Today I’m happy to be featuring Paint for Blood by Emily Ryan-Davis. She is offering up one ebook copy. To win, please comment below with your email address.
And now on to the book….
There’s only one substance on earth that can create a new vampire–the blood of a Chalice, a rare individual with magic in her veins. Atlanta’s human-vampire Civility Laws demand that if a Chalice is found, she must be destroyed. Vampire Teijon Reyes allowed the mortal girl Dessa Collier to live despite the threat she posed to society. If he ever finds her again, he will kill her, personal desires be damned. Heiress to a family tradition of ward-working, house painter Dessa Collier has spent the past twelve years pretending vampires don’t exist. When a friend-enemy walks back into Dessa’s life after a decade-long absence, everything Dessa has been hiding from comes crashing down on top of her. Thrown together on a mission to protect a city under seige, Dessa and Teijon can no longer hide from the powerful attraction that binds them…or the monsters out to destroy them
Twelve Years Ago
You’re here to kill me, aren’t you?
The ghosts beneath Annabel McIntyre’s silky willow trees wouldn’t answer, but fifteen-year-old Dessa Collier thought the question anyway. Someday they would reply. Someday they would nod their ghostly gray heads. Someday they would say yes.
When they did, she would… well, she still didn’t know what she would do. Go quietly. Try to be dignified about it.
“I saw a vampire last night in Little Five Points.” Waiva Jones’s smug declaration was anything but dignified.
“You see vampires everywhere.” Dessa looked away from the ghosts. A battered pair of Doc Martens swung at her left side, suspended by their laces. Dessa flexed her fingers and relished the sting of shoe strings biting into her skin. The small pain distracted her from her headache.
“What were you doing in Little Five, anyway?” The warm dregs of a Coke sloshed in the bottom of the plastic bottle in her right hand.
“I went with Eight Ball,” Waiva replied, sing-song. “He wanted to take me out in his new car. Besides, what difference does it make why? I saw a vampire.”
Waiva stopped and turned, her beaded braids swinging lightly behind her shoulders. White teeth flashed a bright smile in her dark face. “Maybe they’ll come to Garrett River and you can see one.”
Dessa shook her head and kept walking. The ghosts kept pace, slithering through the ink of the deepening gloom. She didn’t want to think about vampires in Garrett River or anywhere else. Better the abominations kept to Atlanta and left Garrett River to its own monsters.
Her grandmother was getting too old to keep up with requests for protection from spirits she did understand. Haint blue paint, long believed to protect a home from malicious spirits, was only as powerful as the mixer’s knowledge. The Colliers’ haint blue had its limits. Vampires? Beyond those limits.
Waiva huffed behind her. “I don’t know why I thought you’d be excited. You never believe in anything.”
“I do so. I go to church.”
“You don’t believe. Don’t tell me you do. Aunt Rose says Colliers don’t know what faith is, and when I’m around you, I think she’s right.” Waiva came abreast of her only to sidle away. “Maybe I should stop hanging out with you. You might be contagious, all that not-believing.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” And Waiva was wrong. Dessa believed in plenty. She believed in her grandparents. Aida and Clement Collier had refused to turn her out even when Dessa’s mother begged Clement to put a bullet in his only granddaughter’s head.
She also believed in her mother’s fear. Marie Collier had known something, something about Dessa, and the knowledge drove her to choose taking life over nurturing it.
More than anything, Dessa believed in getting home before dark. Her stomach rolled with nausea because she and Waiva weren’t going to make it before sundown. On the edges of her vision, the ghosts seethed.
To either side of the road, fields of brown grass stretched off toward farm houses. Suddenly, the road she traveled every day after school felt too isolated.
“I don’t feel good,” she said. “Let’s cut across the McIntyre farm.”
Waiva shrugged and veered left, past a “No Trespassing” sign and onto the field. Dessa hunched her shoulders and followed, glowering at the grass as if the dry, crinkly blades were responsible for her problems. She tried not to see the blank faces of the dead as she crossed their grim picket line.
The McIntyre shortcut wasn’t really short, but it took them on a westerly path home instead of forcing them to round back to the east. It took them toward the setting sun, away from the encroaching dark. Not fast enough. Dessa’s heart rate spiked, and a chill spread from her nape to her lower back.
“Someone’s following us.” The soles of her feet cramped, ached to run, but muscles and instincts were at odds. Dessa’s stomach gnawed painfully at her spine. Run. No, stay. Hold still, pretend to be invisible.
Up ahead, Waiva tossed her braids. “Nobody’s following us. We’re the only people for miles not sitting at a dinner table, and it’s too early for vampires.” Waiva’s voice took on a sly edge. “Maybe in another hour it’ll be vampires.”
“I have a feeling.” Dessa lowered her head and focused on putting one bare foot in front of the other. Shiny black polish tipped her toes. She and Waiva continued in silence until they reached the gnarled, walking-stick stump of a long-dead tree. The stump marked a mile to the Collier farmhouse.
“Race you!” Waiva took off in a sprint.
Dessa didn’t follow. Instead, she looked over her shoulder. The bottom dropped from her stomach, and her muscles went slack. A dense, squirming mass of shadow obscured her view of the road. Someone else’s memory rippled between her ears, filled her head, and gave the black cloud a name. Hungry.
She couldn’t make her legs move. The blob came upon her quickly, so fast she didn’t have time to scream before fingers of darkness shoved into her mouth. Midnight bands wrapped around her biceps and dragged her to the ground. Dessa lashed out, punching the air. An inhuman cry reached her ears just before the dark filled those openings. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t shriek when the first bite tore at her forearm.
Burning pricks of pain dotted her exposed skin and sapped her strength. Weightless phantoms took the shape of greedy, clawed hands. Heavy bodies crushed her chest. They savaged her, teeth tearing and ripping. Hungry.
After an eternity of pain, a man’s voice cut through the sounds of feeding.
“Get them off her,” he commanded. “Destroy the new ones here and don’t take any back.”
“Better death than a cell,” another man replied.
The instructions didn’t make sense and they weren’t for her, but Dessa tried to focus anyway. Running footsteps and quiet curses filtered through the noise of strange, hissing pops. The scent of blood clogged her air passages and made her gag. Blood. Hers. Oh, that was bad.
Awareness of her arms and legs, her burning skin, returned. Dessa started to shake. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to roll onto her side, but she couldn’t move. Paralyzed.
Large, strong hands cupped the back of her head and lifted it from the ground. The authoritative voice came again. “Can you hear me?”
Masculine scents of leather and tea tree oil penetrated the reek of blood. She wasn’t completely paralyzed. She could move her head and she did, turning her face, pressing her nose and mouth to his forearm. She breathed through the odor of blood. Gradually, sensations beyond pain and fear filtered through her brain. Waiva’s voice. Vampires.
She shuddered and opened her eyes to stare at the man above her. Broad shoulders blocked the darkening violet sky. He was layers of brown against the bruised backdrop. Coffee skin, walnut hair twisted in thick dreadlocks, amber eyes.
Long fingers pushed purple tangles of hair from her face. He tilted her head at an uncomfortable angle, pressed his fingertips beneath her jaw, and muttered, “Fuck.”
Dessa’s eyelids drooped heavily. He wasn’t supposed to use that word around her. She was too young, and she was female. Clearly he wasn’t from the South.
“You’re here to kill me,” she whispered. However many times she’d thought the words, she’d never spoken them aloud.
“Yes. I am.” He tilted her head, golden gaze intent on her face. “Do you know why?”
“My mother knew why.” She swallowed and closed her eyes. “How are you going to do it? With your fangs?”
“No fangs, baby. Never fangs.” He slid his arms beneath her shoulders and knees and lifted her off the ground. She should have resisted his hold. The notion of good sense lurked in the back of her head, struggling to penetrate the fog that divided her rational brain from her feeling brain. Feeling rose to the top and floated like sea foam.
She felt safe. Sure, he was going to kill her, but death was going to happen eventually anyway. She didn’t have the energy to delay it by struggling. Flopping limp in his arms required no effort at all. So what if he said “fuck”?
Someone approached. The man who held her lifted her higher against his chest. Distantly, she labeled his body language as possessive. But that was stupid and romantic. She was no princess even if he was a knight. And he wasn’t a knight.
“Call for a car,” he said. He muttered something else. Maybe the f-word again. Dessa blacked out and lost more time.
When she came back to herself, the thick scent of blood was gone, replaced by tangy pine. Dessa squinted at the outline of a tree-shaped air freshener dangling from the inside of a car door.
Her killer’s hand skimmed her butt, and he swore. “No ID. How am I supposed to know where to take you?”
He whispered the words. Why was he whispering?
“She doesn’t look good.” A new voice, low and grim. “We destroyed nine. How the hell is there anything left of her?”
“She could create a hundred more.” Her knight-killer again.
“A hundred new creations would damn us all,” the other man, the one who wasn’t touching her, said. “Our own laws make us murderers.”
“We agreed to them. Get out and wait for me.”
The car door slammed. Dessa didn’t want to look. She turned her face to his shoulder. Warm lips stroked her ear, followed by a hot, wet lick. He held her still and drew his tongue down her throat to her shoulder, eating her pain.
Don’t ever give your blood away. It’s more valuable than gold and the minute someone else possesses it, you’re lost to yourself. Don’t give it away, baby girl.
She’d forgotten those parting words from her mother.
The vampire’s tongue dipped behind her ear, and she shivered. She’d given her blood away, and she didn’t want to take it back.
All Romance Ebooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-paintforblood-874390-139.html
Emily Ryan-Davis is a lifelong East Coaster whose passion for the written word saw her through jobs writing obituaries, press releases and grants before she decided “I’m going to do this” and sat down to write a book. She made that decision in 2005 and has since published several short stories and novellas with digital publishers including Ellora’s Cave. On May 24, 2012, Emily left supervisors and payrolls behind in order to focus her efforts on writing and raising her son.
Emily has been a member of the Writer’s Digest-recognized writing community Romance Divas, where she volunteers as a moderator and organizes the annual “Not Going to Conference” Virtual Conference, since 2006.
Web Site: http://www.emilyryandavis.com
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/author.emilyryandavis