Sunday, 13 May 2012

Half Past, Chapter One

It's time for another #SampleSunday. Today, book two in the Past Series.

Book Blurb: Simon Hamm was a run of the mill con man, lying, cheating and stealing his way through life until met Marilyn, a vampire. Enthralled by her power, he courted her and made her fall in love with him, whereupon Hamm was reborn as a child of the night and Marilyn was dead by his hand.

Unwilling to play by the rules, Hamm turned rogue and cut a bloody trail across Britain in his quest to build himself a private army of vampires, courting the wrath of the vampire council in the process.

Employed by MI5 to police the supernatural community, Frankie Wright's life is far from normal but when Joshua asks for her help in tracking Hamm down, her life quickly begins to spiral out of control.

Forced to stay away from her boyfriend, Frankie begins to realise just how important Alex is to her but deceived and betrayed, she soon finds herself fighting not only to bring down Hamm but for the right to even exist.
Chapter One
When the alarm on her phone went off Frankie groaned, switched it off and turned on to her front. The damn thing would go off again in a few minutes but at least she might get a few more moments of blissful slumber.
You’re leaving?” Alex asked, his fingers beginning to trace circles on her back.
Frankie moaned, partly in pleasure and partly by way of an answer.
You should be asleep,” she mumbled. “It’s daylight.”
How can I sleep with you beside me, tempting me?”
Frankie smiled and finally opened her eyes. “Charmer,” she accused.
Guilty.” He leaned over and began to kiss her shoulder, working slowly towards her neck.
Frankie clamped her hand over her neck. “Not today. I have a telephone conference with my boss and I need my faculties intact.”
While Alex never drank much blood from her, it was one of the more disturbing aspects of sleeping with a vampire. Not that she didn’t enjoy it; in fact it felt very pleasurable but it left her feeling like a meal rather than a lover. She didn’t feel she could refuse however, since one of her conditions when they began a relationship was that he stopped feeding off other people. That left bagged blood from the hospital (which he made no attempt to hide his distaste for) or her.
Upset by her own confusion on the matter, she slipped from the bed before the alarm had even buzzed again. 
She heard Alex sigh and knew he was frustrated with her. He needed more from Frankie than she was able to give. Not blood, he was so old that he didn't require much these days; no Alex wanted something much more frightening. Commitment.
Maybe it was because he'd grown up in a different time, or maybe it was the natural predator in him but whatever the reason, the effect was the same.
Frankie, on the other hand, wasn't familiar with commitment. In fact, until she met Alex, she'd never even had a real relationship and could probably count the number of times she'd had sex on one hand.
She sometimes thought that if they had met when she was twenty, and still hopeful that she could find Mr Right, things would be different but Frankie was used to being on her own now, and sharing her life with anyone was a daunting prospect.
He was careful to never push her too far, but she knew he wanted more than she could give him and that thought often made her uncomfortable around him.
Once dressed, she leaned over the bed and kissed him.
Thank you for last night, I had fun.”
He smiled weakly. Frankie knew he didn’t want to hear that she’d enjoyed herself; he wanted to hear flowery declarations of love and passion. That she would be counting the minutes until she could see him again, and that he was her one true love.
The man was so last century!
Alex let out a long sigh as he heard the front door close. Frankie was everything to him yet most of her was closed off to him. He understood that she was damaged and that commitment was hard for her but damn it, he wanted more. He wanted more than just her body, he wanted her love and her trust. He wanted to know her secrets so he could prove to her that he would keep them safe.
Most of all he wanted her love. He wanted her to need him as much as he needed her.
Frankie wasn't used to relying on anyone, though. She was strong and independent and she resisted any attempt he made to bring them closer together.
He tried to tell himself that he was immortal and that he had time to wait for her to come around but it wasn't that easy.
When he made her smile, his heart soared. When she cried, he wanted revenge on whoever had hurt her. Was it too much to expect her to feel the same?
Sometimes he thought that perhaps she did love him, but she was unable to lower the walls around her heart enough to let him in.
Other times he felt as if he was nothing more than a convenient sex partner. On the advice of Oprah Winfrey he had even tried reading one of those awful human self-help books, He's Just Not That Into You, but it hadn't lessened his feelings for her at all. He didn't understand the appeal of self-help books, since they didn't seem to actually help you.
The sad fact was that even after all these months, in many ways Frankie was still a mystery to him.

Frankie was still mulling over what she should do about Alex she got into her car and saw from the clock that it was nearly noon. She didn’t really keep regular hours with her job and late starts were a frequent occurrence. She sometimes wondered if it was the night that attracted the supernatural element, or if darkness just provided better cover for their activities.
Still, she thought as she headed home, did it really matter? The end result was the same.
Frankie had met Alex four months ago when he helped her work a case. She had been hunting a witch who was sacrificing young women in order to bring a demon into this realm. Or was it dimension? Reality? Frankie never knew which term was right and in all honesty, she thought they probably meant the same thing.
Once that case had been closed and Frankie had taken a few weeks to heal, she had returned to Alex.
It wasn’t the fact that he was a vampire that attracted her, nor that he was great in bed (though he was) or that he was rich (ditto) or even that he could be charming (when he wanted to be). His real attraction to her was that she couldn’t read him.
Francis Wright had been born with a gift; she was psychic. Much to her chagrin, she couldn’t predict the future, only see the memories people left on objects around them as they journeyed through life. Most people don’t realise it but every time they touch something, they leave a little impression behind of their thoughts and feelings at the time they touched it. Most of the time Frankie wore gloves so these impressions didn’t constantly assault her.
When it came to touching actual people though, the sensations were much worse because the body stored hundreds of thousands of memories throughout a person’s lifetime, all just waiting for her touch. As a result, having a sexual relationship with a normal man had been impossible.
Alex, however, by quirk of being a vampire, had no such impressions for her to read. He wasn’t quite sure why but he believed it was because the magic that kept him alive, overpowered or blocked those impressions. That sounded reasonable to Frankie.
So now, after three short lived barely-relationships and over ten long years of celibacy, Frankie was enjoying sex for the first time in her life, and she could finally understand what all the fuss was about.
Frankie pushed thoughts of Alex aside as she pulled into her driveway then unlocked her house with a tedious combination of codes and keys. Once inside again she reset the alarms and headed through to the kitchen.
She didn’t have a conference call with her boss today, in fact work was pretty quiet right now but she did need to keep boundaries in her relationship with Alex, lest her heart get broken. Frankie was a big fan of boundaries.
Jesus Christ!” she exclaimed, stopping dead in the kitchen doorway, her hand fluttering towards her heart in a surprisingly girlish gesture.
Not quite,” Josh told her with a wry smile.
You scared me half to death!” she admonished, her anger momentarily overriding the fear Josh usually inspired in her. “I’m gluing that thing shut!” she pointed at the cat-flap in the back door. Josh was a rather rare creature, he was a shapeshifter who had been turned into a vampire, and now had the talents of both species. This wasn’t the first time he had turned into a cat in order to gain entrance to her home.
I’d only find another way in,” he assured her.
Now that her anger was fading, Frankie was wondering what he wanted. Josh was powerful as well as frightening. She had no idea how powerful he was exactly, but she got the impression that he was pretty high up in vampire hierarchy and she knew that Alex treated him with deference.
She suddenly noticed that he wasn’t just pottering about in her kitchen; he was actually cooking something.
What are you doing?” she asked, sniffing the air.
Making breakfast,” he informed her.
But you don’t eat.”
No, but you do, though you don’t eat well.” He gestured to her cupboards which she knew were full of fast food and baked beans. “Consider it my apology for barging in.”
He served her food (toast, eggs and bacon) and set it on the kitchen table to wait for her. It had been about sixteen hours since she’d last eaten, and it did smell delicious so she decided to just enjoy the moment. Besides, Josh was capable of killing her with his little finger and since she wasn't already dead, she reasoned that she probably had nothing to worry about.
As Josh took the seat opposite her he inhaled deeply. “I do miss food,” he sounded wistful.
You can’t eat at all?” she asked, curious. Vampires were notoriously tight-lipped so she didn’t really expect him to answer.
We can physically swallow food,” he explained, “but it tastes like cardboard and if we don’t later regurgitate it, we will begin to feel bad as it decomposes. It’s the closest we come to feeling ill, I suppose.”
That must be hard,” she sympathised. “I could never give up eating.”
And yet what you do eat is rubbish.”
Frankie shrugged, she wasn’t taking diet tips from someone whose only food source was blood.
This is good,” she told him. “How come if you don’t eat, you can cook?”
The boys,” he explained. Though a vampire, Josh had two adopted sons. They were shapeshifters he’d discovered in the forest after their parents had been killed by hunters. Josh had taken them in and raised them as his own, though the term 'boys' was a misnomer as they were both in their thirties now.
So, is there a reason you’re back in Edinburgh, breaking and entering?” she asked, “Or do you just miss my sparkling personality?”
Josh ignored the sarcasm. “A good reason, actually, I need your help.” His features became solemn. “There is a rogue vampire in town.”
She frowned. “What does 'rogue' mean? He refused to join the union?”
He didn't smile at the joke. “We have very few rules but two important ones are not to draw attention to ourselves and not to sire too many children.”
To give herself some time to think, Frankie took her empty plate to the sink and turned the kettle on. She made a coffee then sat back down again.
Okay, forgive me if I'm missing something here, but this is a vampire we're talking about. Someone who could snap me like a twig if he were so inclined, so how can I possibly catch him?”
You don't need to catch him; we just need your help to find him.”
Why? And who is we?”
Why is because we've been chasing him for seven years and haven't yet managed to find him. Who, is an old friend, Dante.”
Josh, I know I work for MI5 and have access to resources that maybe you don’t, but I can’t just take on any case. My job is to prevent the public learning about the supernatural. As long as you aren’t drawing attention to yourselves, I'm afraid my hands are tied.”
In turning so many people, he does risk exposure. And we are willing to cover any costs; we don't expect your employer to fund this.”
I still can’t just drop everything and help you.” In truth the idea frightened her. It had only been a few months since her last big showdown and she was in no hurry for a repeat performance.
I understand,” Josh pulled his mobile phone out and placed a call. “Max Holden? My name is Joshua. I was a good friend of your predecessor.”
Frankie frowned; Maxwell Holden was head of their department. To get directly through to him Josh must have used his private line, a number that was exceedingly hard to come by; even Frankie didn't have it.
Mr Holden, before we proceed I'd like you to look up a case file on your computer, number 531-113/24. I'll give you a moment to read the contents.”
What are you doing?” Frankie hissed but Josh just held a finger up to silence her.
Yes, I'm still here. I'd like to call in that favour, Mr Holden. I'm requesting the help of one of your officers for a few days; Francis Wright.”
Frankie buried her head in her hands, this did not sound good.
Excellent, I'll tell her to expect your email.”
As he ended the call, Frankie looked up and glared at him. He looked far too smug for her liking.
Problem solved, you are mine for as long as I need you. You'll have an email within minutes granting you leave.”
Now that really wasn't the way to get Frankie to cooperate.
Just because you call my boss, doesn't mean I'll help you. In fact, forcing my hand only serves to piss me off.”
She clenched her jaw at his insufferable arrogance. When he said 'jump', he expected everyone else to ask 'how high'. He was nothing but a bully and Frankie hated bullies.
Josh's smug look rearranged itself into something bordering on frightening as they glared at each other for a few moments. Frankie knew it was crazy to try and stare down a vampire, but she had spent far too much of her life living by someone else's rules for fear of being punished. She was angry and while she recognised her temper wasn't always helpful, she was damned if she was going to let him win, vampire or not.
Josh was the first to look away and before he could rearrange his features into something more pleasant, she was sure she saw anguish cross his face.
He mentally chided himself. He should have remembered that Frankie wasn't like ordinary humans or other vampires. He couldn't use mind control to get her to do as he asked and she didn't defer to him because of his age. Cooperation and negotiation were not words usually found in his vocabulary but he realised that he couldn't simply order her to help him. He needed to convince her.
Fine, what will it take to get you to cooperate?” he asked. “Money? Jewellery? Cars? Name it.”
The truth. Give me a reason to want to bring this vampire down.”
It's not that simple.”
Then start at the beginning; apparently I have time.”
Her sarcasm wasn't lost on Josh and he realised he would have to be truthful to stand any chance of soliciting her help.
As much as your ability to resist our mind control intrigues me, sometimes it's damned inconvenient, he sighed. “Very well. Simon Hamm is a relatively new vampire, he was sired only fifteen years ago. As you may be aware, we grow stronger as we age. For most of us that isn't a problem, we made the change for love or experience or from fear of death. The power we do have is enough and combined with our solitary natures with regards other vampires, it isn't much of an issue.”
Frankie already knew some of that but she thought it was best to let him explain in his own way.
There are, however, certain personality types who are drawn to our lifestyle for the power it offers them. The sort of people who enjoy being dominant. Rarely does someone turn those sorts of people but sometimes they can be cunning enough to fool us. Simon Hamm did just that, once he learned of our existence he coveted it and went out of his way to court a vampire, Marilyn. She was deeply in love with him and agreed to be his sire.
After he was turned he realised that he was still weaker than she was, and he soon learned why. Marilyn was distraught at the change in him and spoke to her friends, which is why we know so much about him. Foolishly, she still tried to make their relationship work until he killed her.”
Because she was so much older than he was and consequently, so much stronger. It's not widely known, but a vampire can increase his power by draining another, older vampire. The older the vampire who is drained, the more powerful their killer becomes.”
How old was she?” Frankie asked.
Only two hundred. She was more powerful than he, though nothing compared to an ancient one. Still, he did get a little more powerful. There isn't a direct correlation but the killer probably gains five to ten years worth of strength for every century his victim has lived.”
Alex had mentioned young vampires making a name for themselves by killing older ones, but she had never dreamed there might be a greater purpose behind it.
So that's a bad thing?” Frankie asked. Alex had sounded rather matter-of-fact about it.
For the dead vampire, yes, but it's not a punishable offence. If killing another vampire were against our rules, we'd all be in trouble. The reason he is rogue is because he's defied the Council and is turning too many people. We don't have exact rules and numbers but we are careful about how many humans we turn. Turning one person every fifty years would be considered a lot.”
That doesn't sound like much.”
Maybe not, but imagine if we turned just one person a year and they all turned one person a year. You can see that it wouldn't take many decades before humanity was extinct.”
So Hamm is turning too many people?”
Yes. He's building himself a following, lackeys who do his bidding and worship the ground he walks on. We're not sure why, it could just be to boost his ego or he might have something else planned.”
Like what?”
Hard to say with any accuracy, but the most logical explanation would be to wipe out the Council.”
Why? I mean, what does this Council do?” Frankie asked. She'd heard of them but Alex refused to tell her anything more.
There was a time when vampires were a lot more... aggressive. Thanks to the predator instinct, a simple disagreement could turn into a blood feud, some of which could divide a country's vampire population and eventually lead to war. The Council keeps order by acting as a tribunal to work out differences and settle blood feuds, thus maintaining peace. In the case of a rogue vampire, they pay another vampire to carry out their death sentence.”
And they sent you after Hamm?”
No. Dante is our appointed proxy. As a Council member, I am forbidden from assuming that role.”
But why would a vampire volunteer to kill another? It must be dangerous.”
Yes but we are hunters by nature, and Dante will be well compensated if he's successful.”
Okay... But if it's his job, why are you here?”
Dante is a friend.”
No, this is personal, Josh. What aren't you telling me?”

To continue reading, Half Past is available is available in paperback and kindle formats
 on Amazon UK and Amazon US  
Review from Tiki on Amazon: ★ 
The story builds from book 1 (Past Due), and I enjoyed this one even more! Introduces new characters, that I really enjoyed - although we loose one I didn't want to see go :-( Frankie continues her work with the Paranormal/Supernatural division of MI5, gets pulled into an investigation outside of MI5 and get's a frightening introduction to the Vampire Council. Good mystery, action, romance and character developement. I'll defintely continue to follow this series...going for bk 3, Past Life, now!

Click here to read an excerpt of  Book 1 in the Past Series, Past Due. 

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