking. It was who she would partake in the experience with. Sushi was their weekly ritual. She remembered the feeling she experienced every time, how she would regret the choice to not have sex with him before dinner. It was always so much food.

No, she couldn’t let herself go there. It was too late, though. All she could think of was Sam, now, at the sushi joint. It made sense. This whole night was for him, even if he was gone.

Except, no, it wasn’t. Jules became aware of her surroundings again and backed out of the place and back into the crowd of people. It wasn’t about him. It was about her, right? That’s what he would have wanted. For her to push through, for her to continue on.

She needed a new goal. Even a short term one. The cloud of smoke that wafted over from the hookah lounge. That was good enough. That unmistakably strange smell of natural tobacco and chemical fruit went right into her brain, and she did her best to cast the memory aside. Had to get back on track.

The wall behind the bar had a drink of every color. Jules had learned the hard way: the more colors, the worse the hangover. They waited for the bartender to finish splashing Jaeger across the row of shot glasses on the bar. The smell of the stuff made Jules’ stomach turn.

“Can I get you guys something?” the girl asked. Her eyes met them once and then continued to scan all the other customers across the room. She could pay attention to the whole room at once- a good bartender, and a good witness. “Yeah,” Daniel said and leaned across the bar. “I wonder, have you seen any...weird characters tonight?”

“What? You mean besides you? Look I’m busy, you want a drink or not?”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Despite writing books about creatures of the night, Byron Thorne spends most of his time between notoriously sunny San Diego and not-much-cloudier Los Angeles. He believes there are two types of people in this world: those that order margaritas on the rocks and those that order them frozen. When he isn't writing or mixing cocktails he is probably walking his oddly shaped Dachsund, Charlie.

Q. Why do you write?
A.
I imagine I write for the same reason that many writers do- because I feel compelled to. If I don't write for a day, I feel like something went horribly wrong. It took me too long to realize writing was what was missing in my life.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I love the implicit noir and horror themes that run through the paranormal genres. I also like strong female lead characters. Plus, vampires are amazing- they have existed in human culture in some form for thousands of years.

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