Excerpt Monday: Rena Marks, "Kiss Me Before I Die"
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A relationship between a vampire and his Extinguisher is doomed from the very beginning. At twenty-five years of age, Afton Reis is the only living Extinguisher to make retirement. But what's the use of retirement if the only one that got away still heats your blood?
EXCERPT: Kiss Me Before I Die
It was a cave I awoke in. A darkened cave, good for improved night vision for those more than plain human. Hushed whispers all around me. Not a lot of body heat.
A vampire nest.
“It’s awake,” said a childlike voice. A tiny, fanged creature no more than six or seven, pointed at me. His father grabbed him, moving him from my reach. As if I’d harm an innocent.
I did a double take. An innocent? Surely blood loss was to blame for my brain failure.
“What are you?” the blond boy asked. “You smell like us. But you look human.”
The cave was so silent you could hear a pin drop. Until the voice of Ethan rang strong. “She’s an Extinguisher.”
There was hissing from the shadowed corners. “You brought one here? You should have let her die.”
“You will not harm her,” Ethan said.
“How dare you bring an Extinguisher into our midst?”
“You forget who rules?” Ethan’s voice was deadly. Silence was his answer.
“I’m an ex-Extinguisher,” I said soothingly. To justify Ethan’s actions. For if I were one of the vampires, I’d take me out in a heartbeat.
“She’s a female. Is she the one?” I heard from the corner.
The same child inched toward me. His father reached to pull him away but Ethan interrupted. “Let him. Trust must begin. Jordan, go on.”
The boy tentatively moved forward. “You don’t have fangs,” he said.
He looked at me like I was an idiot. “How else would I eat? Hey,” he continued as it dawned on him. “What do you eat?”
“Like a human?” he asked, eyes wide.
I simply nodded.
“But you can morph, like we do. Right?”
To this child, this…Jordan, I was a scary urban legend. A nightmare parents whispered about in the dark.
“Yes,” I said.
“Where’s your mommy and daddy?” he asked suddenly.
I shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t know anymore.”
Ethan answered for me. “Because Extinguishers are taken from their parents before they are even eight years of age.”
The looks on the faces of the evil creatures around me were incredulous. As if we, the humans, were the monsters.
“We are trained daily in order to have the strength to extinguish,” I justified.
“I thought you gained strength by drinking the blood of a captured vampire. One of us,” someone said, bitterness brewing in his voice.
I had no answer. I certainly didn’t ask for the benefit back then.
“At what age were you stricken, Afton?” Ethan asked quietly. He was smart. Had he demanded an answer, I would have clammed.
Silence reigned in the aftermath yet again.
“Why so young? If they are normally taken at eight?” another of the voices asked.
“I was one of the Originals.”
“The first crew.”
“An experiment,” Ethan countered. “You were an experiment.”
“One that worked well,” I reminded him curtly.
“Yet one that has not been able to be recreated. They don’t know what happened differently with you.”
“Apparently they figured it out. I’m lying here wounded, aren’t I?”
“They knew exactly how to wound you. Don’t you find it curious?”
“Oh, do share with me, Ethan. I’m too tired for games.”
“They have your blood. They must have infected the assassin with it, instead of blood from a vampire. You are not used to sensing your own blood morphing in and out. Vampires are—shared blood runs rampant throughout our lines. This has been planned for years, Afton. The Extinguisher in the park? He wasn’t sent for me. He was there for you.”
A shiver ran down my spine, icy cold and making my fingers and toes tingle. Here I thought I had been saving Ethan. Here I thought they’d let me retire.
Instead, I was being hunted like an animal.
I guess it was beneficial that I’d spent the last year underground hiding from my lover. It kept the government from finding me also.
I should have known. There was never any intention of allowing my departure. Not after all the years of training. The inhumane conditions. But I’d earned retirement, dammit.
I was one of the lucky few who stayed alive.
“And how are we to feed her?” asked a female. “We have no human food.”
“We should turn her loose.”
Ethan tore his gaze from mine long enough to glare in the general vicinity of the voice.
Dead silence once again reigned in the cave. The tension thickened, the beginnings of a catastrophic tantrum from Ethan. Minds around us would go insane with rage, or at least they should. I wondered if his fits worked on vampires the same way they did on humans?
“Ethan,” I whispered gently.
At first, he didn’t hear.
“Ethan,” I said again, careful to keep any urgency from my voice. When he cut his attention to me, something softened in his eyes.
There was the key to averting a disaster. Ethan was all-out male, needing to be needed. Frustrated because his twisted mind thought I was his but I was a female born and bred not to need anything or anyone.
“You know I can take care of myself,” I said softly, “but I am a little weakened right now. I don’t know any of these people. Maybe just you and I can head out to find me something to eat?”
The air was thinning, becoming easier to breathe. Drier, as though the humidity was evaporating quickly.
“You shouldn’t be up and about, bella,” he chided gently.
I could almost see the relief that swept through the inhabitants of the cave.