This chapter comes from my upcoming dark urban fantasy novel, Fellheart.
Dante stepped into the penthouse, the elevator door shutting like a coffin behind him. The place was borderline ostentatious, and he couldn’t help but admire it. Rich wood floors, an unnecessarily high ceiling, and warm, understated lighting created an atmosphere of sophisticated revelry, a place for the upper-class of an age before.
The musical laugh of the blonde managed to fill the enormous space. She sauntered into the center of the room, hand-in-hand with her giggling friend. Together they dove onto an overstuffed couch, gleeful. And why shouldn’t they be?
“So, Peter, the three of you all live here together? Not a bad life,” Dante said, and joined him at a sleek little bar. His eyes roamed idly over a vast stock of expensive liquor.
“Indeed.” Peter’s demeanor was in stark contrast to that of his roommates. He was a somber little man with a vaguely European accent, and in truth seemed very out of place. He poured Dante a drink and stared off, lost in his own thoughts. The woman he was with stood awkwardly at his side. She was pretty enough, and yet obviously driven to insecurity by the other two women.
Dante looked over at them, lounging, teasing the man that the brunette had claimed. He hovered over them, laughing forcefully, trying hard to impress. The poor idiot—what was his name? Dante had forgotten it the moment it was given.
They were six in all, a modest after-party. Three who called the place home, and the three they had chosen for the evening.
“Dante, come to me,” the blonde said.
He put on a wide smile and joined the girls on the couch.
“So, tell me,” the brunette began. She leaned towards him and put a hand on his knee. “I’ve not seen you at The Quarry before. Or any of our other spots. What brings you?”
The blonde tugged on him playfully. “Hands off, Shauna. I saw him first! You’re always trying to steal mine.”
The girls laughed pleasantly. Dante glanced up at Shauna’s toy, standing awkwardly above them, jealousy oozing from every pore. It was deeply amusing.
“Peter, Claire is being selfish again.” Shauna whined.
Dante heard an absent grunt from the bar.
“Join us, won’t you?” Claire called to him. “And tell your little pet to bring drinks.”
She turned back to Dante. “But I’m curious as well. Do tell.”
He shrugged. “It’s a long story, and I’m afraid it might kill the mood. I’m more interested in you.” He leaned in, and she met him halfway with a soft kiss. “How did you three find yourselves together?”
“Well, I guess you could say that Peter is a mentor of sorts.” Claire smiled at Peter, who had taken a seat across from them. “He introduced us to our lifestyle, so to speak.”
“Interesting,” Dante said. “I’m impressed by his taste.” He leaned toward her again, stopping short of her lips. “In all things,” he whispered.
She practically panted. Her breath was a pleasant mix of alcohol and sweet things.
“Peter, are you sure I can’t keep him? Please?” She begged like a highly-skilled teenaged girl. Dante had no doubt she’d been exactly that, once.
Peter looked at her sharply, the first real emotion Dante had seen from him. It lasted only a moment though, and then he was staring off again. “I’ve enough mouths to feed as it is.”
Claire sighed. “I’ll just have to enjoy you while I can, I guess.”
She hopped on top of him, straddling him, and they started making out in earnest.
“Claire!” Shauna said. “Get a room, will you?”
“Good idea.” Claire pulled him up off the couch, and with an iron grip on his hand, dragged him toward a heavy wooden door.
“So soon?” Dante asked, trying not to sound flustered. “We’ve barely met.”
She flung the door open and ushered him inside. The bedroom within was as rich as the rest of the apartment. The bed was giant, with four ornately carved posts, and it would have been quite majestic if not for the bright pink bedding.
“Suddenly he’s shy.” She shut the door. It was solid and thick, and the chatter behind them cut off immediately. The others would hear nothing from within.
She pulled playfully at his shirt buttons and donned a pouty expression. “I thought you liked me.”
He smiled as wickedly as he could. “Oh, I do.”
“Good!” She gave him a powerful shove and he fell backward onto the bed.
He propped himself up on his elbows and looked at her. He had to admit, she was attractive. Young, but attractive. He shook himself, cleared his mind. He couldn’t afford to lose focus.
She was running her eyes over him. Slowly, she slid out of her top and tossed it away. Her breasts bounced a bit as they were freed. She tilted her head and smiled as he watched her.
“Stunning,” he whispered.
She giggled her teenager giggle.
Dante sighed. “You’re very young, aren’t you?”
She raised an eyebrow. “Worried you’re too old for me? Don’t be.”
He sat up. “It’s a shame. To think of the life you could’ve had.”
She frowned. “What?”
“How long has it been?” he asked softly. His gut clenched. I can do this.
She was standing stiffly now, unsure. “What do you mean?”
“I mean since he turned you.” He leaned forward, and his voice was suddenly ice. “What I mean to say is, how many people have you brought back here and eaten?”
Even in the room’s dim light he could see her change. Long, razor-sharp fangs flew at his throat.
She was fast.
In an instant she was on him, pinning him to the bed. He tried to roll out from under her, but she held him firmly beneath her. He felt her breath on him, and for a second, they simply stared at each other.
He was surprised by how human she looked. She had changed, to be sure. Her eyes were dark, cloudy, and her fangs were a brilliant white. She was something of a monster. But through her snarl, she was still the pretty girl he’d met at a club four hours ago. He could still see her. That was something he hadn’t expected.
Finally, he managed to blink, and that seemed to break the spell. She threw her head back and roared. Then she brought her fangs down like a viper.
With jarring speed, he caught her by the throat. Her roar became a muffled squeak. Her fangs hung in the air, inches above his flesh.
A familiar heat coursed through his body in waves.
“Yes, you must be a young one,” he said through gritted teeth.
Her eyes still had rage in them, but now there was fear as well. She clawed at his wrist, but he didn’t budge. Slowly, he lifted her and then flipped over, coming down on top of her small form. She flailed about, frenzied, and he finally saw a beast in her. Yes, he could do this.
“Shhh. It’s over now,” he whispered. “Rest.”
She fought him harder still. She kicked her legs and clawed for his throat, but his longer arm held her at bay easily. With his other hand, he reached into his boot and pulled out an odd little knife. The blade was slender, tapered evenly along both edges to its point, and the handle was of dark polished wood.
He took a breath, and then inserted it into her chest.
Her skin hissed as it melted away from the metal. Her body seized in pain, her face contorted. If he hadn’t held her throat so tightly, he had no doubt that her scream would have been deafening.
Her struggling gradually subsided. Her fangs eased back up into her mouth, and her eyes cleared. They were once again a captivating light blue. Blood-red tears seeped from the corners, staining her cheeks.
Dante sighed heavily. His first vampire. He hadn’t expected to overpower her so easily. She must have been turned recently.
He pulled the blade from her chest and crawled off the bed. The room seemed very quiet, but not peaceful. It was an oppressive silence, the kind that rings in your ears.
He used the pink sheets to wipe the blood from his knife, and then took a second to gather himself. One shirt sleeve was torn and bloody, so he tore some off and rolled the rest up. He was still bleeding a bit from where she’d scratched him. That was sloppy of him. Not much he could do about it though. He needed to move quickly.
He rolled up his other sleeve, and then turned back to the girl.
Gently, he leaned over and closed her eyes. She did look peaceful, he decided.
“Sleep now, Claire,” he said gently, and turned away.
Her hand seized his wrist.
Reeling, he stumbled backwards, tearing himself from her grip. Her eyes were open again, but she didn’t get up. Instead she drew a ragged breath.
“Please,” she choked out.
His racing heart slowed some as he stood a pace away, watching her cautiously. Her hand was moving weakly, reaching for him.
Ever so slowly, he walked to the side of the bed. He readied the knife, and then paused, staring down at her.
Her eyes were desperate.
“Please,” she said again, and blood leaked from her mouth. “It hurts.”
He felt a panic entirely different from the adrenaline-driven one he’d felt seconds before. What had he done? She no longer looked like anything but a young girl, eyes wide and in terrible pain.
“It hurts so much,” she whispered. Bloody tears were pouring down her cheeks.
“I…” Dante was at a loss. He must have missed her heart, he realized. Could he kill her now, as she lay crying and helpless before him?
He brought the knife down into her chest once again, this time carefully piercing her heart. She started to scream, so he covered her mouth.
The light in the room grew dimmer. Her body started changing. Her skin started sinking in and grew paler. Her eyes melted away. Soon, she looked too gaunt to be alive, and in hardly any time at all she’d become a month-old corpse.
He stood up and looked down at what he’d killed. Claire the vampire. A pretty thing, but a monster nonetheless. A feeling he couldn’t quite place pulled at him from somewhere. His chest maybe, or stomach. He turned away, but before he did, he took note of what a dead vampire actually looked like.
He cleaned the knife again and returned it to his boot. Then he put an ear to the door and listened for the others. He heard nothing. Could they have heard Claire’s roar? Even if they had, they’d think nothing of it. It occurred to him that he wasn’t sure how good a vampire’s hearing was. Perhaps they’d heard the rest, as well. He ran a hand through his hair. More likely, they’d retired with their victims. At least, he hoped that was it.
He cracked the door and peered out. The room was vacant.
With a final glance for Claire’s remains, he entered the main room of the penthouse and closed her door gently behind him. Listening carefully for any sound, he scanned the room’s decor. His prize wasn’t there. He didn’t really expect it to be. Peter would keep it close. The question was, which room was his? The doors in the place were all the same. Dark, ominous, and wooden. He’d just have to guess.
He crept up to one and put his ear to it. Nothing. Perhaps they’d all left for some reason? That would certainly make things easier. He started turning the knob.
He froze as a short, muffled cry came from the room in front of him. It was a man’s voice. That would be Shauna’s, then.
Carefully, he turned the knob back and released it. Lucky. Claire had obviously been the youngest, and the weakest. He didn’t want to try a fight with Shauna if he could help it.
He walked over to the third door, opened it, and strolled in.
The room, though larger than Claire’s, was actually less opulent. A large bed, a desk, a couch, a couple chairs, and all very simple. No artwork. It was the room of a utilitarian.
Peter was on the bed with his ‘date.’ She lay cradled in his arms, blood streaming down her neck, moaning softly. Peter looked up at him.
“She’s really taking her time with you, isn’t she?” he said, annoyed but unconcerned.
Dante walked into the middle of the room, taking everything in. He saw it. It was there, above the desk, resting on two brass hooks. He hid his excitement.
“Actually, she rushed things.” He shrugged and walked over to the desk. “Typical of a girl her age, I suppose.”
Peter frowned at him. “And where is she now?”
“Dead, I’m afraid.”
“I see,” Peter said. He set the girl aside.
“Yes, it was unfortunate. She was not to be reasoned with.”
“Well, our young do tend to be impulsive. And that one was especially so.” He stood up and collected his drink from the nightstand. Despite the vampire’s nonchalance, the tension in the room was twisting rapidly tighter. “Still, I was fond of her.”
“My apologies.” Dante turned and looked up at the sword hanging on the wall. He forced himself to breathe normally, despite the tingling sensation that exposing his back to the vampire produced. “This is a beautiful blade. It’s interesting. My father used to have one just like it. Tell me, where did you get yours?”
“Ah,” Peter said. “A mistake from my past come to bite me, is it?”
Dante turned back to him. “You don’t sound particularly surprised.”
“When you’ve lived as long as I have, it becomes only a matter of time.” Peter drained his glass and set it down. He gestured toward the girl. “I don’t suppose you’d let a man finish his last meal first, would you?”
Dante managed a chuckle, despite the tightness in his throat. “You’ve got the wrong idea, I think.”
“I’m not my father, Peter,” he said with a smile. “Truth is, killing you isn’t worth my time. I’ve come for my inheritance, nothing more.” He raised his palm toward the sword.
“Well.” Peter paused, studying Dante’s face. Finally, he walked over and lifted the sword from its hooks. “Who would I be to deny you what is rightfully yours?” Very slowly, he raised it to Dante and presented the handle.
A drop of sweat tickled its way down Dante’s back. He did his best to smile as he took the sword.
“Tell me, how is your father?”
Dante’s smile disappeared. “Dead.”
“Ah, of course. I offer my condolences.”
“I’m sure.” Dante turned and walked toward the door at a measured pace. His heart pounded against his chest. The door seemed miles distant. “Enjoy the rest of your evening,” he said over his shoulder.
“You as well.”
Dante was nearing the door. Had he really pulled it off? He wanted to run headlong for safety, but of course he could not. At last, he placed a hand on the doorknob, and a shadow on the wall beside him disappeared.
He spun as fast as he could, swinging the sword wildly. Peter ducked under the blade’s arc and stepped gracefully out of its reach. He’d changed, and though he was a head shorter than Dante, he was pretty terrifying to look at.
“It seems the apple has fallen far,” Peter said. His voice was deeper than before, and much less human. They began circling.
“I’m curious,” Dante said after a moment. “How did you know?”
Peter clicked his tongue. “You’re bleeding. It’s telling, don’t you think, that a little thing like Claire could draw your blood?”
Dante shrugged. They were circling faster now. “Perhaps I had a weak moment, and she took advantage.”
Peter’s smile was deadly. “I can hear your heartbeat. It’s been all a flutter since you wandered in.” With that he lunged forward.
Dante stumbled backward and swung the sword rapidly in front of him. Claire had been fast, but he could barely see Peter move. He saw a blur to his right, so he jabbed at it. Claw-like fingernails tore into the left side of his ribcage. He brought the sword down to his left, but Peter had already moved away, his laugh echoing from the walls.
Dante slowed, hunkering down a little against the burning in his side. This wasn’t going well. Peter was not a young vampire.
Another blur, this time to his left. Rather than take a stab at it, he swung his sword to the right.
Peter roared his displeasure and stumbled backwards, clutching his forearm. Blood drizzled from a long gash, the flesh around it still hissing.
“Sorry,” Dante said. “It slipped.”
The vampire glared at him, darkness swirling in his eyes. The look was unsettling. It promised a painful death.
The door creaked behind him.
“Well, my dinner was underwhelming. Would you mind—“
Dante turned and found himself face to face with a wide-eyed Shauna. They looked at each other for a fraction of a second, and then she turned and fled the room.
He realized his mistake too late. The air rushed from his lungs as he slammed into the wall, dropping like a rock. He heard his sword clatter to the floor several feet away. He rolled to his knees as fast as he could, trying to get a breath, trying to get up. His vision was lit by a thousand tiny dots.
“Pathetic,” Peter was saying. His accent added extra scorn to the words. “Are you truly his son? I would be too embarrassed to claim you.”
Dante wiped at his face with an arm. His other hung limp at his side. Broken, he decided.
“Well,” he began, but hunched over and started coughing.
“What was that?” Peter said from above. “I couldn’t hear you.”
Dante cleared his throat. “Well, I admit this could have gone better.”
Peter laughed and shook his head. He knelt down and looked at Dante with something akin to pity in his eyes. “All this for what? The sword? Why?”
Dante tried to shrug, which made his hurt shoulder explode with pain. “Sentimental.”
Peter chuckled, so Dante did too.
“Also,” Dante added. “I need it to kill assholes like you.”
Peter’s face darkened once more. He lifted Dante by the throat and pinned him up against the wall. “I hope it was worth it,” he said through his fangs. His breath reeked of blood. He threw back his head, prepared to bite.
With his good hand, Dante stuck his little knife into the vampire’s chest.
Peter’s scream was horrific, but short. He released Dante and crumpled to the floor. His body started shriveling. Dante let himself slide down the wall into a crouch.
“Yeah,” he said to the nasty corpse. “I’d say it was worth it.”
He stood and walked over to collect the sword. His body ached terribly, but overall he felt pretty good about things. He looked over at the girl Peter had been feasting upon. She looked mostly dead, though she appeared to be breathing a little still.
He wasn’t there for her. She’d gotten herself into this, and besides, there was probably nothing he could do anyway. Ah well, it would be no great loss for the world.
He left the room cautiously, peering around for Shauna. He even checked the ceiling—she was a vampire after all.
He was pretty sure she would’ve gotten the hell out of there when she heard her master die, if not sooner. But it was best to be careful. She would want revenge, and her fear might not be enough to keep her away.
He checked her room, and found scattered pieces of her would-be lover strewn all over. It was sickening. Apparently, Shauna was a messy eater. Quite the opposite from Peter in that regard. A true monster.
He peered into each of the other rooms, but the apartment was empty. She was gone, and he decided he’d better go too. She could be off getting her friends, preparing to come back and eat him. Tear him to pieces just like her date.
He pressed the elevator button, and it began its ascent. He tried to lift his bad arm, but the pain in his shoulder flared. Still, it wasn’t too bad, considering. He’d never planned on facing Peter in a fair fight, and surviving was a victory in itself.
The door in front of him slid open without a sound. It was too classy to ding like a normal elevator.
He started to step inside, but stopped. He stood there motionless, blocking the doors, gritting his teeth.
Finally, he turned around and carved a grudging path back into Peter’s room. He pulled a sheet from the bed and wrapped the sword up into a sort of makeshift scabbard. Then he pushed it down into his belt. It wasn’t comfortable, but it would do.
He walked around to the other side of the bed and scooped up the girl. He stood there a second, holding her. There was something about it. Her cold, pale body pressed against him, her head hanging down at an unnatural angle, her shallow breath. It bothered him. Made him eager to get going.
“I don’t usually do this,” he told her.
She moaned a little, and her head tilted slightly so that it rested on his shoulder.
He sighed. “Alright. Just this once.”
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