Chapter 1 Excerpt
Some people lead charmed lives. They coast through their days with ease and at night, they sleep without dreams, because they have nothing left to want.
Some people live within a nightmare, wishing solely to sleep, for it is only there they find comfort.
And me? I am a nightmare, and if I come for you, you’d better pray you wake up.
The cold, steady rain hits the sidewalk and collects into dirty puddles in the alleyway. It is dark; the moon is hiding, afraid to come out and see the seedier side of the city. When the sun goes down, the bad guys come out to play.
I am crouched behind a dumpster, hidden in the shadows, a silent predator hunting in the night. And I will catch my prey. If I so choose, he won’t even know what hit him. But my task tonight is to deliver a message. I have to let him survive long enough to receive it.
The back door to the Mexican restaurant opens. The smell of red beans and rice drifts out. In my other life, it would have smelled delicious. Now, it’s just overpowering and inconvenient. It masks the scent of the man I seek.
But I hear him. I hear the slight wheeze in his voice. I hear the shuffling noise his Italian leather loafers make on the tile floor of the restaurant. And I hear the beating of his heart.
He coughs once as he exits the building. I shift into position, ready to take down my victim and make him see just how wrong he was to think he could turn his back on his family, on the people who would protect him and provide him the kind of lifestyle he thinks he deserves.
He gasps and whirls, and the beating of his heart grows frantic. His head turns from side to side with cartoonish jerks as he tries to figure out where the voice came from. Then I hear a hitch in his breathing. He recognizes my voice; he knows who I am.
“Nexess? What are you doing out here? Where the hell are you?”
I step out from the shadows, and his face visibly relaxes. The beating of his heart slows back down to a normal rhythm. He thinks he is safe.
He couldn’t be more wrong.
“Paulie, what are you doing here?” I ask him, staring into his eyes.
He flinches; he is beginning to realize he’s not as safe as he thought he was. The steel in my voice and the look in my eyes are harbingers of nasty things to come.
“I was talking to Vinnie. That’s all. It was nothing, I swear.” I can almost hear the sweat pooling up on his skin. His breathing has changed. He is nearly panting now. His stomach gurgles- it is the sound of his bowels loosening, turning to water.
“Nothing, Paulie? How could it be nothing? Vinnie and his people are our enemies. Why would you be talking to Vinnie when Antonio told you to not to go anywhere near him?” I cross my arms over my ample chest and lean back, pretending to be carrying on a casual conversation.
“But he’s my cousin!” he squeaks.
“Not anymore, Vinnie.” I strike then, from across the alley to his side in less than the blink of an eye. My hand is around his throat, squeezing. He gasps with a rattling noise and tries to pull my hand off. It’s no use. He may as well be trying to fight off a pit bull, so strong is my grip. I only let go when I choose to, and I’m not done yet. I squeeze harder and his eyes begin to bulge slightly.
“Antonio is your family. Don’t forget that. And you never turn your back on your family.”
“I swear! I won’t. Nexess, please—” He wheezes out the words. He can beg, but it won’t get him anywhere. Tonight I’m out for blood. Tonight I let the animal in me out to feed. Tonight, I will teach him a lesson, the last one he’ll ever learn:
Don’t cross Antonio.
His blood is a traitor’s blood. It tastes foul to me even as I gorge myself on it. But Antonio told me to feed, and unlike the unfortunate Paulie, I obey my family. I choke it down, feeling it spread through my body like whiskey, warm and aged. It puts a flush on my pale cheeks; I can feel them burning as the blood, someone else’s blood, courses through me.
I finish and wipe my face off on Paul’s expensive sport coat, unconcerned about stains. After all, he won’t be needing it again.
With one quick movement, I leap to my feet, kick him in the head in disgust and walk out of the alley, leaving the pathetic shell of the Judas there on the ground, in one of the smelly puddles. He died like the coward he was, and the punishment he received was still too good for him.
I make my way back to Antonio’s warehouse with ease, cloaked in the night like a black panther. I am as sleek and smooth and deadly as the cat, lithe and graceful and deadly as I slink toward home. The power surging through my body is from the blood; always it is the blood that sates me. I laugh once, riding on the high it gives me.
Antonio’s warehouse is on the south side of Chicago, in the supposed bad part, where cops don’t even dare to tread, and only the very brave choose to linger. But it is a place to retreat to when I’ve done Antonio’s bidding, a place I go to get my orders. It’s my home, and has been for the past four years.
I am not free, but it is a small price to pay for my life, or I should say my existence, for I am not truly alive.
Two of Antonio’s thugs guard the door to the warehouse. They are riff-raff, street scum, lowly members of Antonio’s family, the latest recruits of Nuove Leve. Dozens of men have come through these doors in the past four years and they’re all the same. They petition Antonio to join our family, and either wash out or move up through the ranks. Russo and Manny are the newest additions to our family, and they’re worse than normal. These two remind me of caricatures, of stereotypical meathead wannabe gangsters, and I eye them with disdain. They smell of low-rent tenements and bargain basement clothing, cheap cigarettes and cheaper beer. I smirk at them as I approach.
“Hey, Nexess, w*$ring yourself out again?” Russo sneers at me, thinking to press my buttons, for what, I don’t know. He has no idea of the danger in pissing me off. Not yet. He’ll soon learn.
“F@%$ you,” I growl at him, giving him a small glimpse into the animal inside of me, the one that thirsts for his blood.
“Nice comeback, s%@$. You just learn that word?” Manny says, grinning bravely. His eyes glint in the weak wash of street lights. He, too, is all brawn and no brain, and my patience with both of them is being sorely tested. The only thing that keeps me from spilling their blood on the warehouse floor is my loyalty to Antonio, that and the fact I’d just fed.
“Stupid a$$#*%@, maybe one day you’ll learn who you can and can’t f@%$ with,” I threaten, a purr in my voice men often mistake for sex. It couldn’t be further from that. The purr is a ruse, a sound meant to disarm and distract, a sound I make right before I pounce. And when I pounce, the purr is the last sound they hear before succumbing to my bite. But not today. Today I’m in a hurry and besides, I just ate.
“Yeah? Like who? You? What could you possibly do to us?” Manny asks with a laugh. He looks down his nose at me, sneering a bit as his gaze rests on my chest. I can nearly hear his thoughts, and I know his kind and their appetites all too well. The only value a woman has to them is while she’s on her back.
He’s showing off now, flexing his bicep and gesturing to it proudly. Then he looks at me and says something that confirms to me just how much of a stupid f@%$ he is. “Yeah? Beat that, little girl.”
It’s time to teach the gangster a lesson.
I take one step and flex my arm, and he’s unconscious and on the ground before he can draw his next breath.
“Jesus!” Russo squeals as he takes a step backwards and trips over a loose brick. I laugh as he falls on his ass. He boosts himself up on his hands and knees and backpedals for his life. He’s moving fast but not going anywhere and I laugh again, one sinister sound that sends his heart into frantic gallops. The sound of the rapid thuds inside his chest makes me smile.
“You were saying?” I ask as I rest one leather boot-clad foot on his chest.
“Nothing. G-g-go right on up. He-he-he’s expecting you. Jesus!”
“I f@%$ing thought so. See you, Russo,” I say, stepping past him.
Manny comes to with a groan and tries to rise, but one quick shove sends him roughly against the brick wall of the warehouse. He curses madly as he bounces off and falls to the ground.
“Sh*t, that hurt! You b$#@*!”
I ignore that remark, which saves Manny’s life, and step up the stairs toward my master.
He is seated in what we call the throne room, a long room on the second floor of the warehouse, empty of furniture except for one large, high-backed chair that sits on a platform and a few sets of strategically-placed shackles and chains. All the windows are blacked out and the only lighting comes from the two large candelabras that flank the throne and candlelight that dances and flickers from sconces on the walls. But despite its size and lack of seating, it feels cozy as a cave.
My black leather boots echo on the wooden floor, announcing my arrival. Antonio looks up and smiles when he sees me. My heart gladdens at the sight of his trim frame, long-legged build, black hair slicked back from his face and brown eyes glowing in the dim lighting.
“Nexess, back already?” he asks, an expectant look on his aristocratic face. I know what he’s waiting for.
“It’s done. He died like the coward he was.” I kneel before him, bowing my head, awaiting his command.
“Did you enjoy your snack?” he asks, and I can hear the smirk in his voice.
“He tasted foul. But I’m full.”
“He was foul, the little f@%$er. No one crosses me. No one.” His booming voice with its sexy Italian accent bounces off the bare walls of the throne room and settles heavily in my ears. I know that tone of voice, and I know what’s coming next.
“Nexess, I have another job for you, tomorrow night. Someone I want you to handle for me. He’s a filthy f@%$ing gringo, and he dared to take one of my trucks. One of my f@%$ing trucks! He interrupted the flow of my business, and he needs to be taught a lesson, the Feral .45 gringo bastard!”
Feral .45 is our rival, another gang running through the streets of Chicago, causing us to lose trucks filled with stolen goods, trucks we stole first, fair and square. Feral .45 is filled with little gringo boys who think they’re Latino gangsters, but they’re really just a motley little collection of Heinz 57 cholos with knives and guns. Little boys playing grown-ups. F@%$ing little p#@$-bucket b@$%@&%$. Antonio hates them. So do I. They’ve not only stolen from Antonio, but they also took something from me.
The life of my old family, my before family.
Everything that was familiar and comfortable.
Now I have nothing left but Antonio, the man who saved me. I murmur assent to Antonio. “I’ll kill the f@%$ing gringo. I’ll drink his blood and make him pay,” I vow, snarling now, anticipating the hunt, anticipating making him pay for what he did.
I’ll make him pay for everything.
|Jessica Degarmo grew up in Upstate New York and now lives with her husband, children and dog in rural Pennsylvania. When she is not writing, she is an insurance agent, the lead singer in a classic rock band, and an avid collector of gemstones.
Her publishing credits include: How to Meet a Guy at the Supermarket (Taylor Street Publishing, November 2010), Hooking Up (Taylor Street Publishing, May 2011), Decisions (Silver Publishing, July 2011), The Storm Within, A Johns Creek Second Chances Novel #1(Taylor Street Publishing, September 2011), Six Weeks (Taylor Street Publishing, October 2011) and Historically Yours, A Johns Creek Second Chances Novel #2(Taylor Street Publishing, August 2012). She is currently working on several other projects.
The beauty is the beast.
Jessica is giving away one print copy of Blood Lust. To enter: leave a comment with your e-mail address. Giveaway closes on November 12th at 11:59 PM EST. Open internationally. Please read my Giveaway Policy before entering. Good luck!
About the Blogger
I review Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance books with a focus all things werewolf. Based out of Ottawa, Canada