Welcome, Holiday Blog Hop visitors! If you’re looking for my Blog Hop Giveaway, click here! Or keep reading for a sneak peek at my new novel and a special Holiday Hop offer…
Dominion is out in the wild this week, folks… at long last. In lieu of posting the next installment of Eucha Falls for Story Time Tuesday (mostly because I haven’t yet had time to write the next scene), instead I thought I’d share a never-before-seen-in-public sneak peek at the new book. But first, here’s a handy list of everywhere it’s available.
What about signed copies? I’m glad you asked. Because this week only, during the Holiday Hop, if you e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know that you purchased a paperback, along with your mailing address, I will mail you a signed bookplate FREE OF CHARGE. Unfortunately, I can only make this offer to domestic US residents. If you’re outside of the US and are willing to cover postage costs, by all means, contact me for details. This offer is also in effect for my other novel, Restless Spirits.
And what about signed e-books? Yes, that’s right–signed e-books! You can request a free virtual autograph for your e-books at Authorgraph. And I will do my best not to make my virtual signature look like a drunken five-year-old drew it.
On to the excerpt…
The following is the entire third chapter of Dominion of the Damned. You can also read the first two chapters here.
Waking up wasn’t easy. It felt like trying to float to the surface of a deep pool with a weighted jacket dragging her back down. Hannah first became aware that her mouth felt dry, and that her head hurt. She wanted to roll over and sink back down into blessed unconsciousness, but something held her in place. Gradually, thoughts began to form in her mind, and then memories. Of Noah.
They took Noah.
Hannah opened her eyes. She tried to sit up and realized she was strapped down. Frantically, she looked around and took in her surroundings. She was strapped to a cot, in a room full of cots, surrounded by gray walls. Fluorescent lights flickered overhead, casting a greenish pall over the room. She was hooked to a hospital monitor, with an IV tube attached to her right arm. She struggled against her restraints, but both of her arms were tied down.
“Take it easy,” said a male voice, rich and resonant. A man appeared at her bedside, wearing a white lab coat. He was a young man, probably no more than thirty, with short, black hair and a darkly handsome face. He spoke with a slight accent that Hannah couldn’t quite place. Russian, maybe, or Eastern European.
“Where’s my baby?”
“He’s safe. You both are. He was taken to our nursery for care.”
“Where is this?” she asked. Her mouth and throat were so dry that she had trouble getting the words out, and she ended up coughing. The man left her bedside, then returned a moment later with a plastic cup. He sat next to her and lifted her head to help her drink. The water tasted stale and unfiltered, but it was so soothing on her throat that she didn’t care.
As she drank, he spoke. “You’re in the infirmary of your state’s prison. We’ve converted it into a survivor camp. You were brought here last night, and I’ve been giving you fluids and vitamins. The tranquilizer they shot you with tends to leave people dehydrated, and according to your blood workup, whatever food you’ve been surviving on all this time was lacking in nutritional value.”
She finished drinking, and he pulled the cup away and wiped away the water that had dripped down her chin. She licked her lips and asked, “My baby. Can I see him?”
He looked down and away from her, and took a deep breath. Looking back at her, he said, “I’ll see what I can do. Do you have a name?”
“Hannah,” she said. “Hannah Jordan.”
He retrieved a clipboard from a tray near the bed and wrote on it. “And your baby?”
“Noah. He’s my brother. I’m all he has.” She swallowed and added, “He’s all I have.”
He returned the clipboard, then sat back on her bed. “Hannah, I’m Dr. Konstantin. I’m going to undo your restraints, but I need you to hold still until I unhook you from all of this. Okay?”
She nodded. As he unfastened the straps, she scanned the room for something to use as a weapon, but she saw nothing. Even if she did, she had nowhere to go. She didn’t even know where they were keeping Noah, or how to find her way out of this place. She needed to be smart, not reactionary. She needed to cooperate until she got her chance.
The doctor finished unhooking her from the IV and the monitor, and helped her sit up. “How do you feel?” he asked.
“A little groggy.”
He nodded. “That’s normal.” He got up and went to a cabinet. After rummaging through it, he returned with a little paper cup. He held it out to her. It contained two little orange pills. She looked at them skeptically. “Ibuprofen,” he explained. “For your headache.”
When she refused them, he shrugged. “Suit yourself. But I can’t think of a good reason to revive you and unstrap you if I was just going to drug you again.” He popped the pills in his own mouth and went to get some water to wash them down, leaving the tray on her bed. While his back was turned, she grabbed the tray and slid it under her shirt. It wasn’t very sturdy, but it would still hurt like hell if she used it to whack somebody upside the head.
“Anyway,” said the doctor as he returned, “you’re not the only one with a headache.” He smiled. It was a nice smile, the kind that lit up his whole face and made the skin crinkle appealingly around his eyes, which she noticed for the first time were icy blue, and slightly luminescent.
Hannah clenched the sheets in her fists as she drew back against the head of the bed. “You’re one of them.”
His smile faded. “That depends. Which ‘them’ do you mean?”
“Those people from last night. They wanted to kill me. They were going to eat my brother. I shot one of them, and he….”
“Ah, yes. Albert and Marie. Don’t worry, they’ve been dealt with. You’re safe here, Hannah. So is your brother. You have my word.”
“For whatever that’s worth,” said another voice. The click of heels on tile echoed throughout the mostly empty room, and the type of woman that Hannah could only think to describe as a bombshell came over to them. Her hair framed her pale face in soft curls so blonde they were almost white. She had the face of a movie star from the forties, and the figure to match. She wore a gray tweed skirt suit that looked like it belonged to the same era. Her shoes were high and red, the same shade as her lipstick, and her eyes matched the doctor’s. “I see our patient’s awake,” she said. “How close is she to ready?”
“Ready for what?” Hannah asked.
Ignoring her question, the doctor handed the woman the clipboard. “She’s slightly anemic. I’ve given her a vitamin drip, but she needs protein.”
“Hannah Jordan,” said the woman, reading her name off of the chart. She glanced up at the doctor. “Will she be ready by Thursday?”
“If you feed her well.”
“Why?” asked Hannah. “What happens Thursday?”
The woman smiled, revealing perfect white teeth. Unlike the doctor, her smile didn’t reach her eyes. She repressed a shudder as the woman leaned in close.
“On Thursday, you pay your rent.”
“But I…” Hannah swallowed. “I don’t have any money.”
The woman laughed. That, too, lacked warmth. It reminded Hannah of the girls in high school who would make fun of her for wearing clothes from Walmart, and it angered her as much as it chilled her.
Her laughter faded, and so did her smile, as she straightened up. “I am Esme,” she said, “and this is my house. I provide your kind with shelter and refuge from those… creatures walking around outside. You will repay my kindness with obedience and blood.”
“What if I’m not interested in your ‘kindness’?”
That chilly smile returned. “If that’s the case, then I’ll be happy to show you the front door.” She sashayed over to a small television monitor mounted high in one corner of the room, and turned it on. A black and white image flickered onto the screen, showing a throng of people, all of them showing various degrees of decay, pressing up against a high concrete wall, and against each other. They seemed oblivious to one another, intent only on somehow getting through that wall. Every one of them wore the same vacant, hungry stare that her mother had worn at the end. Hannah closed her eyes as Esme said, “You’re more than welcome to take your chances with them, if that’s what you prefer.”
Hannah lowered her head in resignation, allowing silence to answer for her. After a moment she said, “I’d like to see my brother.”
Esme looked at the doctor. “The infant that was brought in with her last night,” he explained.
She nodded. “If you cooperate and do as you’re told, you’ll be allowed to see him. Eventually.”
“Perhaps if she was allowed to see him now, to confirm that he’s safe,” he suggested.
Esme raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. “Perhaps what?”
“Perhaps she would be reassured that she’s safe here, and less inclined to put up a fight.”
“Perhaps you’re right.” She crossed back over to Hannah, and bent down in her face. “Or perhaps you’ll just damn well do what you’re told if you ever want to see the sweet babe again.” Hannah’s entire body felt like a coiled spring, ready to pop. She slid a hand under her shirt and gripped the tray.
“Oh, you are a pretty one, aren’t you?” Esme raised a hand and traced her finger down Hannah’s cheek. Then she grabbed Hannah’s face, nails digging painfully into her cheeks. She ripped Hannah’s shirt open and grabbed the tray. Handing it to Doctor Konstantin, she said, “This one’s going to bear watching.” She released her grip, and Hannah pulled her shirt closed and rubbed her face. Her hand came away with blood on it.
Esme turned to Konstantin. “Don’t get any ideas about making her your pet.” She turned to leave, but as she passed him, she paused to add, “And don’t tell me how to run my camp. Save the reassuring doctor act for your own little project. It’s wasted here.”
The doctor glared after Esme as she left, then went to the cabinet and brought some alcohol and cotton swabs over to Hannah’s bed. “I’m sorry,” he said, pulling up a stool. “Esme always feels she has something to prove.” He dipped a swab into the bottle of alcohol and reached for Hannah’s face. When she jerked away from his touch, he paused. “It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you. Let me see what she did to you.” When Hannah still hesitated, he added, “Please?”
She held still, and let him examine her face. His fingers were cool, but much gentler than Esme’s had been. She flinched as he cleaned the first cut.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “This is going to sting a little.”
“What are you?” she asked. “Those things out there… are you some kind of mutation?” Did you come back from that? part of her wanted to ask, even though part of her didn’t want to think about what that would have meant.
He kept working on her face as he answered. “Not exactly. I think they might actually be a mutated form of us. We have our similarities… we both come back after being significantly dead, we both require human tissue for sustenance. But vampires tend to be much better conversationalists.” He grinned.
Hannah didn’t smile back. “Vampires. Naturally.” She shook her head. “I guess there’s really nothing that shocks me anymore.”
He finished treating her and sat back on his stool, regarding her. “What’s your story, Hannah Jordan? What is it that makes you such a survivor?”
“You want to know my story?” she asked. When he nodded, she said, “Then get me my brother. Bring him to me safe and healthy, and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”
He tilted his head and regarded her for a moment, his expression unreadable. Then he nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”