And have no fear! For those of you super keen on e-books, they're being organised as you read this, including new formats for The Hunted. So in light of this fact, I've decided to post the preface for you to have a read through - whet your appetite so to speak.
Enjoy, my friends. The real deal will be here lickety split. Thanks for your patience.
The stranger lifted the warm mug of AB negative to his lips. He took a few swift gulps, felt the sweetness of the warmed fluid caressing his tongue and setting his tastebuds aflame. Like liquid velvet it slid down his throat, strengthening and replenishing his body from within, and filling him with the rich satisfaction that could only come from the taste of blood.
He could feel his arteries dilate, his senses sharpening as life-force began to satiate his awakened thirst. His pulse throbbed under the influx, eventually slowing to a stop again once the blood had dissipated into his system.
It was good to be a vampire.
Body still burning for more, the stranger gestured to the barman for another. This packaged stuff known as Synth Blood could sustain him but was nowhere near as gratifying as fresh blood from a warm human body. He longed to bury his fangs in the neck of an unsuspecting victim, rend at flesh until the warmth of their essence spilled across his tongue, making him whole again. For now he had to suppress his instincts, though, to prevent his detection from the ones still hunting him.
Only one month had passed since the stranger had last killed but his skin already itched with the need to taste a human’s fear. As he revelled in his memories of the hunt, an image of his wife came to mind, and with it a sadness that was all consuming. His wife had shared in his bloodlust, his uncontrollable desire to feed. She had hunted beside him, night after night, and eventually murdered because she had rightfully lived as the predator she was created to be. The stranger’s blood still boiled thinking about her unrighteous death and the creature that had caused it. But the time for retribution was coming.
He would make sure of it.
The stranger glanced around the bar. It was mostly empty; no real surprise considering it was high noon. The turned vampires would all spend their daylight hours hiding in darkened spaces, waiting for nightfall. Born vampires were able to move around in the daylight but were still forced to avoid direct sunlight. At this point, as the thirst still rode him, the stranger cared little for shelter.
‘You travelled far this evening?’ the barman asked, setting down a fresh mug of heated blood and jogging the stranger from his reverie.
He accepted it gratefully and took a sip. ‘Not especially,’ the stranger said, eyeing the barman from head to toe.
The barman was a turned vampire, probably no more than thirty years of age. He had short, sandy blonde hair and unassuming blue eyes. Despite being slightly rotund in the mid-section he was still as beautiful as the rest of his race.
‘Are you from Spain or Italy?’ the barman asked, an eyebrow rising. ‘I’m trying to pick your accent.’
The stranger took another sip. ‘I’m Italian.’
‘No kidding?’ He wiped at a spill on the counter top. ‘You must be part of Lucius Valerius’s coven.’
The stranger contained his desire to sneer. ‘No. I belong to no coven and I especially do not answer to Lucius Valerius. At least, not anymore.’
‘Here, here. The last sixteen years under Lucius’s rule have been difficult. I really used to enjoy hunting humans before it was outlawed.’ The barman absently wiped at another spill. ‘Granted, I make money from the sale of Synth Blood and the shelter my neutral bar provides, but it’s not the same as the thrill of hunting for fresh blood. The only way I can function now, without being hunted down by Lucius or his thralls, is to stay here where I have all the blood I need. Confrontations with humans are too ... tempting.’
‘That’s pathetic,’ the stranger said.
The barman frowned. ‘We all do what we can to survive. Sometimes that means swallowing your pride and advocating for the Devil.’
The stranger smiled. The barman didn’t realise how on the money he was. Lucius was demon spawn.
Taking the stranger’s smile as an invitation to talk further, the barman leant forward on his elbows, smiling warmly. ‘So what brings you to Paris, anyway?’
The stranger wasn’t in the mood for idle chit-chat, but doubted that the barman would leave him alone. ‘I’m looking for someone.’
‘Perhaps I can help?’
The stranger shook his head, taking a few more gulps of blood. It wasn’t his favourite brew, but the liquid was undeniably starting to satisfy his primal cravings. ‘I don’t think so.’
‘If you’re looking for a vampire in Paris, I know everyone by name.’
The stranger gritted his teeth. ‘I thank you for the drink,’ he said, holding up the mug, ‘but I wish to finish it in peace.’
The barman scowled. ‘I was just making conversation.’
‘Unwanted conversation. Go find another patron to annoy.’
‘There are no other patrons.’
The stranger looked around, noting that the few other patrons had left. He’d always had that effect on people.
He glanced at the barman.
The stranger drained the remaining contents of his mug and pushed it back towards the barman.
Frowning, the barman turned his back on him.
‘Barman, I require another drink.’
‘In a minute. I gotta clean,’ he said, busying himself with the relatively unimportant task of filling a small sink behind the bar with hot, soapy water.
The stranger drummed his fingers on the counter impatiently. The barman started to wash and stack glasses, now ignoring him completely.
‘Barman, I bid you pour me another drink before you make me angry. And before I do something that you will regret.’
The barman glanced around and smirked insolently. ‘I’ll pour you another drink when I’m ready.’ He went back to stacking glasses. ‘And do not threaten me. I am Vampire, just as you are.’
The stranger sighed. He could have left the bar. He could have sought nourishment from some other venue or even hunted down his own humans. But, now, that wasn’t enough.
The stranger, moving with inhuman grace, was behind the bartender moments later, his hands gripping the creature’s sides so tightly it could barely move.
His rage could no longer be contained.
‘What the―let go of me!’
‘Are you ready now?’ the stranger whispered, spinning the barman around to face him. In one swift motion, he sank his fangs deep into the barman’s throat, ripping out his jugular in a vicious shower of crimson-slicked gore. As his victim thrashed in his embrace, warm blood poured down the stranger’s chin and sprayed the front of his shirt. As the stranger felt the last of the barman’s life leaving his body, he tossed what remained onto the floor with a resounding thud.
He wiped the excess blood from his lips, spitting onto the floor.
‘Much better,’ the stranger murmured, stepping over the body and moving towards the front door without so much as a backward glance. ‘Turned vampires―as easy a prey as humans.’
He pushed open the front door and cringed. Where the rays from the midday sun struck him, blistering lines burned across his features. Searching quickly for a shady area through which to walk, he soon spied a darkened alleyway and hurried out towards it.
He considered the next step in his plan carefully. He needed leverage, something that would turn an enemy into a friend, or at the very least, an enemy into an ally.
The Vânătors, a fierce race of fanatical werewolves, were not exactly known for their negotiating skills. They were hungry predators, born from the blood of the Vampire and completely uncaring of anyone’s needs but their own. They were wild, the very worst variation of a vampire’s genetic nature, and were the perfect tool for his vengeance.
The Vânătors penchant for vampiric blood would definitely work to the stranger’s advantage. Their mating habits produced large packs, enough to cause any vampire trouble. Also, their ability to shapeshift into the form of any human they had previously fed from meant they could move around mostly undetected—a useful trick.
He just needed to figure out what it was the Vânătors desired.
The stranger smiled. He saw the future in his mind, laid out in the front of him. It was a future he hoped to share with other, likeminded vampires, with any other supernaturals tired of suppressing their natural instincts. The stranger’s future would mean no more hiding in the shadows, where vampires reigned supreme and blood was the word on everyone’s lips.
A future he could really sink his teeth into.
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