Thursday, March 31, 2011

Empathy as applied to driving

An old man tried to cause an accident this morning. Yes, I'm fine, the car is fine, my husband (who was a passenger) is fine. Maybe the old man is off having a heart attack...but I suppose he is fine.

It took place at a double left turn lane. I was in the outer pocket, maintaining my lane. The old man decides he wants in the middle lane (mine), and just starts drifting over. Bumped the horn in warning, he ignored it. Layed on the horn, keeping my position, and he finally figured it out. Good thing, because I really had no room to avoid him.

And after I passed him, he preceeded to cross three lanes of traffic without a blinker. Some people.

Good driving skills and luck certainly saved us from an accident, but empathy helped out quite a bit. Yes, the ability to read the emotions of others, and to project one's own emotions. I do pick up emotional energy, and use it to be a better driver.

Today, not only did it give me the head's up that he was being a stupid person, but I was able to get his attention and make him aware of what he was doing. He still didn't understand he did something wrong, but at least he got back in his lane.

Granted, this sounds a little urban fantasy, but I don't need everyone to believe me. My husband does, and that's enough. Empathy exists, and we use it, and it's quite fun. In a quest to not withhold as much, I chose to share this little psychic skill with you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

#books 30 Pieces of Silver, Brood of the Witch-Queen

I still haven't been reading as much lately. I'm actually behind on a couple books I was supposed to read for reviewing. So only three books right now.

30 Pieces of Silver by Carolyn McCray was part of the Indie Book Collective's Bestseller for a Day promotion. I have some really really mixed feelings on the book. None of them are about the religious aspects. It was all the writing that caused this conflict. I liked the concept, and I loved the slow reveal of the history. I didn't like the forced feeling of the fast-paced adventure, and the typos killed me. The entire book struck me as a Dan Brown knock-off, with less polish. But the big reveal was good, and I liked the way the characters dealt with it. Mixed and torn is the only way to describe my recommendation; try it, but know you might not like it either.

Brood of the Witch-Queen by Sax Rohmer is an old book. Something like a hundred years old. And it was very enjoyable, in a slightly archaic way. Not that the language was too much, or anything, but that the difference between good and evil was very clear cut. Good will always triumph, and all that. But even with the moral simplification, the adventure was still fun, and the magic pretty cool. It was a refreshing read, and worth the time.

What a Demon Wants by Kathy Love was quick to get through, and while mostly fun, the ending was too short and disappointing. Big parts of the conflict and plot depended on the main characters misunderstanding each other and making assumptions and not talking to each other. The sex wasn't even hot enough to recommend it for erotic reasons. I found the whole thing rather meh.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sucker Punch and a few other movies

Got back from Sucker Punch a little bit a go. I'm still rather mind-blown and just "wow" at the moment. Because the movie is just WOW.

Granted, it's extremely anime in style and story, so I can completely understand why it's not getting a fair shake. This movie is not what you think it is, and I love that about it. It's not typical to American movies in any fashion, and that's also to love about it.

I can't say much more than that I love it, and am fully behind this movie. Can I recommend it? Only if you like anime, or movies that just turn your perception on end. Don't go see this if you're looking for an action eyegasm, because you will not be satisfied.

Last weekend, I saw The Man From Earth. I only knew what was in the description, and decided to give it some time. It was so worth it. There was an extremely literary feel, without being boring. It was like reading a book, really. The story and concept were good, and the ending completely sold it.

Also watched Brick, after years of not putting it on. Wow. Take a pulp PI movie, and set it in high school. It was well-done in that respect, and quite entertaining.

Friday, March 18, 2011

#FridayFlash - The Journal 1

I'm doing a little something for the next six weeks of #FlashFriday. Please bear with my experiment.

Journals as narrative are not uncommon. I normally don't like them, because they're not written like someone would write a journal. You don't tend to wander off in details. It's supposed to be about thoughts and reactions.

So I'm doing a journal series. This is supposed to follow the writer's descent through emotions, so I didn't just want to just write the words down here. So I busted out my Photoshop, and have written up pages of journal.

Yes, this is a version of my handwriting. Yes, the typos are on purpose.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Books I #read: Saying Goodbye to the Sun, Bitter Demons, and others

I haven't been reading quite as much lately. Been having a hard time finding books that really captivate me, so that's not helping.

Recently read was Saying Goodbye to the Sun by David McAfee had an interesting concept, and really should have been good. I should have liked it, because the vampires did feed on people, and were dangerous and deadly. Instead, I ended up bored, feeling like the book was really dragging. So much time was spent building up the world, and the main characters transition, and then the climax was brief and unsatisfying. I've actually forgotten most of the book, and almost wish I hadn't read it.

But I also read Bitter Demons by Sarra Canon. She does not fail to deliver. Each novella goes deeper, makes me crave more. Read the whole series, because it's compelling. She has a good voice, making the stories enjoyable to read. This third tale gets deeper into Jackson's past, and really makes the Peachville witches into villains. More than they have been. My only real problem is that it's too bloody short. I get into it, really involved, and then it's over. Arggh! 8P

Immortalis Carpe Noctem by Katie Salidas was an enjoyable read. It takes place in Las Vegas, so I recognized places she was talking about. It made the book a little more intimate for me. Since she's also a native, it meant she wasn't fudging it. Nothing like someone using your locale, and botching things. Her vampires were required to kill, but they weren't ravening monsters. They had powers and weaknesses, and were well-balanced. Just enough romance to be a love-story, just enough action to keep the plot going. And an open enough ending for sequels. I could have done with Alyssa being more active during the climax, but a fledgling really can't do much, so it wasn't a huge deal breaker.

It's been a while since I read it, but Devil's Eye by Kait Nolan is good. Terribly short though. It's a good story that further develops the world of the Mirrus. I enjoyed it, but was left wanting so much more. Not that her writing skills aren't developed, just that I'd barely gotten into it before it was over.

Toni LoTempio sent me a copy of her book, No Rest for the Wicca. It's a good read, though it has some problems. There are plenty of details about wicca and magic, and the concept of inheritor vampires is great. But there's no blood drinking, and there was a set up for it: the main character is a virgin, and the love interest vampire says he likes virgin blood. That highly disappointed me. I saw the big twist coming a mile away, and disliked how the secondary characters were made to stupidly not see the surprise. But I liked the rich world of supernatural creatures, and the lore that went into it. So kind of a mixed bag. If you get the chance to read it, do so, but I wouldn't go out of the way for it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vampires and biting

I read Katie Salidas's Immortalis Carpe Noctem last week, and I really liked it. (I'll make a new book review post soon) What I loved most is that her vampires needed to kill, needed to drink live blood, and biting was a sensual act.

In most cases, I find biting and feeding to be sexier and more arousing than sex.

The act of biting, at its very base, isn't too dissimilar. One party penetrates the other until they both are satisfied. One climax is orgasm, the other climax is satiation of hunger. But there is one taker, one donator.

I admit to having a tiny bit of a submissive/victim complex. Having sex is a merely physical act, and there is a partnership to it. There isn't (normally) a truly submissive and truly dominant person. Only so much can be taken with sex.

But feeding is different in that respect. The vampire takes control, draining and claiming a portion of the mortal.The victim is giving up their life for pleasure, hanging entirely on their lover's mercy.

It's an act of trust, and sensuality, with just enough pain and danger to give it a real edge. Feeding is simply fantastic.

Combing the two is beyond rapturous.

So, how do you feel about biting and feeding?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sketch - Viking Lord

I posted a rough draft of this a while ago. I finally got it done for my sis-in-law.

Nothing like slacking about getting her an Alexander Skarsgard painting.

Friday, March 11, 2011

#FridayFlash - Necromancer

"Your choice is simple. Become my thrall or die." The necromancer's voice filled the town square with a sepulchre chill. His undead minions stared silently. The gathered villagers were mute, too stunned to react. Flames crackled in the festival bonfire, sinister and frightening in the stranger's presence.

Hulking monstrosities stepped into the square, blocking all exits. Pieced together from various predators, no two were alike. Lion heads snarled from bear bodies. Raptor beaks replaced claws on over-sized paws. Stingers and spikes and plated armor, all reeked of death.

A baby wailed, and the crowd's shock was broken.

Voices rose in panic and disbelief. Families pressed together, and everyone drew away from the monsters. Bright streamers and cheery decorations contrasted with the sharp tang of fear suddenly filling the square.

The necromancer smirked, resting a hand on his hound's head. The skinless beast glistened, hollow eye sockets scanning the crowd. The death mage was elegantly dressed and handsome, increasing his dread aura. "Now that I have your full attention, I shall repeat. Become my thrall or die."

Wringing his hands together, the village headman stepped forward. "Great lord, we do not understand."

A heavy sigh escaped the necromancer, and he rolled ebon eyes. "Surely you're not a simpleton. I require living servants to carry out various tasks. Any who give themselves voluntarily will be well treated. Any who refuse will be torn apart and used as raw materials."

Voices rose again, punctuated with several screams. The crowd stared at the undead beasts, pulses raised and skins crawling. "Lady save us," many cried, touch small charms around their necks.

The necromancer laughed heartily, tossing his head back. Villagers fell silent, their blood running cold. "Your Lady can do nothing to stop me," he said, crossing his arms over a slim chest.

"How can you be so certain, Cecil?" asked a sweet and high-pitched voice. The crowd murmured and parted, revealing the speaker.

Petite and lovely, their Lady was a demi-goddess of light and love. Fear was replaced by hope as her tiny steps carried her toward Cecil the necromancer. Her beatific expression bolstered the hearts of everyone present.

Abominations moved closer, looming over the villagers. Cecil smirked, stroking his hound. "Because I have a secret."

She stopped before him, unfazed by the stench of death surrounding him. "Cecil, you have nothing that I don't already know about." Her voice was sweet and soft, like a spring breeze.

Cecil cupped her cheek, smirking. "I have the Apotheosis Blade." As the words sank in, the necromancer plunged a black blade into the Lady's heart.

Her shriek filled the square, painful and loud. The air trembled with her agony, windows rattling in their frames. On and on her wail went, splitting the night itself.

No blood came from the wound. Cecil stared into her wide eyes, a wicked grin on his face. Everyone watched in awe, not quite believing what they were seeing.

The Lady began glowing, pale blue light surrounding her fragile body. Cecil closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. The nimbus shifted and grew, making its way over the necromancer. Soon, they were both surrounded.

Her scream continued, an unwavering note. The crowd began to stir, some raising cries as well. Cecil groaned, his hand trembling on the Lady's cheek.

The glow and the scream ended abruptly. Her petite body slumped to the ground, and Cecil wavered momentarily. He held the black dagger in a grip of iron, keeping his eyes closed.

Villagers grew restless as the moment drew out. The Lady was unmoving, and the necromancer was still there. Had they been saved? Had she really been slain? What was going on?

Cecil the necromancer opened his eyes slowly. They were now liquid pools of pure black. "I've changed my mind. There is no choice now." His abominations fell upon the people.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sketch - Johnny Depp vampire

Certainly not one of my best works, but this was a gift for my stepsister. She loves Johnny Depp, and she loves vampires, so it made sense.

I did two for her, but can't find the other one. It was all in red, and he had some Egyptian type makeup.

I think it's especially fun, since Mr Depp is now going to be in Dark Shadows. I hope he's more Sweeney Todd than Captain Sparrow in it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What do my characters look like?

I've pondered this before, when trying to make the cover for All Hallows Blood, and it came back up in my thoughts because Lorelei likes All Hallows Blood's cover.

So what does everyone look like? Not like the cover models that were picked, that's for certain.

Unlike some of my other stories, there is no basis for Varick and Keila. I held them entirely in my imagination, and described them from there. Makes it a little difficult when you're trying to find pics for the cover. >.<

People have flitted across my radar since then, and become the characters.

Like Heiko Wittek. Only long after I had the vampire written did my sis-in-law find him. Other than being four inches taller, Heiko is the perfect Varick. Especially his intense stares. Put long white hair on him, and I'd friggin die. I actually did one of my sketches based on Herr Wittek.

Simon is a friend I had from New Zealand. What a surprise, right? I have a kiwi friend that became my kiwi character? He was cute as hell, and funny, and we haven't talked in years. It was actually his "fault" that eyebrow piercings began to grow on me. I haven't run across a celebrity or model that shares the same looks, but they grow them hot down under.

I have no pictures of Chris, but he looks like my best friend/roommate/heartbrother. And you'll probably never get to see him.

Serilda still hasn't become a full character, but Varick's sister will come to play some important roles. She's important to the vampire, and a mage, and I'm toying with some ideas to write a short story for her. She's a perfect German princess, so Diane Kruger (in her very serious poses) represents her well. Though Serilda has much longer hair, and is a wee bit more Valkyrie that Diane.

Kiyoshi is new to the cast, and is going to become a fair part of the story in books 4 and 5. Especially 5. But that would be spoiler-like if I told you what happens with him. He is one of the characters that had a model in my head from the get go. Since I saw Shin Koyamada as Nobutada in The Last Samurai, I was impressed by how elvish he looked. As Keila expresses in Saint Valentine's Clash, I didn't know there were Japanese elves. Granted, Shin is bigger than Kiyoshi, but close is good enough.

Keila has been, and always will be the hardest to cast. Truth be told, she looks like me. *gasps* A character who looks like her author? No way! Yes, way.

But she's younger, and in better shape. And without the blond streak, of course. I even gave her my color changing eyes. Making her like me made it easy to deal with her height, and feeling like a lummox next to petite Amber, or being worried about fitting into Varick's clothes when they first meet. Those are all things I have to deal with.

I did some internet searching, because if I had celebs for (nearly) everyone else, I needed some celebs for Keila. it kinda came up as a tie. Model Susan Loughnane and a young Lynda Carter. Susan needs black hair to go with her Irish good looks, and she could definitely be more Amazonian, but I love her eyes.

Lynda overall has the look. People keep comparing Megan Fox to her, but Miss Fox is certainly not the same as my character. Were there an All Hallows Blood movie, there could be no Megan Fox for Keila.

So there's my pleasantly random post today. Just some of the things that go through a writer's head.

Friday, March 4, 2011

#FridayFlash - Slayer of Slayers

The dragon slayer surveyed the village with a practiced eye. Typical small community, a little more prosperous than most.

At least, it had been.

Dragons had moved in, devastating the herds. What little savings were at hand had been used to hire the nameless slayer.

Clouds brooded overhead, thick and gray, heavy with rain. Sniffing the chill breeze, he expected rain by the following morning. The first of the fall rains, most farmers would use this to mark the start of the harvests.

Fields lay unworked and overgrown.

He avoided the village, went straight for the cliffs. The sea lay two miles to the east, and the dragons nested in the caves. The villagers had been too scared for details, other than that there were three, but he suspected green dragons. Only greens could stand the humidity of living right on the coast.

Greens were wiry bastards, quick and agile. They were easiest to slay in their sleep, when their lairs restricted movement. A heavy lance behind the jaw severed the brain stem.

The gray day darkened, growing colder. Unseasonably cold, the slayer knew it would keep the dragons grounded. With too much cloud cover and all living things hiding, nothing favored a hunt.

For flying creatures, any way. It was a good day for him.

Long strides at the miles, and he was soon at the rocky cliff. Mists hung thick, the ground slick with salt spray. The waves below crashed and rushed with the pulse of the world.

The fishermen had made a walkway down to a tiny dock and a handful of skiffs. Drawing his axe, the slayer made his wary way down. The nest was close, and he could smell dragon in the air. No amount of storm or sea mists could cover the leathery scent of the huge creatures.

As he stalked closer, the scent of dead flesh grew stronger. Greens were very cleanly dragons, so he was surprised. The bones scattered on the rocks immediately outside the cave were also atypical. Was he dealing with rogues?

His sharp eyes handled the floor well as he worked his way into the lair. The surf crashing covered the sounds of breathing, meaning he couldn't judge their numbers yet. It also disguised his cautious footsteps.

Thirty yards in was a turn, hiding the end of the cave. He slowed further, keeping to the wall, clutching his axe tightly. Loose rocks threatened to give him away, but he had done this before.

Peering around the corner, ruby eyes glowed. ~Greetings, traitor.~

The slayer's blood ran cold, and his heart rate spiked. His extremities numb, he couldn't move as the massive red dragon extended its snout. "How do you know?" he whispered. The magic should have protected him from detection.

Hisses and slithering filled the cave. The big red stayed still, allowing three slender greens to swarm the slayer. ~Your faith in human magic is too great.~

He turned and ran. All his bravery and skill was forgotten. Claustrophobia assaulted him. Panic filled him. His lone thought was that they knew.

They'd found out he used magic to permanently become human. He'd given up flying and breathing fire to protect the little primates his kind liked to eat. His former kind. The kind that were now chasing him down.

One of the greens surged forward, snarling as it cut off his escape. Flammable saliva splattered, small fires springing up. The slayer swung his axe, and the green pulled its snout back. Human magic made great enchanted weapons.

He made it outside, headed for the skiffs. The storm was growing, and winds tore at everything. With some skilled sailing, he might escape the dragons.

A black dragon dove out of the clouds, laying a trail of fire between the slayer and the dock. He halted, and turned to make a stand.

The red emerged from the cave, spreading expansive wings. Large as a castle, the warrior dragon set fear in his heart.

~You know what they say about a woman scorned?~ The red grumbled, eyes narrowed.

He finally recognized his wife, the catalyst for becoming human. She'd tracked him down after ten years for her revenge. Releasing his axe, he submitted to her whims.

The pack of she-dragons laughed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rite of the Sanguine gets 3rd place

I'm rather proud of my horror story. Third place is quite respectable. Especially sinc it's one of the few horror stories I've ever written.

So, don't forget to check out IndieHorror.Org if you like horror.



“You said a small gathering.” I tensed, clinging to Vladilen’s arm as the multitude of voices reached my ears. My vision blurred, making it impossible to count heads in the dim lighting. More than enough to make me want to flee.
“Nichole, relax. Deep breaths.” The vampire could have used telepathy, but his faint accent was more soothing. Cold fingers gripped my chin, forcing me to look into his onyx eyes. “Considering my status in the clan, this is small.” He kissed the tip of my nose. “Soon it will be your status.”

I let the scent of blood and roses envelope me, let Vladilen’s touch calm me. When he completed my change, I’d become his daughter and wife, a princess of the Moldovi clan. Being stared at and conspired against would become my life.

But I’d have the power to invoke fear and the strength to command respect. I could excise my demons, could allay my insecurities, could make people do my bidding. No longer would I have to cower or hide the dark desires of my heart. Already, Vladilen indulged my more violent needs, gave me an actual outlet. Once a full member of the clan, I’d wouldn’t need him to share his victims.

My heart slowed, and the vampire knew I was ready. I kept tight to his side, unwilling to be alone in the pit of vipers. Vipers that would soon be my family, vipers that I would become with relish.

We circulated through the expansive ballroom, greeting everyone in attendance. I fought my anxieties, willing myself to be the strong woman Vladilen loved so much. So many faces, vampire and protégé and human. So many names that fled as soon as we left their presence. So many varied ages and costumes and accents.

Instead of allowing myself to be overwhelmed, I studied my surroundings, attention on the elaborate soiree put on just for me.

Moldovi clan vampires knew how to party. The candlelit ballroom could have fit a couple hundred people. Between vampire, protégés, servers, and entertainers, less than seventy-five were here. I’d have thought a dozen too many, with my issues about crowds, but Vladilen was right. He was second in command of the clan, and could do nothing without a crowd. All I could do was relax and try to enjoy myself.

Naked humans carried trays with flutes of blood. Some even had bite marks on their soft flesh. They wore masks, anonymous to the clan members. Fat, skinny, young, old, male, female, they were a broad sampling of flesh.

The entertainers were exclusively vampires and their protégés. Piercing and tattoo demonstrations, a contortionist, a fire dancer, and even a poetry reading. Peering around the crowd, I saw a couple other performers, but not what they were doing.

Vladilen guided us toward one of those I couldn’t see, squeezing my trembling hand. ~You’re doing well.~ We arrived, and I gasped, drawing deep the blood scent.

On a raised platform, a woman was tied with her arms above her head, a young-looking vampire slicing her with a knife. I drew a deep breath, relishing the heady scent of her blood and fear, and watched the leather-clad vampire flay the human alive. She squirmed and moaned, unable to scream past sewn up lips. Her teary eyes met mine, and I merely licked my lips at the blood running along her tattered skin.

“Will there always be gatherings like this?” The bond between Vladilen and I allowed only one-way communication. Even in my protégé state, half-vampire from constant infusions of his blood, I couldn’t send my thoughts to him. If tonight went well, that would all change.

My vampire stroked my back through my velvet dress, as intent on the slow torture as I. Perhaps more so, since I wasn’t a thrall to the hunger yet. ~Yes and no, my sweetling.~ Vladilen’s need crossed our bond, infecting me. He wanted to bite and rend the woman, so I came to want to bite and rend. Heat grew inside, and I pressed myself against his lean torso. Oh that we could be alone to indulge ourselves. My newest scars were nearly healed.

The youthful vampire had gained a crowd. He made more of a show, peeling the human’s skin slowly, then dancing with the strips. Hunger was aroused in all watchers. Protégé’s even nipped at their masters. Vampires stared, enrapt, fangs exposed and pupils dilated.

He was an artist, and I wished to have his talent. Even If I never gained his skill with a knife, I would settle for a bound victim. Vladilen had shared some of his meals with me, let me drink the sultry flow of life, allowed me to abuse them, but he’d always made the killing move.

Stepping closer, I was lost in the flow and action. The woman sobbed, tears mingling with blood. Her lips tugged against the heavy thread closing them. Would she rip the sutures if pressed enough? What levels of torment could I bring the human to if given the chance?

I could handle crowds if there was something so delicious to watch.

How the vampire artist fought his own hunger, I couldn’t understand. His eyes glowed silver, his fangs prominent against full lips. Smiling at me, he cut loose a piece of muscle. The woman shrieked anew, pulling against her bonds, throat throbbing with the muffled sound. Bending down, the vampire offered me the fresh gobbet.

I took it with trembling fingers. All eyes were on me, lustful and heavy. Vladilen’s stroking increased in pace and pressure. None of them mattered. Not their stares, or lusts, or hungers. All that mattered was the dark piece of meat still oozing blood.

My pulse leapt, and my mouth watered in anticipation. Crimson stains covered my fingers as I lifted it to my nose, closing my eyes as I inhaled deeply. The rest of the gathering slipped away, and I was alone in the moment. My first taste of human flesh.

The first bite was divine. Hot, rich, heady, muscle tissue shredded easily between my teeth. I chewed with relish, blood running down my lips. Delicious and pink like pork, human meat had its own unique flavor.

How could I have gone so long without trying this? Not like I hadn’t contemplated murder before. From a young age, I’d imagined slipping poison into my stepmother’s coffee, or shoving my sister down the stairs. In my mind, I bludgeoned the neighbor kids, and ran over mothers and babies with my Impala.

There had been cravings for flesh as well, not just the blood and violence. Someone butchered and in the freezer, or even bound to the table as I gnawed straight from the bone.

Only Vladilen knew this about me. The vampire encouraged it, extolling my inner killer. The lusty way I drank his blood, and helped him feed on his victims turned him on. We both looked forward to hunting together.

Until then, I had this visceral moment. I had the life of the nameless woman. She’d become mine to conquer, to take into myself. The best food I’d ever had, I couldn’t get enough. Swallowing hard, my pulse quickened.

My next bite was quicker, more violent. I opened my eyes, returning the vampire artist’s gaze with passion. I growled faintly, finishing my chunk, wanting more. So very much more.

Vladilen grabbed my wrists, yanking my hands to his mouth. The vampires around us sighed as he licked up the blood, tongue laving every inch of my fingers. I moaned, and he growled, lust flaring between us.

I wasn’t one for public affection, but I had no complaint when my lover dove for my neck. Pain lanced through my body, and I stiffened. Vladilen growled, gripping me fiercely, lingering before puncturing the vein.

He finally bit through, blood bursting into his mouth, and we groaned in unison. Pain gave way to pleasure. Pleasure escalated to ecstasy. The intensity robbed me of thought, left me with only sensation.

Vladilen ended the bite too soon, and I cried out in disappointment. He cradled me against his chest, blood dripping onto the dark silk. I whimpered and writhed, wanting him to continue.

“I have something much better, my sweet.” The vampire’s voice was husky, his hand trembling as he stroked my hair. “It’s time to start your Rite.”

The Rite of the Sanguine, where I proved I was ready and capable of being a vampire. I’d been looking forward to this part for a while. Leaning back to meet Vladilen’s sparkling eyes, I grinned like a little girl. “Not at the end of the night?”

Love and wonder and pride filled his expression. He ran a hand through my hair, pulling it free of the bobby pins. “You’re more than ready. The clan just needs to know it.”

His eyes were vacant for a moment as he sent a telepathic command out. Curtains drew back at the stage end of the room, and the crowd grew silent. Vladilen smiled, then led me to the stage, and the blond woman bound and kneeling.

As we approached, I recognized my half-sister Becky. My stomach roiled.

Perfect Becky. Daddy’s Little Princess. Two years younger than me, but more beloved. She could do nothing wrong, and ruled every boy by batting her big blue eyes.

Blue eyes that were now red from crying, mascara streaked across her cheeks. Her hair was ratty, clothes ripped, her fingernails bleeding, a gag cutting into her mouth. Her wrists were tied together, chafed and raw from attempts to escape, the rope lashed to a bolt in the floor. There was no escape for Becky.

Vladilen led me onto the stage, a hand in the small of my back. Everyone was gathering below us, watching me, but I had no room for anxiety. There was only Becky and her pleading eyes.

“Esteemed members of the Moldovi clan,” Vladilen began. I stared at Becky, anger slowly boiling in my heart. Was she trying to overshadow me even amongst my new people? “Tonight we stand witness to Protégé Nichole’s Rite of the Sanguine.”

I turned to the crowd, their faces blurred by tears of frustration. The last three years had all been an effort to distance myself from my mundane family, to forget about my little sister and her bitter mother, to erase memories of my father’s disappointment. A new life, a new city. An undead lover, and a chance to leave the human race.

My lover had continued speaking, extolling my virtues and outlining why he’d chosen me. I trembled with suppressed rage, not really hearing him. He caught my attention when he drew a kris dagger. Our eyes met, and I was suffused with his pride in me. “Tonight, Nichole shows her readiness to be one of us.”

I took the dagger with numb hands, still enraged by Becky’s presence. Vladilen had been purposely vague on the details of the Rite, saying I could not be prepared before hand. I had to prove myself impromptu.

~Kill her, my sweetling. Drink her blood. Make her suffer.~ Vladilen caressed my cheek, then turned me to face Becky.

She whimpered, staring at me, the gag muffling her words. Tears started anew, and she tugged at her restraint. Had she pled with her captors, promised them sexual favors if she were released? Was Father missing her, calling the police, offering a reward for her safe return?

Becky kept crying as I stalked toward her. A few steps seemed to take forever. The knife was heavy in my grip. Time slowed, the crowd pushed away. Vladilen had faith that I could do this, and I couldn’t let him down.

Kneeling before my sister, I wondered if I could really do this. Drinking Vladilen’s blood was fine. Eating the flesh of an anonymous woman was fine. Imagining my family dead by my hand was fine.

But could I do the real act? Becky was related by blood, spawned by a shared sire. We had our differences, but did that mean she deserved death?

I removed her gag, holding her teary gaze. “Hello, Becky.” Did she know me with my elaborate dress and intricate makeup? I was confident and assured, beautiful in my gothic attire, so different than the twenty-two year old she’d last seen.

“What the fuck is this?” she spat, voice hoarse from her repeated screams. “Where’s Daddy?”

All grown up, and still calling him Daddy. “He won’t be coming,” I whispered. Her lower lip quivered, and I remembered how she’d always gotten her way through the ages. Our father, wrapped around her slender little pinky. “He doesn’t even know you’re here.”

Becky sobbed, face crumpling. “Why couldn’t you stay gone, you selfish bitch?”

My nostrils flared, my cheeks heating. I was the selfish bitch? Anger finally boiled over, and I lashed out. Becky screamed when the blade bit into her cheek. Blood spilled, and the vampires behind me sighed.

I didn’t need my relations. I had a new family that didn’t compare me to others or frown on my homicidal urges. They loved me for my violence, and I loved them back.

Years of frustration fueled me, suppressed violence surfacing. I growled low under my breath, grabbing a handful of Becky’s hair. She jerked away and cried out, but I was relentless. I sawed at her scalp, blood flowing down her face as I removed great hanks of hair and skin.

She kept screaming and fighting, trying to escape, brought up short by the rope around her wrists. Blood blinded her, the scent filling my nostrils. Wicked wanton Becky smelled so delicious.

Tired of her squirming, I delivered a vicious punch to her nose. Cartilage snapped, and Becky slumped to her side. Her blood coated my hand, and I laughed maliciously as I loomed over her from my knees.

Silly girl thought she was better than me because her body influenced men. I was smarter than her, worked harder than her, and was plenty more vicious than her. She was helpless and weak.

She was prey.

I gutted her then, a deep cut just below her diaphragm. Blood gushed, pooling beneath her, soaking into my dress. Becky’s scream escalated to wails, quickly cut off as I plunged my hand into her torso.

Her insides were hot, sticky and pleasant. Using my half-vampire strength, I forced past diaphragm and membranes and lung. Becky twitched, her eyes rolled into her head, and her screams ended.

Becky’s heart throbbed against my fingers, and I groaned in pleasure. Here was her life, ready for me to take it. Clutching, I yanked, tearing blood vessels. Blood soaked my arm, searing hot against my skin.

The organ came free with one last yank, and I turned with a triumphant shout. Showing her still-beating heart to the crowd, I focused on the organ. The seat of her soul, the source of her life, so easily claimed. Closing my eyes to savor the moment, I took a deep bite.

Richer than anything I had ever tasted before, I lost myself to the flavor, thick with blood, rich with life, it gushed into my mouth. The scent was strong, flooding my senses, transporting me far away. I chewed slowly, moaning and rocking. Animal hearts had nothing on a human one.

I should never have taken this long to claim a life. Elation filled me, made my head spin. I had decided Becky’s fate, had snipped her line because I wanted to. The entire world waited for my whim, for me to decide who next to take.

Vladilen was at my side them, licking blood from my face, growling in pleasure. He kissed me, tongue diving far into my mouth, fangs pricking my lower lips. I kissed him back, offering him my sister’s life.

“One of us now,” the vampire whispered, breaking the kiss. His eyes glittered, lips parted and stained.

“Then I am worthy?” His only answer was to ravage me in the pool of Becky’s blood.