Bleeding to death after brutal mugging on the campus of UNLV, Twenty-five year old Alyssa, is rescued by the cold and aloof, vampire, Lysander. Taking pity on her, he shares the gift-and curse-of immortality. She awakens as a vampire and is soon devastated by harsh realities of her new way of life: the loss of her friends, her independence, and her humanity.
As if having her humanity stripped away wasn't enough to make life interesting, Alyssa finds out her Turning, did not go unnoticed by the rest of undead society. Old enemies; an ancient sect of vampire hunters, known as the Acta Sanctorum, as well as a powerful Vampire mistress, each set plans in motion to destroy both Alyssa and Lysander.
Only by accepting her new-found immortality and seizing the night, will Alyssa hope to survive. She and Lysander will have to fight together against two sets of enemies bent on destroying them.
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I hated waiting!
I shot impatient glances at my phone, checking the time displayed in green LED. It was late and I was restless.
Sounds of clapping in the background signaled that another poetry reading had finished.
It was a busy night at Café Copioh; but then, just about every night here was busy.
Copioh drew in a unique crowd from the nearby college. It wasn’t one of those fancy frou-frou coffee houses. It had a bohemian feel: colorful, vibrant, and eclectic. Each wall had been painted in a different color: teal, maroon, sand, and sage. Reprints of various famous artworks lined the walls, including a large mural of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, in black light reflective paint. A plethora of flea market-style furnishings were strewn about haphazardly in the large space, completing the relaxed, homey feel.
Mike, the manager—a stereotypical beatnik-esque guy, complete with goatee and long pony-tail—set down a Styrofoam cup filled with a dark, chocolaty drink. “You adding this to your tab, Alyssa?”
I smiled. “Yeah. I’ll pay up on Friday, okay?”
He nodded and walked away.
I was a regular here. Mike knew this and usually let me slide until payday. I could be found here almost every night. And so could my friend, Fallon.
I shot another impatient glance at my phone and sighed.
“Ten p.m. C’mon Fallon, I don’t want to wait all night.”
A loud, shrill voice spoke over the café’s speaker system. I cringed, hearing the start of another dreary poem.
Someone was almost always on the makeshift stage. Reading poetry was the custom here. I sat back into the cushions of my favorite brown threadbare loveseat in the front window, far away from the stage, and tried unsuccessfully to ignore the babbling. I never did care for poetry. Most of it was nothing more than nonsensical emotional ramblings, with too much use of words like dark, black, emptiness, and despair.
A hum of mumbling voices nearby tempted me to listen. Eavesdropping here was like having a front-row seat to a taping of my own personal soap opera. Tidbits of gossip about people I knew piqued my interest, momentarily stealing my focus.
The sudden jingle of my cell phone startled me. I jumped to answer it, almost knocking over my mocha. I didn’t need the caller ID to tell me who it was. Fallon was well over an hour late.
“Please tell me you are close. You would not believe the day I had. I need to vent,” I blurted out, forgetting the pleasantries of a proper greeting.
“Sorry, Alyssa, I’m not going to make it out tonight.”
Great, what else could go wrong today?
“What? No! Oh, c’mon, Fallon. Don’t leave me hanging. I need a friend today. I got fired….”
“Lyss, I don’t feel like going out tonight. I’m tired and it’s already late. Let’s just meet up tomorrow, okay?”
I huffed, not wanting to answer.
“Alyssa, I promise, tomorrow,” Fallon said in her most sympathetic voice.
“Yeah, sure. Whatever.” I didn’t bother hiding my disappointment.
“Sorry, Lyss, I’ll make it up to you. I promise. We’ll go out tomorrow. You can tell me all about work then, okay?”
“Fine. But next time, don’t leave me hanging here by myself for an hour before you decide to cancel on me.” I breathed a disappointed sigh and pressed the end button on the phone.
The perfect end to the perfect day. Might as well pack up and go home. I gulped down my mocha, waved to the manager, and walked out the front door.
A hot summer breeze greeted me: a mixture of coffee, car exhaust, and the lingering tang of grease from a nearby taco shop.
I set off across the street to the University. My apartment was on the other side of campus. Just a quick ten-minute walk and I would be home.
Being a petite woman, I never did like walking home alone, especially at night, and tried to avoid it whenever possible. I’d heard too many horror stories about college girls like myself being raped or worse. This time, though, I had no choice. There was no friend to take me home, so I had to hoof it. Reaching into my bag, I pulled out a keychain of pepper spray. Old Reliable.
Knives could be turned against you and do some serious damage. I knew pepper spray was a good enough deterrent without having the potential to be deadly. If someone managed to get it away and use it against me, the worst I could expect was stinging eyes, and that was better than a stab wound.
UNLV was quiet at this time of night. The regular classes had ended hours ago and the walk-ways were empty. My finger covered the trigger of the keychain as I took the pathway leading toward the theater and music halls.
Just walk fast and don’t talk to anybody. I took a deep breath, steeling my courage while attempting to calm my nerves. I hated walking home alone.
Sounds of distant chatter caught my attention. Echoes of raised voices reverberated off brick buildings. It sounded like a couple of men arguing somewhere ahead of me. Tightening my grip on the keychain, I quickened my pace.
Almost home, just keep going.
Small lamps dotted the walkway, and floodlights hung from the corners of some of the buildings. Normally, there was plenty of light on the walkway, but tonight something felt different. Things seemed darker. A light on one of the buildings flickered. I noticed another building’s lights had completely burned out, leaving a portion of my path in darkness.
I gritted my teeth and fought against the weak voice of my intuition telling me to go back to the café.
The arguing voices faded into silence as I neared the theater. An eerie quiet sent a shiver dancing down my spine. I stopped and looked around, checking for any movement in the shadows. Intuition, no longer a weak voice in my head, screamed at me to run. Something wasn’t right.
Probably just some frat boys. Calm down, Alyssa, no reason to get scared. Reasoning with myself didn’t help. My heartbeat sped as I continued down the path, pounding hard against the wall of my chest.
“Excuse me,” a male voice called out from behind me.
I stifled a gasp and my heart skipped a beat.
“Excuse me, miss. Hello. Can you help me?”
Against my better judgment, I turned toward the voice.
“Sorry to bother you. I’m new here and kind of lost. Could you tell me where the library is? I’m supposed to be meeting a friend there.”
The guy sounds friendly enough. Okay, just give a quick answer and leave.
I squinted, trying to get a better look at the guy who had called out to me. A skinny, twenty-something guy passed out of the shadows into the light. A wide-mouthed smile covered his bony face. He didn’t seem all that intimidating. I felt a little silly for letting myself be spooked. He looked like an average college guy: short spiky hair, glasses, and a generic sarcastic saying on his t-shirt. For a second, I thought I recognized him from somewhere. Maybe he’d stopped into Copioh before.
I took my finger off the pepper spray trigger. “Sorry, I’m a little jumpy tonight. It’s no problem. Just go down that way.” I pointed in the direction of the library.
Something tapped me hard on the shoulder. I turned around, seeing a blur of knuckles just be-fore a fist slammed into my face.
Pain shot through my jaw. Stunned, my vision blurred out of focus. I dropped my bag and key-chain as I fell to the ground. I landed hard on my back, knocking the wind out of myself. A hot throbbing radiated from my cheek to my ear.
I looked up, trying to focus through the confusion and pain. A hulk of a man stood before me.
“Help!” I screamed.
The large man swung his foot, kicking me hard in the ribs.
I yelped as burning pain shot though my chest.
“Keep your mouth shut, bitch, if you know what’s good for you,” threatened the heavyset man.
I was sure he had just broken at least one of my ribs. Bile rose up my throat. I rolled onto my knees, vomiting on the ground. Sharp pains stabbed me from within as I heaved. The contents of my late-night snack spread in a sickening puddle over the concrete.
I looked up, barely able to make out through my blurry vision the skinny man walking toward me. Fear, panic, and anxiety tore through me all in the same instant. I cowered, afraid of what would happen next.
Gone was the friendly face he had fooled me with. The skinny man’s lips twisted in a vicious smile, revealing dirty, tobacco-stained teeth. Removing his belt, he used it as a whip and struck me. The leather stung as it tore open my face.
Again I yelped. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks; stinging the bleeding wound I had just received. I tried to crawl away, but before I could get far, a foot came down hard on my hands. A large, thick-soled boot crushed my knuckles, twisting side to side as if stamping out a cigarette.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, hoping someone would hear me and come to my rescue.
“Shut up or I'll shut you up,” the skinny man commanded. “Now, we’re going to have a little fun.”
“Please…no…don’t hurt me.”
“This one is too easy, Mark,” he said to his large friend.
“Yeah, not much fight in her,” the heavyset man laughed. “But she’s got a nice tight little body. Mmmm, look at those boobs, Craig. Bit more than a handful there, huh?”
He reached out, his hand just grazing my chest.
I balled myself up on the ground.
“Are you scared, little girl?” taunted the man called Mark.
The two men hovered over me, laughing.
I tried to reach out for my keychain, hoping to grab it, but it was too far. My heart pounded, my stomach ached, and my ribs hurt. Pushing aside the pain, I stretched out as far as I could.
If I could just reach the keychain, I could pepper-spray them, and give myself a chance to run.
It was my only hope.
My fingers had just grazed the edge of one of the keys when something sharp pierced my lower back.
I screamed again. A meaty hand forced itself over my mouth. Thick arms wrapped around me, lifting me up to my knees.
“See what you made me do?” His hot breath blew against my ear as he spoke. I felt the knife as he slowly pulled it out of my back. I whimpered under his grip over my mouth. He pushed me toward the pavement.
I had no chance to break the fall. The ground came at me too fast. My head struck hard, with a crack. Throbbing pain radiated through my temples.
The man called Mark bent down, grabbed my keychain, and threw it. A faint echo sounded as it dropped, telling me I was doomed. I had nothing left, no weapon with which to fight. I was at their mercy and so utterly helpless.
In that moment, I knew my life was over. Even if they had their way and left me there, I would die.
I whimpered, trembling as he showed me the knife, freshly coated with my blood. He waved slowly it in front of my face.
“You won’t be trying a stunt like that again, will you?” he said.
I turned my head and saw the skinny man out of the corner of my eye. He busied himself rummaging through my bag, tossing aside my book, makeup, and various trinkets. After finding my wallet, he pocketed it and tossed the bag aside, shifting his focus back to me.
“Please, let me go. Please.” My voice cracked as I pleaded.
Pain filled my entire body. I couldn’t tell where the sensations were coming from. Tears streamed down my face. Shock set in and my head swam with dizziness. I tried to focus on the stars above, but my vision was hazy, as if I were looking through frosted glass.
Why me? Why is this happening to me?
I had just lost my job, I had no clue how I would pay my rent, and my best friend had ditched me. It had already been worst day of my life. All I had wanted to do was get home to my apartment. I had done nothing to deserve this.
Why had I stopped to answer that man?
The world blurred in and out of focus. I fought to stay conscious. I don’t want to die. I don’t want this. Please, someone save me.
“You hold her down, Mark and I’ll have a go with her first, then you can have your turn,” said the skinny man, smiling, giving me a close-up of his crooked yellow teeth. I tried to roll away, curling into the fetal position.
“Why do you get to go first? I don’t want her when she’s cold.”
“If you shut up and let me take my turn, she’ll still be alive when you get her.”
I hated the way they talked. I hated the fact that the last thing I would hear before I die was their voices. I wasn’t a person to them. I was a conquest, nothing more than an object for them to use for their sinister pleasure. I was going to die, just another statistic.
“Fine, but hurry,” Mark said angrily as he tossed the knife to his friend. He took his frustration out on me, kicking me once more before rolling me on to my back to hold me down. I knew what was coming next.
“Please…don’t,” I moaned weakly.
With one quick motion, the skinny man sliced my shirt and bra open, grazing my skin with the tip of the blade. I hissed, feeling the sting as a line of blood traced the fresh cut. He straddled me, admiring his work. Blood pooled between my breasts, thick and sticky. A sinister smile crossed his face, telling me he was savoring the fear in my eyes. His lips twisted upwards as he wiped his hand across the new wound, smearing the blood all over my exposed breast.
The weight of his body pressed against my already broken ribs, sending new shocks of pain into my stomach. I prayed it would be over soon.
“How long are you going to take?” Mark complained again. “Hurry up. I want my turn.”
My blood oozed out onto the concrete from the wound on my back. I felt as if I were deflating. Drowsiness pulled me into darkness. My eyelids drooped. I didn’t want to be awake for what they wanted to do anyway. I welcomed the end of this torment.
A sharp sting hit me like a streak of lightening. My eyes shot open. Through the haze I saw the skinny man’s hand, cocked and ready to deliver another strike. My cheek throbbed with a warm pain.
“Oh, no, you’re not. You’re staying awake for this,” he chided me.
Mark laughed and gripped my wrists tighter, above my head. “Do that again, Craig. Give her a last parting memory.”
“Will you shut up? I can’t concentrate with you talking.”
Thankfully, I didn’t have to try blur out the image of this man on top of me. I was too weak to fight my coming death. The words of the large man holding my wrists echoed in my mind. I would be cold and dead soon.
“Is that any way to treat a lady?” a strange, deep, velvety voice asked.
My attackers’ heads jerked upward.
My eyes shot open again. A sense of hope reawakened in me.
Grateful for the interruption, I strained to turn my head to look for this new and strange voice. I hoped this new person, whoever he was, might stop these men and take me away.
“Get lost, bud, this isn’t your concern,” the skinny man, Craig, said.
“You would dare harm an innocent young girl?” The new voice was oddly calm and arrogant. “Such savagery. You must realize I cannot allow you to continue.”
“I said, get lost, man.” A slight shudder came from Craig. I felt the vibrations through my body. He jerked his head from side to side frantically, as if scanning the surroundings. A bead of sweat dripped from his head above me, landing right on my cheek.
A footstep echoed on the darkened path as the stranger approached. I could just make out the faint outline of a man in the shadows.
My attackers seemed temporarily frozen with fear as they watched the man emerge from the darkness.
As the light hit the stranger, I saw a pair of eerily pale eyes lock onto me. He casually walked over, the sounds of his footfalls breaking the sudden silence.
I wanted desperately to get away before anything else happened to me. Intuition told me some-thing was different about this stranger. My hair seemed to stand on end as he approached. His eyes shone with an unnatural glow. I wanted nothing more than to escape, but fear and the weakness of my beaten body kept me firmly in place. My only hope was that somehow I might survive this night.
Panic seemed to overtake my attackers; they looked as if they wanted to run, but didn’t. Mark tightened his grip on my wrists.
The stranger knelt down next to us. He looked at Craig, sitting on my chest and waved his hand, motioning for him to get off of me.
I felt the vibrations of Mark trembling, still holding my wrists. His arms shook violently, but he didn’t let go.
Craig ignored the stranger, focusing his attention on me. His eyes locked onto mine. The arrogant expression faded from his face.
“Please, let me go, please,” I whispered.
Again, the stranger motioned for Craig to get off me. When the gesture was ignored a second time, the stranger spoke.
“My patience is wearing thin. Remove your hands from this girl. And do it quickly before my temper gets the better of me.” His voice was tinged with a mocking tone.
Again, Craig ignored the request; he stared stone-faced at me. Beads of sweat dripped from his chin onto my exposed chest. I saw the terror in his wide eyes.
After a few moments, the stranger made his move. With the ease of a man throwing out a sack of garbage, he grabbed Craig, lifted him off of my chest, and tossed him, sending his body flying into a nearby wall. It landed with a dull thud.
Mark recoiled, releasing his grip on me; however, he did not run away. He stood still, like a deer caught in the headlights. The stranger turned to look at him, staring intently into his eyes.
“You will stay there. You’ll have a good view,” said the stranger in a low, authoritative voice.
Mark nodded, his eyes wide with fear. Obediently, he remained in place, just as the stranger had instructed.
I wondered what would happen next. Even if I had the strength, I dared not move after seeing what this stranger was capable of. I wanted to scream, but my voice no longer had any strength; only soft whimpers escaped from my lips.
The stranger knelt down, looking at me kindly. His eyes were hypnotic, big and gray with flecks of blue. He smiled at me and caressed my bruised face. His touch was cool and soothing to my wounds. A strange calm took over as I looked into his eyes.
“What’s your name?” He asked. His eyes narrowed as his eyebrows pulled down in concentration.
My vision flickered, and suddenly I felt his deep, blue-gray eyes probing me, as if urging me to stay conscious.
“A-A-Alllyssssa.” It took work just to get the name out. My body wasn’t cooperating. The simple task of moving my lips to speak was almost too much to handle.
A still, grave expression marked the stranger’s face; he bent down further, whispering in to my ear. “I’m sorry, Alyssa. I know you have suffered much this evening, but I must do this; you are too far gone.”
I managed a nod. I knew this would be the end. He placed a hand behind my back, lifting me up to him. With his other hand, he wiped the hair from my neck. His touch was so cold and soothing to my aching body.
Again, he whispered his apology as he leaned in close to me. His cool lips gently opened on my neck, followed by a tiny pinch as his teeth pierced my skin.
A wave of calm fell over me. What little strength I had left my body, and I gave way to his embrace. The pain of my wounds diminished with each passing second. Gentle numbness consumed me as I felt the life drain from my body. He supported me, holding me close so I would not slump back to the ground.
I could no longer see or hear. I passed in and out of consciousness. I wasn’t scared. I was at peace: there was no pain, no fear, just peace.