Saturday, 29 September 2012

Eternal Hunger - Chapters One & Two



Chapter One

Lucia West was scanning the crowded dance floor at Desire for familiar faces and tapping her foot to the beat of the music when she saw the vampire Drake L’amour for the very first time. The air seemed to tingle with electricity and then the sweaty, gyrating bodies parted as he appeared directly in her line of vision. He moved with such self-confidence and poise that she immediately assumed he was someone important. His skin was very pale and his face perfectly chiselled, almost like a classical statue. She could tell he had the physique of an athlete beneath the black shirt and trousers he wore. Her eye was drawn to him, as if to a spotlight, helped by the fact that his hair was almost white in colour. The man was too perfect to be real, one of the beautiful people who existed in a realm far beyond her own. Lucia would not have been at all surprised to discover he was a rock star or famous actor, although she was certain she had never seen him before. That was a face she would not have forgotten in a hurry.

She was content to sip her pink cocktail and admire him from a distance, imagining the glamorous life someone that beautiful must lead, when, to her surprise, he seemed to look straight at her. He made a beeline across the room in her direction. She glanced behind her to see who had caught his attention, but he stopped right in front of her. When he spoke, it was obvious he was talking to her.

            “Would you like to dance with me?” he asked, leaning close to whisper in her ear above the pumping beat of the music. His warm breath tickled her neck and sent tingles racing down her spine.  She tried to act nonchalant, as if gorgeous men asked her to dance with them every day, but her pulse was galloping.

            “I’d love to,” she replied with a smile, taking his hand and letting him lead her onto the dance floor.  She saw her best friend Jasmina look over at her with a frown, and she waved to let her know everything was fine. She was only dancing with the man, not taking him home for a night of wild sexual shenanigans, and she wished the girl would lighten up for once. Tonight was her bachelorette party, her final night of freedom, and she was allowed to let her hair down a little. There was nothing wrong with some harmless flirting, and she was sure Aiden would not hold it against her.  After all, he was having his bachelor’s party tonight and one of his friends had let slip that there was going to be a stripper involved. She had tried to let him know she did not mind if he had a stripper without giving the secret away. In her opinion, dancing with another man, in comparison with a stripper, was tame. In just over a week she would become Mrs Aiden Holmes, and then she would have all the time in the world to be a respectable married woman. Right now she just wanted to have fun.

            Lucia was moving in time to the music opposite the gorgeous stranger, brushing up against him accidentally now and then, when the man took her by the waist and pulled her close to him. His lips found hers, and he covered her mouth hungrily with his own before moving down to her neck.

“Get your hands off me,” she gasped in his ear.  “Just because I agreed to dance with you it doesn’t give you the right to maul me.” She tried to push him away, but he was very strong, and it took her a moment to break free. “Can’t you see I’m getting married?” she yelled, pointing to the tiny veil perched on the top of her head and the string of condoms around her neck. The man smiled at her, showing his perfect white teeth in his perfect face. His eyes glinted dangerously.

            He reached across and ripped away the condom necklace, throwing it at her feet. “You know you want it,” he shouted over the music.

            “Spoken like a true sexual predator,” replied Lucia in disgust before she turned away from him.  He was clearly one of those men who thought he could get away with anything because he was so good looking. The worst part was he probably did most of the time. Well, not with her. 

She was stunned when she felt his hands on her again, but before she had time to react he pulled her into a tight embrace and she could not move at all. It was exactly what she imagined it would be like to be crushed by a boa constrictor. He turned her body around and twisted her head forcefully so he could bury his face in her neck.

She felt two sharp teeth pressing into the soft skin, and she wondered what on earth he was doing as she struggled to break free. Then, to her absolute horror, he bit down hard, sending a sharp pain radiating through her body and causing her knees to buckle under her.  She was sure she screamed out loud, but the music was too deafening for anyone to notice. All the blood in her body seemed to rush to her head, and a roaring sound filled her ears. The man pulled back from her, and she saw his mouth was bright with her blood.

 When she opened her eyes again she was propped up on a toilet in the ladies room, and three of her friends were leaning over her looking worried. Jasmina dabbed a wet paper towel against her forehead.

“Where am I?”

            “You passed out on the dance floor, sweetie,” said Jasmina. “We had to carry you here, with a little help from the barman. “

“I don’t understand.”

“You’ve had too much to drink, and it’s time to go home.” Lucia tried to sit up properly, and then it all came flooding back to her.

            “I didn’t pass out, it was that guy, the one I was dancing with. You saw him, Jasmina.”

            “What about him? Don’t tell me he spiked your drink. I’ve read about this in Cosmo.”

            “No, he didn’t spike my drink, he bit me.”

            “He bit you,” the three women cried in unison.

            “Yes, on my neck. It hurt so much. He’s probably one of those psychopaths who gets off on infecting people with horrible diseases. Let me show you.” They gathered around as she lifted her dark hair, and Lucia expected to see revulsion on their faces at the sight of her wound. Their expressions did not change.

            “There’s nothing there, Lucia, not even a mark.”

            “Are you sure?” She stood up and looked in the mirror, but she could see nothing either. “That’s so strange. It felt like he took a big chunk out of me. Do you think I could have hallucinated the whole thing?”

            “Seems like it. I’d better get you home. I promised Aiden I’d keep an eye on you tonight, and he won’t be happy about this at all.” Jasmina helped Lucia adjust her dishevelled clothes and hair in the mirror.  Just before she left the ladies room, Lucia took another quick look at her neck. There were definitely no marks there, but the spot where she thought she had been bitten throbbed a little. She could remember so clearly what it had felt like when the man sank his teeth into her that it was hard to believe she had dreamt the whole thing up.

****

            “I know you want the wedding to be informal, but we agreed you still need a seating plan, otherwise people will just be wandering all over the garden. It will be chaos. Have you thought about it yet?” asked Jasmina as they walked through the shadows towards their little cottage on the edge of the park. The spray from the waves crashing on the rocks below the cliff freshened the air and made Lucia feel alive again after the stuffy nightclub.  She and Jasmina had been so fortunate to find this place in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, and they’d had some fabulous times here over the past three years.  

Even though they were on the edge of the city, it was very quiet and peaceful. Lucia relished the long walks, and moments spent just sitting in the shade of the huge, ancient trees watching the ships glide into the harbour. She even loved the small cemetery that clung precariously to the cliff, and she knew the full name of every person buried there over one hundred years ago. It was her favourite place to go when she had a problem because it helped her to put everything into perspective. Whatever happened in her life, she too would end up in the ground someday and none of it would matter anymore. It seemed like she had been visiting there a lot lately.

            “No, I’ll do it tomorrow.” She reluctantly tuned back into Jasmina’s chatter about wedding plans.

            “I don’t want to sound bossy, but you’d better get on it. You’re running out of time, and there’s so much left to finalize. You haven’t confirmed the final menu with the caterers or bought the flowers and candles for the tables. The dress isn’t even finished.”

            “I know.” Lucia sighed. “And I’m getting there. I’m just glad I have a wonderful Maid of Honor like you to help me with everything.”  As she turned to smile ingratiatingly at her friend, a huge bat wheeled above them and blotted out the stars with its wingspan for a moment. She felt the breeze it created against her cheek. “Wow, did you see that? It was massive.” Bats were common in the park, and she usually loved the way they looked at dusk when they all took to the sky, but she had never seen one that big before.

            “Lucia, are you sure you’re okay?  You seem distracted and I’ve noticed you’re not as enthusiastic about the wedding plans lately.”

            “I’m fine, really I am. I’m just a bit nervous, I guess, now that it’s so close, but I’ll be okay.”

            “Sure you will.” Jasmina, put her arm around her and gave her a squeeze. “Last minute nerves are normal, but soon it will all be over and you’ll be happily married and giving me advice about pre-wedding jitters.”

            “You’re right, but it’s not the wedding I’m thinking about right now. I’m still freaked out about what happened at Desire tonight. I really thought that guy bit me on the neck. It seemed so real, but how could he not even have left a tiny mark?”

            “Come on, Luc, I thought we agreed you just drank too much. Those fizzy pink cocktails went straight to your head and caused you to dream up this story about a sexy stranger with sharp teeth sucking your blood. It’s all very Freudian, and I’m sure a therapist would love to hear all about it. I don’t get paid by the hour, and besides, we’re almost home and I’m heading straight for bed. I have an early shift in the morning.” She stretched her arms above her head and arched her head back as she yawned. At that moment the large bat that had been wheeling around in the treetops suddenly swooped down at them, causing them both to scream.  “Oh my god, that was freaky,” said Jasmina when it disappeared into the darkness again. “I thought it was going to attack us.”

            “So did I,” said Lucia grabbing Jasmina’s arm and hurrying her towards the house. “And I’m not going through that again tonight. Once bitten twice shy, as they say.”  She was trying to make light of it, but for the first time she felt afraid in the park. It suddenly seemed unwelcoming, as if it harboured something sinister in its shadows, and she could not wait to get inside. She did not look back as she fumbled for the key to the cottage and closed the front door firmly behind them.  

            Jasmina put her hand on Lucia’s arm just as she was about to climb the stairs. “Listen, sweetie, I can see you’re still upset about tonight, but it really is just the wedding playing on your mind. You’re stressing out about it more than you realize, and its affecting you in unusual ways, that’s all”.

            “Thanks for trying to make me feel better. I told you I’ll be fine in the morning, and all this will be forgotten. I just need a good night’s sleep.” She gave her friend’s hand a squeeze.

 “That’s right. Go and sleep off all those cocktails, and next time remember not to drink quite so many of them.  What are they called again?

“Sweet dreams.” They both laughed. 

“Well, when you fall asleep tonight I hope you have sweet dreams about your wonderful husband to be and your wedding, which is going to be just beautiful. No more sexy vampires for you, young lady. Goodnight.”  

Lucia changed into her nightgown and turned out the light, but before she got into bed she could not resist parting the curtains and peering out the window at the park for a moment. She half expected to see the huge bat still circling in the night sky, but it was gone and the park was empty and still. She sank down gratefully into the soft quilt and closed her eyes, saying a quick prayer that the morning would bring a day free from doubts and fears.

            Lucia slept fitfully till dawn because she kept dreaming that someone or something was knocking at her window. In her half-awake state it sounded for all the world like wings beating against the glass. At one point she even got up and looked outside to see if the huge bat had returned and was trying to get into the house. There was nothing there, and after checking that the window was locked securely, she fell back into a deep slumber, interrupted only once more by a dog howling in the distance.

When she awoke in the late morning a breeze tousled her hair, and she saw that the window was wide open. Jasmina must have come in and opened it before she left for her shift at the hospital. She was always doing thoughtful things, and that was why everyone loved her so much. Her patients worshipped the ground she walked on, and Aiden often said she was an angel in disguise. Nursing was the perfect occupation for her because it gave her endless opportunities to take care of people.

Lucia knew she would be hard pressed to find a better friend, and she tried to shake the slight feeling of annoyance she still carried over from the previous evening when Jasmina had refused to take her seriously. Something strange had happened with that guy on the dance floor, and even though she could not prove it, her best friend, of all people, should at least keep an open mind.  Jasmina knew she did not just make wild stories up, and she had only had a few drinks before the man had materialized and asked her to dance. Alcohol had never affected her like that before, and she saw no reason why it should have last night.  It was difficult to explain this to someone like Jasmina, though, who had only been drunk once in her entire life.

            After showering and dressing, Lucia took another good look at her neck. This time she immediately saw two distinct puncture marks where she had felt the man sink his teeth in.  They were angry red dots rimmed with white, and the skin around them was bruised and purple. For some reason the marks had taken a while to show up, but finally she had proof that something had happened to her on the dance floor last night.  She was not going crazy or imagining things at all. She really had been assaulted, and now people would have to believe her.  Even though she was deeply horrified at the thought of being bitten by a stranger, the fear that she was losing her mind was much harder to bear.  At least now she could get tested for diseases and make a report to the police. The creep would not get away with attacking her, and hopefully she could stop him from doing it to other women.

 Lucia left her seat in front of the mirror to look for her cell phone so she could take a photo for evidence, but it was not in her handbag or on the bedside table where she usually left it. Eventually she found it under the bed where it must have fallen when she came in last night, and she returned to her dressing table to photograph the marks. To her surprise, she could find absolutely nothing there, no matter how much she scrutinized her neck and twisted and turned in the light.

The fear that had so recently abated in her rose up again. What was happening to her? She had just seen the puncture marks with her own eyes, but now they had vanished. She could not blame it on alcohol this time or the hot stuffy atmosphere of the nightclub causing her to hallucinate. This was the cold, hard light of day and it seemed that Jasmina was right. She was stressing more about the wedding than she realized, and she really needed to get a grip.
 










Chapter Two
 
Lucia felt listless and washed out all day, and despite her promise to Jasmina to get on top of the final wedding preparations, she ended up doing nothing. Instead she lay on the couch and watched some television before turning her computer on and aimlessly trawling through Facebook.  She did not even have the energy to upload her photos from her bachelorette night. She put her lethargy down to a hangover despite the fact that she had not had much to drink. At the back of her mind she was still very unsettled by her bizarre hallucination, and occasionally the spot on her neck where she thought she had been bitten throbbed uncomfortably. When Aiden dropped in to see her in the afternoon he seemed shocked at her appearance.
            “You look terrible. Jasmina texted me and told me you passed out in the club, but I didn’t think it was anything serious. Are you okay? You’re so pale.” It was obvious Jasmina had mentioned nothing to him about the strange guy on the dance floor, and Lucia decided it was best to keep it quiet. There was no point upsetting him when she did not even know if anything had really happened. He might get the wrong idea about her dancing with sleazy men.
            “I didn’t drink that much, but it went to my head more than it usually does. I should be fine by tomorrow. Do you mind if I spend the night on my own? I wouldn’t be much company like this.”
            “Not a problem, you take it easy.  There will be no more wild nights when I’m your husband, I can tell you. You need someone to keep a tight rein on you, missy.”
Lucia tried to laugh. “I’m sure you guys had a few drinks yourself last night. It was your bachelor’s night, after all. Did you enjoy the stripper?”
“I didn’t have one. You know how I feel about things like that.”
“Todd let slip to me that he was going to get one, that’s why I told you I didn’t mind. You don’t have to lie to me about it.”
“Well, Todd isn’t very good at keeping a secret because he let slip to me too. I told the boys I wasn’t interested at all and that if they tried to sneak one in I would leave.” Lucia sighed.  Some of the girls had been planning to hire a stripper for her too, but Jasmina had found out and put a stop to it.
“Maybe it’s Jasmina you should be marrying, not me.”
“What?”
“Nothing. I just think strippers are harmless fun, but it was your bachelor’s night, honey, and I hope you had a good time.”
“It was great to catch up with the boys, but I think last night proved our partying days are well and truly behind us. We had a few quiet drinks and were home by eleven o’clock. Matt’s wife just had a baby, as you know, and the other guys had to get up early for work today.”
“We weren’t that far behind you, actually. It was around twelve when I passed out and I think I was in bed by one. It wasn’t such a wild night after all.” She knew the exact time the stranger had appeared in the crowd because she had glanced at her watch just before it struck midnight, and then he was right in front of her.
“Anyway, you get some rest and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” He leaned over to kiss her on the top of the head, and Lucia felt a surge of warmth flow through her veins. She was so lucky to have a wonderful man who truly loved her, and she had to keep reminding herself of this when all the wedding preparations became too much. Everything was going to work out just fine.  Once all the last minute details were finalized she could relax and enjoy this important milestone in her life. Her wedding day would be one she would treasure forever, and all her anxiety in the lead up to it would be forgotten.
“Bye, honey, I love you.” She blew him a kiss as he walked out the door.
****
 Jasmina was staying at Joshua’s place that night, meaning Lucia had the house to herself. She was determined to get stuck into the wedding preparations the next day, and she went to bed early to muster all the strength and patience she would need.  To her intense annoyance, she was kept awake for an hour by a dog howling somewhere deep within the park. Eventually, after much cursing and tossing in her bed, the dog finally stopped and she fell into a heavy, dreamless slumber. 
She woke at midnight with a start, as if someone had shaken her, and for some reason she felt compelled to look out the window. The moon was high in the sky, and it threw its light across the leaves and branches, creating a dappled effect on the ground below. In this muted light Lucia saw a figure amongst the trees. From the outline she could tell it was a man. It was impossible to make out his features, but his hair was very light and he seemed to glow ever so faintly in the darkness.
The man was standing on the path that wound around the cliff top to the cemetery, and from the angle of his head, he appeared to be looking straight up at her window. With a start she pulled the curtains closed and quickly got back into bed. People walked through the park all the time at night on their way back from the city, she tried to reassure herself, and there was absolutely no reason for her to think anything of it. Just because he had light coloured hair, it did not mean it was the stranger from Desire outside her home. That was ridiculous. She fought the temptation to get up and have another look. Instead she tried to distract herself by putting together a seating plan for the wedding.  It worked because in a very short time she found her eyelids growing heavy as she tried to work out which unsuspecting guest to seat next to her crazy Aunt Maggie.  
Lucia did not sleep as peacefully as she had earlier in the night, and when she woke just after eight she felt exhausted. She could remember dreaming that she was in the darkened graveyard by herself dressed only in her pink pyjamas. The night air was cold, and she had shivered as she peered into the shadows looking for something. She could not remember what she was seeking in the dream, only that it was very important that she find it. Then a feeling of dread had overtaken her. The angel perched on top of a nearby tombstone seemed to grin at her malevolently, while the crashing of the ocean on the rocks below became ominous. The air tingled with electricity just as it had at Desire before the strange man had appeared. Fireflies flew from all directions and began to dance around her. They formed an outline, and then, right before her eyes, the strange man from the nightclub materialized from out of nowhere.
He was even more beautiful than she remembered, and he had such an unearthly glow about him that he seemed to be made of moonlight. Tonight he was dressed all in white, and it was almost like one of the carved statues of a Greek god had miraculously come to life.  His violet eyes mesmerized her, but despite his angelic looks, she could not forget how savagely he had bitten her the night before. She tried to look away, but she could not move.
“I knew you would come. I knew it the moment I laid eyes on you.”  He did not speak again but took her in his arms, gently this time, and lowered his head to her neck. “You cannot deny now how much you want this.” She felt the sharp teeth sinking into her veins, and then he began to suck, softly at first and then harder, rocking backwards and forwards with the force. With every movement of his mouth he drained more of her life force from her, and yet she was powerless to resist him. In his arms she was a prisoner, and when he finished with her she was too weak even to hold her head up.
He lifted her face and looked her in the eye, and with her blood still wet on his lips, he kissed her fully on the mouth. The warm, salty taste sent a jolt through her body and gave her a powerful burst of energy. Every drop she could get back from him helped to restore her strength, and she found herself licking greedily at his face and mouth. Her own blood tasted so unbelievably good, and even when there was none left she could not stop entwining her tongue with his in a frenzied desire for more.
“That’s enough for now,” he said with a laugh, pushing her away. “Be a good girl and go back to bed, and we will meet again soon.” She had awoken with the taste of blood still warm in her mouth and a feeling of deep weariness that made it almost impossible for her to get out of bed.  When she looked in the mirror there were no marks on her neck, and with a sigh she did her best to push the dream out of her head as she got dressed.
****
“You still look a bit worse for wear,” said Jasmina when Lucia joined her downstairs for breakfast. “I thought you’d be fully rested up by now and ready to get to cracking on the last minute plans.”
“I didn’t sleep very well last night. I had a nightmare and now I don’t feel too well. What are you doing here anyway?  I thought you stayed at Joshua’s last night.” She poured some cereal into a bowl.
“Joshua had an early start, so I decided to come home. Is that what you and Aiden get up to when I’m not around?  No wonder you’re tired.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Last night, when I got home. I saw you two gallivanting around in the park at midnight. Don’t try to deny it, I know it was you.  You could have at least gotten dressed. My goodness, what’s the matter, you’re as white as a ghost?”
Lucia sank down onto a chair. “Jasmina, I was here alone last night.  I sent Aiden home and went to bed early.  Tell me exactly what you saw.”
Jasmina faltered. “Oh, well it couldn’t have been you then. Don’t worry about it.”
“You might as well tell me now.” She tried to keep her voice light.
“Oh, it was just a woman in the park who looked like you. She had long dark hair and what I thought were your pink pyjamas on.  I thought I saw someone with her, but I couldn’t be certain. I just assumed it was you and Aiden, so I didn’t pay that much attention. Never mind, my mistake. Don’t look so worried, Lucia, it was nothing.”
 Lucia tried to laugh, but the spot on her neck began to throb again. “I really hope all the stress from the wedding hasn’t caused me start sleep walking. That’s the last thing I need right now. Do you think there’s a chance it was me out there in the middle of the night?”
Jasmina put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, I forgot all about your sleep walking problem. It’s been so long since you’ve had an episode. I guess it could have been you, but they were so far away that it really could have been anyone. Just to be on the safe side, though, I’m going to sleep on the pull-out bed in your room tonight. You won’t be going anywhere if I can help it.”
“You don’t have to do that. It probably wasn’t even me you saw out there.”
“I insist on it. I’m your Maid of Honour, and I take my duties very seriously. It’s my job to get you to the church with your virtue and reputation still intact. That means there will be no wandering around the park half-dressed in the moonlight. I’ll sleep in your room every night until the wedding if I have to.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it.” Her friend was trying to make a joke of it all, but Lucia could see how concerned she was. She really did believe she had seen her in the park in the dead of night, and the thought that she may have been out there, and not just dreaming, filled Lucia’s soul with unspeakable terror.
                       Eternal Hunger is available on Amazon for $1.99.
Desires of the Flesh (the first novella in the series) is currently free.
 


 

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