by Fire by Danielle Annett
All I saw was blood. Blood soaked
my hands and coated the walls. It stained the concrete flooring of the
abandoned warehouse and dripped from fixtures that hung from the ceiling,
trickling like a slow rain. My vision blurred as anguish filled me. How could
this have happened? How could I have been too late?
I stared down at the lifeless body
of a child. A boy. Kneeling in a pool of congealing blood, I ran my fingers
through his chestnut hair, ignoring the now-cool moisture seeping into the
denim of my pants. His face was unrecognizable. Gone was the child with the
dimpled cheek and brilliant blue eyes. Left behind was a mass of flesh and bone—a
ruined body drained of its life force at such a young age.
Reality snapped like an elastic
band, bringing me back to the present as I sat at my desk in Sanborn Place.
Ripped from the haunted memories of finding Daniel’s body.
The world was a cruel place. It
was a fact of life and even though I knew it was true, I still had a hard time
coming to terms with the atrocities people committed. The cruelties that for
some god-forsaken reason, people thought were okay. Staring down at the
wallet-sized photo now crumpled in my hands, I was greeted by a crown of
chestnut hair, bright blue eyes, a heart-shaped face, and a brilliant smile; a
single dimple on his left cheek. The face of an innocent seven-year-old boy,
cut down like he was little more than a calf brought to slaughter. I found
myself struggling to link the image of this smiling boy to that of the ruined
body I’d found less than forty-eight hours ago.
Cold marble pressed
against my face, numbing my cheek. My stomach roiled from the spinning of the
room, threatening to release my dinner. I took a deep, ragged breath and tried
to keep the dizziness under control. A voice in my head screamed at me to get
up and defend myself, but my body wouldn’t obey. With a herculean effort, I
pulled my legs under me in an effort to rise.
I felt the vibration
in the floor before I heard the heavy thud of footsteps. The bastard was back
for more. It must be my lucky day. A
vice clamped around my ankles, and I slid along the smooth stone floors of the
mansion. Crystal chandeliers and Renaissance paintings streaked across my
vision as I was pulled through an open doorway.
I twisted and
flailed, scrabbling to clutch the doorframe to stop my relentless slide into
the darkened room. I tried to make it a rule to never be forced into a room
when I didn’t know what lay within.
I managed a weak
handhold on the doorframe, but with a sharp tug, my captor caused me to easily
lose my grip. He—because only a man could own hands that large and
strong—“accidentally” slammed me into a coffee table before coming to a stop
without releasing me.
grenade that was triggered when I had been finishing my sweep of the last room
in the mansion had left my temples throbbing, preventing me from lifting my
head to get a good look at my captor. I needed to pull myself together if I was
going to fight my way out of here.
Swallowing hard, I
took a silent inventory of my injuries: a few bruises, no broken bones, no
bleeding. Sweet. This was going to be easier than I’d thought.
Surge by E.J. Whitmer:
Blake sighed and pushed his empty plate away from him. “You called
me last night at about 1: 30am. The only words I could make out were ‘jaeger’
‘nipples’ and ‘spandex’. I hopped in my car and headed over here to find you
standing in your kitchen wearing only your underwear and trying to stuff your
entire face in a pint of ice cream. Apparently you were out of spoons.”
That explained why I had sticky eyebrows.
I held my head in my hands and groaned as he continued. “I told
you to get some pajamas on. You wanted my shirt. You took it. Thankfully you
turned around while you were putting it on. I made you drink a glass of water
and tucked you into bed. I wasn’t sure how much you’d had to drink, so I
checked in on you every couple of hours. I provided you with early morning eye
candy. I made you delicious cheesy eggs. I think that’s about it.”
I opened one eye to look at him. “Did you see my boobs?”
His face split into a panty melting grin. “No. I was a gentleman.
I only gawked at your ass.”
by Siana Wineland:
barefoot in the darkness, Jessica hid and watched the recovery team flip lights
on in her house. Panic tried to set icy claws in her gut, but she pushed it
away ruthlessly. The arrival of the recovery team confirmed her worst fear: she
must have started the change.
She’d done her best to deny this possibility. But reality now
walked through her home, leaving her in the cold and dark.
She took a deep breath. Fear of what was to come had to take a
A large, lean man with shoulder-length blond hair entered her
bedroom. He moved with the grace of a predator, her eyes widened when he
turned, allowing her to see the suede of his wings fall gracefully down his
back like a dark cloak.
They’ve sent a Hunter! Her mind froze in panic. Why is there a
Hunter here? Recovery teams only have unchanged people in them.
The Valkyrie stopped and sniffed the air, scenting her, before
walking over to the window and examining it. He spread his wings, the large fan
covering the glass to block the light from behind him. Fascinated, she stared,
transfixed at the way the light shone through the membrane of his wings.
She felt her mind slowing again. Fruitlessly, she fought the
lethargy that was her body’s natural response to the changes taking place
It wasn’t long before the Hunter’s eyes found hers, their intensity
boring into her, and he smiled a slow feral smile.
Time Apart by Rebecca Norinne Caudill:
As Olivia moved out of William’s
arms, he didn’t fight her but his hands lingered as she slid away, as if he was
trying to hold onto something significant, and for the first time, Olivia could
see quite clearly he was no ordinary man.
“What are you?” she asked, her
voice barely audible above the logs crackling in the fire.
“You know me then,” was his
How could she respond? Prior
to the extensive research she’d conducted the night before, she would have
sworn she had never seen him a day in her life. But that wasn’t entirely
true, for she knew now that she had seen him while she dreamed. She
had seen him lying beside her, touching the most private parts of her
body. And just last night she’d fantasized about making mad, passionate
love to him outside, under the stars. And now she realized it had all happened
before, perhaps hundreds of times. She knew this man intimately … but not the
nightmare version of him, the man who had killed her.
But more importantly, she
realized, Olivia didn’t know herself – that woman from a time long forgotten.
“Who … what … am I then?” Fear and trepidation laced her voice.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know much
about who you are today.” His voice broke with emotion. “I only know who you were and when you were. In the year 1658, you were Ceara, my fierce
beauty. You were my wife and I loved you more than you can know.”
William paused, waiting for her to
interrupt with more questions, but when she remained mute, he continued
speaking. “If asked when I was still the man you remember, I would have said
I’d give anything – my life, even – for you. Instead, I took it.”
As his memories drifted back
hundreds of years, his face became a mask of loathing. He remembered, in
starkly vivid detail, the exact moment he had chased his beloved Ceara down,
broke her neck, and then sucked her body dry.
While Olivia watched him struggle
through his recollections, she wondered how he could have turned on her. What
had she done to deserve that fate? And who – what – was he that he could force these terrible memories to the
“If I was … am … Ceara, who are
you?” she asked, not quite sure she was ready to hear his answer.
“My name is William Macauley and,
as you might have guessed, I’m a vampire.”
by Frances Pauli:
stared at the graffiti and centered, took a deep breath and imagined her roots
reaching down, down into the earth. Her head spun a little. She reached for the
door with her free hand and pressed her palm against fresh red paint.
Running through dark woods. A
round moon overhead that set fear in her steps instead of awe. Why was she
running again? Midnight, dogs barking behind her and the man. Her heart seized
and she tripped over her own feet, sprawled forward toward hard roots and cold
dirt. The man chasing her wanted blood tonight.
blinked and saw blood, red dribbles against white.
Wallace, are you alright?”
She lifted her hand and stared at it. Red paint on her skin. A voice called
from behind her, but it was light out. There was no moon, no danger. She turned
around and found cops on her steps. The short one, she knew. Officer Peg Stone
had taken her call that morning, in fact, but Deirdre had never expected to
actually see the woman. Still, there was the patrol car parked below, and
behind Stone stood a policeman with dark eyes.
Deirdre’s porch rippled like water. Her hand reached again,
splatted against the nasty word but held her upright while the dizziness
swirled around and around.
More Black Magic by A.L. Kessler:
I’d never met the Alpha, but I knew this was him. His black hair
was cut short and his brown gaze cut into me. He stood tall and demanded
attention. Like Simon, he was dressed in older clothes, and I assumed it meant
they wouldn’t care if they got ruined. The muscles of his arms were solid and
his chest strained against the tight muscle shirt that he wore. Yeah, I
wouldn’t stand a chance in a fight against this guy, even if he was human.
Simon bowed his head. “Alpha.”
“Simon, so this is her?” His eyes ran over my body and I raised a
brow. I had dressed in my normal black clothes with boots. I had, as requested,
left the gun in the car, but my blade was sheathed across my back, hidden by my
Simon put a hand on my back and urged me to step forward.
“I’m Abigail.” I offered my hand, but Greg grabbed my wrist and
jerked me forward. I caught myself with a hand against his chest.
“You are a threat to my people, you offer me the back of your neck
in submission.” He growled. “Do you understand that?”
I gritted my teeth and pulled my braid away from the back of my
neck and bowed low enough that I offered it
to him. My verbal answer wouldn’t have been good enough. He was trying to show
off his strength, his power, and I was willing to bet other members of the pack
were watching from the windows of the cabin. Arguing with him wouldn’t have
done me any good.
City by Tom Shutt:
“So what exactly would I do as a Sleeper? I’ve heard only bad
things, and that was when I still thought you were just a bedtime story. If
even half of it is true—”
“We do what is necessary to protect this city,” Benjamin said
tightly. “There are forces that are simply too powerful and mysterious to be
handled by the police. We are the self-appointed protectors of the people.”
“That’s a great pitch, but I meant day-to-day, what will I be
Old Ben contemplated this question for a long moment before
answering. “There is no right or wrong in this world, Jeremy. You must
understand that in order to bring balance to others, we must first find balance
within ourselves. This will not be an easy life, nor one filled with thanks from
those you help—they will never even know you were there. You will make hard
choices, decisions that will leave others bereft of their autonomy. But with my
guiding hand, you will accomplish great deeds and protect countless innocents
during your service.”
“That still doesn’t answer—”
“You will kill. You will maim. You will steal, lie, and deceive.
Nobody will know who you are, or what you do, or when or where you will strike
next. The people will never acknowledge your sacrifices, and they will continue
to fear and despise the myth that you represent.”
There was a pregnant pause before Benjamin spoke again.
“Do you have what it takes?” he asked.
The first snowflakes
of the year rode their fat bodies lazily down to the empty sidewalk Sadie Pratt
trudged along. If she looked up, the old fashioned streetlights would
illuminate their glittery brethren. But she didn’t look up. A cold winter wind
was demanding attention she didn’t care to give as she shifted her eyes
toward her destination at the end of the street. As if irritated with her
neglect, a particularly breathy gust reached out and freed her auburn waves
from a loose bun. In response, she tucked her chin deeper into the plaid scarf
wrapped around her neck and quickened her footfalls.
Sadie’s mood was as
dark as the cloud-heavy sky hanging above her. Her boss, Harvey McDonnell, of
McDonnell and Loeb Law Office had rung her out of a study-induced trance thirty
“Sadie, I need you in
the office in thirty,” like it was a common request. Like it wasn’t 9:30 on a
Thursday night. Like she wasn’t drowning in the middle of finals!
She reached the
pristine brick façade that stood with pride in the little college town of
Weston’s historic business district and flung the door wide. The gratuitous
cowbell hanging on the handle let out its hollow ring. Harvey was already
there, so instead of turning on the lights and starting a pot of coffee as per
her usual routine, Sadie dumped her heavy bag without ceremony at the receptionist’s
desk and marched back to his office.
Harvey’s watery grey
eyes rose over the edge of his half-rimmed glasses to meet her steely glare
then traveled down her slim frame covered in an overly long flannel, black
leggings and combat boots. He chuffed. “You look nice.”
“I’ll wear proper business attire during proper
business hours,” she shot back, fists coming to rest on hips.
Message Bearer by M.S. Dobing:
It didn’t so much as walk out of the dark – it oozed. Its
form coalesced from the gloom, a slight shimmering in the air, a shifting of
shadows, before condensing into something resembling a human that now stood,
unmoving, just at the periphery of the streetlight.
Yet this was no human.
Unnaturally tall, easily touching seven feet, the thing wore a dark
suit that hung loosely off a pencil-thin frame. Its head was dipped, its face
hidden beneath a black fedora with a single silver band. As he watched, the
creature’s head rose. Black eyes met his. Something cold trickled down his
It began to move forwards, its movement jerky, as if it were
animated by invisible string. Its mouth opened into a wide grin, jaw distending
to almost impossible proportions, displaying a set of dagger-like incisors.
‘You see it, don’t you?’
He’d forgotten she was even there. He looked back at the woman,
managing the barest of nods. She reached out to him, her hand shaking.
‘Come with me.’