Authors: Sylah Sloan
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Editor: Marie Medina
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This is for my daughters, who I hope will not let anything or anyone stop them from doing what they dream. You two are my inspiration.
Copyright © 2013
She stepped out of the grocery store, the automatic sliding doors opening of their own accord and letting the cool autumn air wash over her. Adjusting the generic brown paper bag to her other arm, she walked outside. The weight was slight compared to what she carried in her belly. Placing her free hand on her swollen stomach, she felt the small kicks her baby gave through her skin. As much as she enjoyed being pregnant, she couldn’t wait until the baby finally arrived. Her due date being only a few short weeks away, the excitement she felt was almost too much to handle.
Looking both ways, she stepped off the curb and headed home. The night was chilly, fall starting to take over as the yellow and orange dried leaves brushed across the sidewalks and streets. The night was encompassing the sky, making it that color when the sun kisses the horizon. She hated being outside after dark, the shadows lurking everywhere providing too much temptation for hidden threats. Every little noise seemed monumental, but she pushed them aside, blaming her overactive imagination.
Adjusting the bag once again, she felt the coldness from the milk jug seep through the bag. Serenity Springs, Colorado was the perfect place to live and raise a family, but with its new residents, the town she had once thought peaceful seemed far too dangerous. It had been only a year since it was revealed that humans were not alone on Earth. She thought it a joke at first, but as the proof mounted, and the evidence was revealed, it made her a believer. A shuffling sounded close to her. She spun around, her heart beating frantically.
The wind blew bits of debris across the empty pavement behind her. She breathed a sigh of relief, thankful it was again just her imagination. Knowing a creature of myth and fable could be your neighbor, your friend, or even a relative, changed a person’s psyche. She turned back around, her pace picking up as she spotted her small apartment building. Slowing her pace, she stopped right before a small alley. This was another reason she hated going out at night—the creepy side streets not even the street lamps penetrated.
She stopped at the edge of the alley, the darkness seeming to slither its tentacles out toward her.
Stop it. You’re safe.
She told herself over and over again—a mantra to soothe her. Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to continue. Her baby began to kick frantically, and she rubbed her hand across her stomach, whispering soft, calming words. She straightened her back, raising her head as she slowly made her way across the darkened gap.
As she passed the alley, calmness washed over her when she saw her apartment door only a few steps away. Reaching into her pocket, she fished around for her keys, feeling the jagged edges across her fingertips. She gripped the cold, brass handle and turned. Before she could open the door, a low, deep voice spoke behind her.
“Beautiful town, it’s very calm and serene.”
The town was small, everyone knowing each other, but this voice, so deep it rocked her soul, was not one she knew. She gripped her keys tighter, ready to use them as a weapon if needed. A hand skated down her arm, and she glanced to the side. Long yellow nails tipped large dirty hands. She swallowed back her gag reflex and closed her eyes.
“I don’t have much money, but you can have it all.”
He laughed—his voice deep and sinister as he continued to caress her arm. “It isn’t your money I want.”
“Pl … please, I’m pregnant.”
Before she knew it, she was no longer in front of her door, but pressed against the cold, hard brick of the building. She covered her belly with her arms, hoping her baby wouldn’t be harmed.
“Look at me.”
She couldn’t help it. His voice was so compelling, so lulling that she had no other choice. She opened her eyes, his face becoming clear even in the darkness.
“Do you know what I am?”
She looked at his mouth, and the twin fangs pressing against his bottom lip revealed the creature he was. He smiled an evil smile, one that showed red stained teeth.
“Oh yes, you know.”
That was the last thing he said before he pierced her neck, his teeth sinking into her flesh and agonizing pain shooting through her. He drank from her neck for an eternity, the disgusting sucking and swallowing noises he made barely registering.
The pain overruled every other sensation and thought that crossed her mind. She was so tired, so very tired. She let her body sink to the ground. It was in that instant, the instant of her surrender that she saw the dark figure looming behind her attacker. He was so tall, his shadow seeming to touch the sky. He ripped the vampire away from her, the searing pain burning its way through her neck. She let her head fall back against the brick wall, trying to suck in great lungfuls of fresh air, the act causing the wound at her neck to burn with excruciating pain.
Inhuman grunting and screams surrounded her, and then blissful silence. She tried to raise her head to see her savior, but it was too difficult.
“Please … my baby.” She didn’t know if he heard her, as she barely heard herself. All she thought about was her baby. Her child that barely moved within her. Everything became dark and her body became so cold she shivered uncontrollably. She felt a warm hand caress her cheek, running down to the wound on her neck. She heard him inhale deeply, the noise sounding shocked.
“I’m so sorry.”
She knew that voice—the voice so deep and memorable. Her memories flooded her. He had come back for her. “I thought I would never see you again.” Her words no more than a whisper, but she knew he heard them, nonetheless. She smiled, trying desperately to see his face one more time. She wasn’t a fool, she knew she was dying, but a sense of calm overwhelmed her knowing he was with her. “I’ve missed you.”
A small sliver of light broke through the buildings and cut across his face. She smiled again and lifted her arm to stroke his cheek. The limb felt too heavy, and it took all of her strength to lift it, but she needed to—needed to feel his skin once more.
He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. “Please, don’t speak, save your strength.” He opened his eyes and scooped her up. “I should never have left you.
This is my fault.”
She let her body mold against his and closed her eyes. “Please, save our baby.”
“Oh, my sweet Lilly, please don’t leave me.”
His sorrow-filled voice was the last thing she heard before the darkness consumed her.
Seventeen years later
There was blood, a lot of it, and bodies littering the ground around my feet. I stood in a vast field, the corpses of strangers everywhere, their vacant eyes staring up at me, as if they were pleading for my help. I wanted to run, so badly, but as with all my dreams, I was cemented to the spot. The stench of fire and sulfur surrounded me, and although the bodies of the dead were within reaching distance, I could not smell their decaying flesh. This was it, the time in my dreams when I knew they would come for me. I always knew when I was dreaming, and for that small favor I was eternally grateful.
As if on cue, those bodies that had looked so lifeless before now withered and moved toward me. Their gaping mouths, open with rotting teeth, screamed and begged. I never understood what they wanted from me, but the terrifying effect of their presence was still the same. Right before they reached me I glanced up, feeling the hair on my arms stand on end. He was here. I didn’t know who he was or what he wanted, but I knew one thing for sure.
Whatever his plans were, they involved me.
I rolled over, my hand blindly searching for the alarm clock currently sounding that annoying noise. After several failed attempts, I finally hit the snooze button. Burying my face in my pillow, I was ready to go back to sleep when I heard the distinct holler of Marie’s voice float up from downstairs. I was used to the dreams, well, as used to them as I was ever going to be. Some had me waking in a cold sweat, while others left me feeling so frightened my entire body was numb. I heard Marie again and buried my face farther into the pillow, trying to block out her voice.
“Meadow! I know you can hear me. You better get your butt down here, or you’re going to be late for school
She made sure to emphasize “again” like I did it every day. I threw the covers back, my head already pounding. Sitting up, I opened the drawer of my bedside table and grabbed a couple of aspirin. I popped them in my mouth and took a sip of the stale, twenty-four hour old water I’d placed next to me yesterday.
I slipped on my robe and grabbed my toiletry bag. If I didn’t get in the bathroom first, I would most definitely be late for school. I made a mad dash towards the bathroom, smiling as Toby’s door opened. He was rubbing his eyes, not even paying any attention. I closed the bathroom door fast, locking it and breathing out a sigh of relief.