Sandra was a decidedly average High-School student, with a perfectly reasonable fear of the recently-outed vampires living among them. And then her mom went missing.
Desperate to find her mother before her sister is taken away from her, Sandra ventures into the world of the undead and gets a whole lot more than she bargained for.
The second story submitted for my creative writing class Starting Your Manuscript, is an excerpt from my Work in Progress: Condemned in my Forbidden Trilogy. Don’t Go Chasing Vampires follows Sandra’s desperate attempt to find information surrounding her mothers disappearance, leading her into the dangerous den of the ancient vampire Antonio.
While this excerpt is decidedly short for an assignment, my tutor found it engaging, enjoying the building of erotic suspense, giving me an A- overall with a request that I build it out further. Using an excerpt as a stand-alone story is a tricky business that I haven’t yet mastered, but I think what I’ve developed here gives a solid understanding of the situation, at least enough to engage with the scene.
I’m working on a post looking at how this piece and Saccharine Reminiscence evolved through workshopping at University, so keep an eye out for that in the future!
Don’t Go Chasing Vampires
With a burst of deranged courage, I hit the button to summon the elevator. I immediately wanted to kick myself. Considered turning on my heel and running.
I shouldn’t be here.
But the same concerns that had brought me here rooted me to the spot. I had questions. I needed answers. My mom was missing, no one else was going to look for her, and my only lead had loped away into the night in the form of a wolf. Antonio was the only link I had.
The events kept playing on repeat in my mind, kept me tossing and turning all night. The images flashed through my mind again as I waited for the elevator to descend. The man in the alley. The ricocheting boom, the recoil, as my finger panicked on the trigger. The stomach-churning clicking and popping as his body twisted, warping into a snarling beast. The roaring in my ears, pavement slapping beneath my feet. And Antonio. Appearing from nowhere, saving the day.
What was he doing there? Why did he save me? What did he know? The questions circled my mind like a mantra. He told me not to ask questions.
The doors opened, and I hesitated, staring into the empty silver box. This was insane.
The doors began to slide shut and I threw my hand out to hold them. They opened. I stepped inside and hit the appropriate floor number.
I watched the doors close on what felt like my last chance to change my mind. My heart took up a drumming. I tried the calming breathing exercises I’d learnt in therapy. Four counts in. Seven counts hold. Eight counts out. It didn’t seem to make a difference.
The elevator doors opened to a surprisingly large reception, all greys and browns, plush carpet and polished wood, another door opposite me. A few lounges sat empty, as did the reception desk. I stared at the door, Antonio’s name printed across it in bold black letters, until the elevator began to close again. I cursed, grabbing the door again.
I cleared my throat, took a breath, “Hello?”
With the final shreds of my courage I stepped out, allowing the elevator to close behind me. I crept forward. There was a bell on the reception desk. I’d ring it. If there was still no answer, I’d leave.
Despite the questions running on loop, driving me mad, I found myself praying no one answered. I had to remember why I was doing this. Had to stay focused on finding my mom. Whatever it took.
Before I could reach the bell a door behind me opened. Ice flooded my veins, turned my muscles to stone.
“Sandra… what a wonderful surprise.” It took far too long to turn on the spot. I stared, panicked. Antonio was grinning at me. I fought to keep my feet planted where I stood.
If I thought I’d been scared coming here, I was about ready to wet myself now. I struggled to suck air into my lungs, to hide the trembling of my hands, the weakness in my knees.
I was alone with Antonio.
His hair, blonder than mine, was swept into a low ponytail, and the business-casual button-down stretched over his broad shoulders. He barely beat me in height, but his presence flooded the room, suddenly too small to contain the two of us. It took some focus to remember how to breathe. Whatever part of my brain had considered this a good idea needed a beating.
“You shot a monster last night,” Antonio said casually, approaching slowly, “and yet… my mere presence has you shaking in your boots. After last night, I would’ve thought you might consider me non-threatening.”
He was in front of me by the time he was finished speaking. Too close.
Miraculously, I managed to take a step back. It took a little more effort to find my voice, to force it above a petrified whisper, “Consider it self-preservation.”
“Yet here you stand.”
Here I stood.
Antonio’s eyes closed; he drew in a long, deep breath, savoring whatever scents were undetectable to my nose. When his eyes opened, they were hungry.
I dropped my gaze, remembering almost too late never to meet their gaze, lest I fall completely under their spell.
“I am going to need you to stop that, Sandra,” he said, his voice a caress of energy against my skin, “it is… intoxicating.”
I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant but was fairly certain I didn’t want to know. Simply being in his presence was unlike anything I’d ever imagined. It was one thing to fear his kind, and know, logically, I had every reason to. It was another to stand face to face with an ancient being and know I would be dead if he so wished it. I’d never grasped quite how alien they were. They were more than ‘enhanced’ humans; they were an entirely different species.
His hand cupped my cheek and I flinched, every muscle going rigid.
He made an appreciative sound in his throat that made my stomach clench. It sounded like my fear was arousing. I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it.
“I have questions,” I finally said, staring forcefully at the ground. It took everything I had not to look at him, not to retreat into a corner, “And I need answers.”
Antonio stepped around me with a sigh and approached the second door, retrieving his keys and unlocking it. I knew this from the sounds alone, because I wasn’t entirely sure I could move.
He disappeared inside and I warred with the desire to run.
He held a glass out to me. I stared at it. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said by way of explanation.
Not wanting to offend him, I took the glass. I sniffed it, “I’m too young to drink.”
“I think you’re also too young to be shooting men in the street – no, wait, that one’s always illegal,” he taunted, “But I won’t tell if you don’t.”
I stared at it. While the liquor might take the edge off, I wasn’t convinced I wanted to drink it. I needed my head as clear as I could manage, and I wasn’t entirely confident he wouldn’t put something in it.
“Drink Sandra,” he commanded, his tone impatient, “I promise you, my only intention is to stop you radiating terror. I’m no saint, after all.”
I still didn’t think I wanted to but obeyed regardless. I cringed at the taste before forcing myself to speak, “Why did you save me last night?”
Antonio walked back into the other room. “Come.”
I took a long breath and forced my feet forward, examining the room as I went. The office was smaller than the reception, darker, dominated by a large antique desk, centered between three chairs. Beyond that, there was a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and liquor cabinet, but little else. No windows. I had to wonder if there was one hidden behind the enormous shelf.
Antonio had taken a seat behind the desk and gestured for me to sit in one of the two chairs opposite him, “Close the door.”
I didn’t want to. I did not want to shut myself in the room with him. Logically, I knew it made no difference. I shut the door.
Careful not to meet his gaze, I moved to one of the chairs and sat stiffly.
I waited, but he seemed to show no interest in anything other than sipping his own drink and watching me. “Well?” I finally prompted, studiously staring at my hands, the glass tightly gripped between them. It was hard not to look at him.
I sucked in a breath, repeating, “Why did you save me last night?”
“I told you to stop asking questions.”
“Look, if- if this is some kind of power play, or if I owe you for rescuing me last night, please just tell me. I have no desire to withhold information from the police, but I figure it’s better than going to prison for attempted murder, so for the love of god, just give me a heads up on what kind of shit I’ve walked into.”
I slammed the glass down on his desk, pushing to my feet, “If you aren’t going to tell me anything then you’re wasting my time.”
“You came to me, Sandra,” he reminded. “Sit down.”
I felt the command in my bones, felt my knees wobble, “Don’t do that.”
I fell into the chair with a gasp. Holy gods. I swallowed heavily, “Please don’t do that.”
“Does it scare you?”
He would know if I lied, “It terrifies me.”
Antonio made another appreciative rumble in his throat that shivered down my spine. I was feeling very small, and very vulnerable.
“If you want the answers you seek, you will have to pay a price.”
Great. “Name it.”
His grin became fanged and I stiffened, eyes widening at his implication, “Just a taste…”
Antonio sighed, “Sandra, you ruin my fun. Your fear, after all, is quite exquisite. I promise it will not hurt; you may even find you like it.”
I pushed to my feet again, legs unsteady, “If you aren’t going to tell me anything, I guess I’ll be leaving.”
Those words held a predatory delight I could only compare to the joy of a cat tormenting a mouse.
I turned and found Antonio in front of the door.
I fought back rising panic, “I will not consent to any blood-letting. If- if you attempt to force it, I will report you to the police. If you… if you plan to kill me, they will know. They’re already suspicious of you, and- after what I told them, I’m sure you would be the prime suspect.”
In a blink, he was before me, “Is that so?”
I jerked back, stumbling over a chair and found myself falling back against his desk.
Shakily, I tried again, diverting the conversation back on course, “Did you know the- the man? Do you know if he’s involved in my mother’s disappearance”?
“Why won’t you believe she’s dead?”
I glared, “I’ll believe it when I see it. Do you know that man?”
I blew out a breath. He was the only lead I had. And I’d shot him. Had I also shot any chance of solving her disappearance to hell?
“What is he?” My voice trembled, just a little. I already knew the answer, whether I wanted to accept it or not, “Why the secrecy?”
“You aren’t going to let this go, are you?
“Do you think my mother was investigating him?”
“You have yet to pay any price for your answers, Sandra.”
I swallowed again, “Name something else.”
He considered. He considered for a long, stretched moment that left me in silence with my pounding heart. If it were this loud in my own ears, I wondered what he was hearing. There was no hiding what I was feeling from him. I wondered if that scared me more than anything else. It’s hard to act brave when he knew I’d likely jump out of my skin if he so much as whispered boo.
“Then perhaps a kiss?”
“I’m seventeen!” I protested, “And you’re like… ancient.”
How ancient was yet to be established. Old, I knew. Most vampires didn’t have the power he did.
“You are matured enough, and I know you do not look at me like I am, as you say, ancient,” he countered, “you will need a more honest excuse than that.”
I set my jaw defiantly, “Vampires disgust me.”
Antonio laughed, “Sandra, please, disgust is not the word that comes to mind when you look at me.”
I was angry now, “Physical attraction has nothing to do with it. You’re– you’re a murderer. A monster.”
“But you attempted to kill a man last night.”
“In self-defense, not for pleasure.”
“Then, I suppose we shall both be disappointed.”
“I suppose so.”
He took a step closer and I fought with the desire to recoil. I was in the lion’s den, and there were certain predators you should not run from. He was one of them. Antonio reached out and toyed with a blond lock of my hair. I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut like a child. I kept them open.
“It wouldn’t have to be on the lips,” he finally offered.
I did not like being this close to him. There was an energy rolling off him that buzzed against my skin, a thrumming that tingled. It purred through my head, and I was angry that it wasn’t exactly unpleasant. Somehow, I doubted he’d appreciate if I smacked his hand away or attempted to shove him back. I licked my lips, speaking only when I was fairly certain my voice wouldn’t tremble, “So I could offer you my hand, and you’d be satisfied with a quick peck?”
“Well, I was hoping you might at least offer me your cheek, but I suppose, yes, that would suffice.”
I considered. On the one hand, I should never have come here; I wanted to leave as fast as humanly possible. On the other, I had a lot of questions that needed answers, “How many questions will you answer?”
Antonio grinned, “Very clever, Sandra. Shall we say… I will answer as many of your questions about last night as I can, in exchange for a kiss of your hand.”
Antonio still had me backed up against his desk, but there was nothing I could do about that now. I watched him reach out for my hand and felt whatever the magical energy was that rolled off him double.
His fingers brushed my skin and my breath caught. His touch prickled along my skin in a pleasant vibration that radiated all the way up my arm.
I drew quick, shallow breaths as I watched him lift my hand, wanting to snatch it back; of all the ways I’d thought this could backfire on me, I hadn’t considered the possibility of enjoying it. My heart resumed its drumming, and the roaring in my ears drowned the rest of the world.
His fingers brushed lightly over my palm, along my fingers. My skin tingled delightfully in his wake, turning my brain to static. I wanted to close my eyes, bask in it.
Antonio turned my hand palm-up. I’d expected him to kiss the back of my hand, like in old movies, but he watched my face as he slowly lifted my palm to his lips. My eyes tracked the movement helplessly. I couldn’t breathe, like a young girl about to get her first kiss, a virgin enjoying the brush of hands over her body for the first time. I didn’t know how this simple contact could illicit such a response, but I had to fight not to fall into it.
He brushed his lips lightly across the base of my thumb and I gasped like he’d shocked me, the sensation jolting up my arm. Finally, with a small smile, the vampire kissed my palm at the base of my thumb.
His lips were soft, but electric, prickling against my skin, hundreds of tiny bursts of electricity that cascaded up and down my arm.
My eyes fluttered closed and the smallest sigh escaped me as pleasure radiated up my arm. I wanted more. I wanted to feel his energy caress my skin, wanted it to run over my body in waves.
Antonio released my hand. My eyes flew open as I was ripped from bliss. My heart hammered in my chest as I stared at him, wanting him to give it back. His eyes held mischief, desire, hunger.
I wasn’t supposed to be looking into his eyes.
As though torn from a dream, I realized what he’d done, jarring me back to reality. I jerked my hand back, forcing my eyes down
He’d had me. His power had ensnared me; still echoed through me. I wanted to feel it again. Heat pooled in my face. I wanted so much more.
I needed to get out. Get away.
Without a word, without another glance, I pushed away from the desk and darted for the door. He let me. I didn’t care, not about running, not about answers, nothing except getting far, far away from the intoxicating temptation of that power.
I threw myself through the door, across the reception, and summoned the elevator. I leaned against the wall, hand pressed over my racing heart, struggling to breathe. The absence of him crawled over my skin, ants marching up my arm. I shook my hand desperately, rubbing my arm as if that would clear it away. The doors slid open and I stepped inside, mashing the button to close the doors until they began to move.
I fell against the wall, trembling. I’d thought I was being brave, going to him for answers. Now, I just felt incredibly, naively, stupid.
I’d never understood how someone could become addicted to being bitten. Now I knew. Even now, despite my horror, I wanted to go back for more. His power was intoxicating, a drug. They could tap your mind while they fed, make you feel things. I knew that. But he hadn’t fed on me. I’d never heard of whatever he’d done to me. I didn’t know how it compared to being bitten, but I knew; a single bite from Antonio and he would have me. Hook, line, and sinker. One bite, and I’d be enslaved.
I could feel it in my bones.