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by Vita Anne Hoffman
Category: Romance/Dark Fantasy
Description: Unofficially, Avana Soulsmith has become a consultant to both the police force and the FBIC, the Federal Bureau of Interspecies Coexistence, but she's far more interested in protecting humans from the 'others' than protecting the rights of the paranormal, especially those of the vampire persuasion. Unhappily, when her friend, Detective Ian Traeger, drags her into a murder investigation, she finds herself neck deep in vampire territory, specifically the territory run by Constantine, the Great, the city's premiere progenitor. And Constantine, it seems, has plans for her that's she's very much afraid include recruiting her as one of the undead. Unfortunately, his arch enemy, Rasputin seems to have similar plans for her and he's just down right nasty! Rating: Spicy. Warning: adult situations, graphic violence, language.
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, 2008
eBookwise Release Date: August 2008
84 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [500 KB]
Reading time: 302-423 min.
Never Scoff At The Supernatural
"Do you, Avna Marie Soulsmith, take this vampire as your lawfully wedded husband?" Judge Oscar Hyacinth, a tiny, bespectacled man, balding and kindly, was officiating at a very unlawful wedding, doing so under the powerful mind control of the groom. From over top of his old fashioned spectacles, Judge Hyacinth grinned at me expectantly, wearing a loopy, drugged up expression, rather than the horrified one of a mortal ringed by a pack of the undead.
There were seven of them. Three males, if you were charitable and counted Snitch in that category--he and I had some bad history, so I can't exactly be impartial about the one-eyed pipsqueak. The other four were female. The worst of the lot being Donata, the ultimate vampire bitch, her voluptuous form encased in a skintight black unitard, while her long matte black hair hung shroud-like about her face and body. She's the one who had slashed open my back, from shoulder to hip, trying her best to rip me into shreds, by way of welcoming me into the clan, no doubt. But these unpalatable seven were just the minions.
Rasputin was the Master. The boss. The groom.
He was a brutish seven feet tall. Huge. Blubbery. Strong. A leprous, scabrous, diseased thing. And he had my arm gripped in his rusty-colored talon-tipped hand like a vise, because his most unwilling bride, moi, couldn't be allowed to escape, now could I? This was the ultimate marriage of convenience.
Since the early 1990's, when a bushel full of federal statutes had created the Federal Bureau of Interspecies Coexistence, the FBIC, a bureaucracy to protect and further the rights of vampires while also ascertaining and maintaining the growth of their population, marriage was the fastest 'legal' way to bring a human into a vampire family. The other less used means was to petition the courts for a change of status, from living to undead. Each-to-his-own, I guess. But there were supposed to be safeguards--like six human witnesses and the accompanying sworn affidavits filed with the FBIC to insure all parties were willing and under no hypnotic compulsions--to prevent an unwanted union. And this one was definitely unwanted.
Vampires were not my favorite species.
Judge Hyacinth tugged at his collar then cleared his throat of non-existent phlegm, prompting me for an answer. These nervous gestures indicated for the first time that he had any awareness about the unusual ceremony, being held in an unusual location, an eerily lit hangar-sized abandoned furniture warehouse. Most brides, I'd bet, did not need to be asked twice.
"Miss Soulsmith?" The poor little man's cherubic grin faltered. He blinked, anxiously shifted his eyes behind those bottle-thick lenses from me but-not-quite-to the hideous groom, then back again. Judge Hyacinth, clutching hard at both his bible and a semblance of reality, waited for the bride to speak.
Not that it really mattered what I answered. The Judge would 'hear' whatever Rasputin 'told' his mind. And, as for any objections from me, once the ceremony ended with 'you may now kiss the bride' that was all she wrote. Rasputin, a powerful centuries old progenitor, would suck me dry, of both blood and free will, and possibly accomplish my transformation into a vampire, right then and there. The commonly held belief was that it takes three successive bites from a vampire to do this. However, with a progenitor involved, some sources (whose reliability was questionable) maintained that one all-consuming bite was sufficient. I tended to believe in the progenitor-one-bite-theory. Lucky me.
As for coerced marriages, there had only been one federal case where a newly made vampire sued a sire for unlawful conversion, and it, needless to say, remained in a limbo of appeals. Most vampires, depending on the strength and spirit of their original human personality, were for all intents and purposes subjugated to the will of their master.
"You will answer in the affirmative." Rasputin's voice was a guttural croak. His breath-like exhalation washed over me like a truckload of rancid garbage.
"Like hell I will." How's that for independence? If I couldn't escape, I at least aimed to thwart his complete control of me in my next incarnation. If I maintained enough identity, I would be my own mistress. At least theoretically!
So, hell, no, I wouldn't say yes to my own demise, to meekly accept eternal bondage to a horrific demon, to accept domination from a master vampire like Rasputin. I wouldn't, couldn't, accept such a fate with any vampire. Save, perhaps, one. And he was dead. I mean really DEAD. By fire, no less, when he, ancient progenitor Constantine, The Great, an all around arrogant SOB and recent pain-in-my posterior, had once CLAIMED TO BE INVULNERABLE to it. Instead, not more than twenty minutes ago, Constantine had been fried by Snitch's gasoline fueled Molotov cocktail. So much for his self-proclaimed invulnerability to fire. Although, now that I thought about it, he had, contrary to all anecdotal vampire mythology, remained relatively intact!
Constantine had flared torch-like for one incendiary instant, engulfed in a flash of heat that had instantaneously plumed up his body then just as quickly snuffed out with such force that he had fallen flat to the ground. Oddly, his clothes had seemed to disappear rather than disintegrate. Stranger still, while the unmistakable acrid pungency of singed hair had fouled the air, Constantine's longish coal-black waves hadn't actually burned away! Nor, as he had lain there a smoking, peeling ruin, had his hypnotic ice-blue eyes been damaged. Unblinking, sightlessly trained upon the starry sky, they had glittered like bits of bright blue glass from out of his blistered and sooty mask-like face. The final indignity had been Snitch, after a cowardly fearful hesitation, grabbing, no ripping, the heavy, golden signet ring from off of Constantine's smoldering hand.
If I didn't hate vampires so much, I just might have admitted to a tear, or two, as I had knelt on the pavement to view the remains, seeing how patches of Constantine's skin nearly sloughed off like a snake shedding, revealing deceptively healthy, vibrant pink flesh underneath. The sight had given me the forlorn hope that Constantine, The Great, might, indeed, arise phoenix-like from his own ashes as he had once boasted to me. But ... he hadn't done so. Thus, here I stood at the proverbial altar with vile bloodthirsty Rasputin for a groom.
Even now, many city blocks away, in the middle of my 'marriage' vows, I couldn't shake those vivid images of Constantine's demise, nor that sickening, gut-wrenching smell of burnt flesh mingled with singed hair. All this sensory recall, distressing and raw, overwhelmed me. Nauseated, emotionally and physically overloaded, I swayed. Rasputin shook me like a rag doll, snarling, baring his immense, lethal canines. A sudden crazed gleam filled his rheumy black eyes. He shook me harder and harder, nearly tearing my arm from its socket.
"Pronounce us united! Pronounce us united!" He shrieked at the Judge, who seemed abruptly released from his hypnotic state. Judge Hyacinth trembled, visibly, dropping the holy bible to the ground. His eyes, magnified by his glasses, went ridiculously wide as saucers and his mouth dangled open with fear. He backed away several steps to escape the monster before him.
"You shall be mine. Mine." Rasputin's clawed fingernails, nearly as sharp and long as daggers, punctured through my right arm. I tried to concentrate on the sound of bone crunching, rather than the unendurable pain. Maybe my strategy worked. I began to black out, carrying with me the grotesque sound of my cracking forearm, the awful smell of burned flesh, and the instantaneous remembrance of the events leading me to this awful point in my life ... even as I was most assuredly about to die.