Suspense Urban Fantasy R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author
Renee found the trespasser entertaining and a bit sexy, maybe because she hadn't taken a lover in a century, and she was bored enough to kill, though it doesn't take much to provoke that. The timing of an indulgence sucked. Her clan has been attacked. Her adversaries may be human Revenir hunters, other Revenirs threatening her position as queen, or half-breeds scheming to overthrow their lords.
Chapter 1 ~ O f   all   Asahel's   crimes,   what   drove   me   insane   was   his   kith's   flippant   use   of   the   repulsive term vampire . We are a proud race. Not the unholy, blood sucking miscreants Hollywood portrays. Asahel's   entire   kith   of   half-breeds   had   to   be   eradicated.   They   polluted   the   gene   pool, threatened exposure of all Revenirs. I   stepped   from   the   plane   into   nothingness,   counted   as   I   was   instructed   over   and   over the   past   hour,   and   deployed   my   parafoil.   The   sky   was   still   purple,   but   I   had   little   time   to worry   about   EM   from   the   falling   sun   as   the   manor   below   raced   toward   me.   Five   hundred feet   evaporated.   I   plunged   more   directly   than   I   intended   to   hit   the   broad   roof   at   the   right angle to keep from continuing across it. The   collision   echoed   in   my   head   like   a   bomb   blast.   Barrel   tile   shattered.   Shards ripped   through   my   jumpsuit   and   sliced   my   leg   and   knee   as   I   slid   across   the   roof   of   the yacht house. I came to a painful stop on the ridge of the roof. I   looked   down   at   the   four   fingernails   pulled   back   at   a   thirty-degree   angle,   the   blood coating   the   terracotta   tile.   Pain   jabbed   through   my   right   shoulder   too,   so   I   pulled   in   the nylon canopy one-handed before the breeze could catch it and drag me off the damn roof. I   slid   down   the   backside   facing   the   bay,   lay   back   and   waited   to   see   who   investigated, time   as   much   to   allow   the   broken   bones   to   knit.   My   collarbone,   wrist,   ankle   and   leg   I knew,   were   toast.   This   landing   lacked   finesse.   What   would   jumping   from   a   plane   at   a higher elevation feel like? Skydiving   might   be   something   I   would   try   again.   It   definitely   got   the   blood   flowing. The   rush   beat   downing   a   bottle   of   vodka.   Didn't   make   me   have   to   pee   twenty   times, either. The   pain   eased   in   fifteen   minutes.   No   shouts   rose   from   below.   No   bullets   flew   at   me. I'd    made    it    farther    than    Adam    and    Raul    predicted.    They    had    threatened    to    quit    my security   detail   if   I   followed   through   with   my   plan.   Like   they   would   give   up   that   honor. They called me an idiot. Chauvinists. I   wielded   a   slate   axe   and   led   men   into   battle   millennia   before   their   ancestors   learned language skills. "Their loss," I whispered. They would pay for their lack of faith for months to come. At   least   Rick   remained   helpful.   He   shared   my   excitement   for   going   it   alone.   He   didn't discuss   the   risk—knew   my   mind   was   made   up.   A   frontal   assault   would   have   required   a hundred   warriors.   Commandos   was   the   word   he   used.   Said   the   casualties   with   that   kind of an assault would exceed twenty percent. The ado would have been hard to cover up. He said my idea was ingenious. What   an   intelligent   man.   A   dork,   but   what   a   sweetheart.   He   would   get   anything   in   the world he wanted after I dealt with Asahel. I   wiped   the   last   of   the   blood   off   my   hands   and   took   a   last,   deep   breath   before   rising   to remove   my   harness.   I   climbed   to   the   ridge   of   the   yacht   house   and   studied   the   compound. A perfect vantage point. The   scene   looked   remarkably   like   the   image   Rick   pulled   up   on   the   Internet.   No   one patrolled   the   eight-foot   walls?   Obviously   they   thought   the   razor   wire   that   topped   them sealed off all danger. Who the Hell was Asahel's chief of security? Ignorant bastard. If   one   person   had   been   strolling   across   the   grounds   my   crash   would   have   set   off   the alarm.   I   walked   down   the   front   hip,   lowered   myself   over   the   edge   of   the   roof,   and   dropped to the gravel three stories below. I   followed   the   breezeway   leading   to   the   carport   as   Rick   recommended.   He   said   the kitchens   were   the   busiest   part   of   any   residence.   "Easiest   way   to   get   in   is   to   have   someone let   you   in."   But   my   nerves   precluded   sitting   around   waiting   for   someone   to   stroll   through an outside door, allowing a temporary break in the security system. Just smash through a window. "Edana,    Edana,    Edana,"    I    reproached    myself    using    my    ancient    Roman    name.    I sighed.   "As   soon   as   an   alarm   goes   off   Asahel   will   flee   to   a   vault   I'll   never   penetrate,   and his people will take my head." I   knelt   in   the   deeper   shadows   just   off   the   carport,   hoping   I   was   out   of   view   of   any cameras.   I   ran   through   the   options   Rick   and   I   discussed   for   getting   into   the   house.   The beep   beep   beep    of   a   keypad   on   the   other   side   of   the   wall   made   me   smile.   Someone   was actually   going   to   exit   the   door   fifteen   feet   away.   That   was   fortuitous   timing.   The   gods   had to   be   on   my   side.   I   stood   and   walked   as   casually   as   I   could   toward   the   door,   hoping anyone who glimpsed me on a monitor would assume I belonged. Overfilled   garbage   bags   preceded   whoever   exited   the   door.   Over   the   stench   of   the trash   I   smelled   a   single   turned-human.   I   drew   my   katana   and   thrust   the   blade   through the   thing's   throat,   flicking   the   sword   to   ensure   he   never   recovered.   I   ignored   the   deluge   of blood   that   flowed   over   my   shoulder   and   arm   as   I   dragged   the   twitching   body   inside.   I pulled   the   two   bags   of   trash   in   before   the   door   swung   shut.   I   don't   know   why.   Like   anyone would miss all that blood. I   pressed   my   back   against   the   wall   and   listened.   For   seconds   it   was   hard   to   hear anything   over   my   pounding   heart.   I   hadn't   been   this   excited   in   centuries.   I   was   in   battle, facing   dozens   between   me   and   the   ancient   council   member   who   disregarded   the   law   he swore to uphold. His poor choices condemned dozens of blameless half-breeds. I couldn't allow one second of indecision. I gathered my resolve and moved forward. I   worked   my   way   through   the   residence   taking   the   heads   of   guards   and   servants   to keep   them   from   raising   alarm.   So   far   so   good.   I   stepped   into   the   arch   of   the   dining   room entrance. Asahel sat eating breakfast just as I expected for the hour. He looked up wearing a glint of a grin. His expression should have shown terror. My skin crawled and I broke out in sweat. Crap! I   lunged   back   into   the   hall   as   a   machine   gun   exploded.   A   round   caught   me,   flinging me   against   the   far   wall.   I   staggered   to   my   right.   A   trail   of   bullets   followed,   gouging   a ragged    furrow    through    the    wall.    The    air    filled    with    wood    splinters    and    plaster    dust. Crouching, I estimated where Asahel's guard stood, and thrust the katana into the wall. My   fist   and   arm   followed   the   sword   until   I   felt   steel   penetrate   flesh.   I   kicked,   plowed through   the   drywall   snapping   a   wall   stud.   My   blade   had   caught   Asahel's   guard   in   the armpit. He stood with a shocked stare at the blood flowing down the edge of my blade. The   machine   gun   clattered   to   the   floor.   I   withdrew   the   katana   and   beheaded   the   male who stood between me and the onetime general. Asahel   rushed   around   the   end   of   the   long   dining   table.   He   held   his   own   sword,   a wicked   looking   but   unwieldy   scimitar.   Nothing   like   my   graceful   katana.   Racing   footsteps approached. I only had seconds. Asahel opened his mouth to engage me, to stall. I'd have none of that. I   stepped   right.   The   katana   flashed.   His   head   and   sword   struck   the   Persian   rug   at   his feet.   Before   the   rest   of   his   body   teetered,   I   picked   up   the   head   and   heaved   it   into   the hallway,   blood   flying   from   the   neck   like   a   pyrotechnic   pinwheel.   It   thudded   against   the   far wall and bounced several times along the slate tile. "Your lord is dead!" I shouted. CHAPTER TWO ~ TWO MONTHS EARLIER ~ I    took   out   the   bulb   of   the   street   lamp   from   fifty   yards   and   moved   in   to   finish   it   off.   I   was livid   that   my   ranch   manager   allowed   the   utility   company   to   put   up   the   thing.   What   was   he thinking?   I   was   angry   enough   to   kill.   I   might   yet.   I   hadn't   killed   anyone   in   a   long   time.   I whispered   to   my   stallion   to   stop   when   I   was   twenty   feet   from   the   pole   and   emptied   the shotgun   into   what   was   left   of   the   fixture.   Fragments   of   metal   rained   down   onto   the ground. I   reloaded   and   fired   into   the   pole   seven   feet   up   from   the   ground.   With   each   round   the wood   splintered   more.   I   sat   daring   it   to   topple   as   it   leaned   fifteen   degrees,   but   held   fast.   I swore   and   reloaded   the   shotgun   again,   nudged   the   stallion   with   a   knee   to   the   left   side   of the   utility   mast.   One   last   shot   and   the   thing   teetered   with   a   groan,   pops   of   electricity lighting   the   night   air   as   cables   snapped.   The   top   slammed   into   the   ground   with   a   thud. The   remains   of   the   fixture   jingled,   and   a   last   arc   from   the   still-live   wire   blinded   me   for   a five-count. I   blinked   away   the   ghosts   and   settled   back   into   my   saddle,   satisfaction   at   removing the   nemesis   far   from   taking   the   edge   off   my   anger.   I   would   accomplish   that   when   I   spoke with   Tom.   That   thought   made   me   smile.   He   would   crap   a   horseshoe.   He   hated   nothing more than failing me. That almost made me feel guilty. Almost. I   never   should   have   seduced   the   man   forty   years   ago.   But   he   was   such   a   stud,   with   his University    of    Wyoming    T-shirt    and    excitement    for    completing    his    bachelor's    degree. Years   later   he   claimed   his   love   for   me   didn't   keep   him   from   finding   another   woman   to share   his   life.   He   did   joke,   "You   ruined   me.   No   other   woman   could   do   to   me   what   you did." When   he   returned   with   his   master's   degree   we   settled   into   our   role   as   kith   leader   and kithman. Our mutual love never dissolved, but he lived in the sun. I ruled the kith. The   rake   of   a   boot   over   gravel   shook   me   from   my   reverie.   I   twisted   in   the   saddle   to my   right   and   scanned   the   horizon,   shocked   I   had   overlooked   the   pickup   at   the   base   of   the small hill a half-mile away. Too distracted by the damn streetlight. There   was   no   movement   near   the   truck.   A   silhouette   vaguely   lined   by   the   moonless night   moved   on   the   top   of   the   hill.   The   grate   of   silicate   against   silicate.   An   intruder. Within   miles   of   my   residence.   I   shuddered,   and   searched   wider.   An   attack   would   come from multiple directions. Where the Hell's my security team? Oh yeah. I snuck out. I   glared   at   the   narrow   slit   that   was   a   man   before   pushing   my   eyes   again   to   search   for others.   Taking   out   the   utility   pole   would   have   my   enemies   circling   to   finish   me   off,   if   they were   here.   I   slid   a   shell   out   of   my   vest   and   fully   loaded   the   shotgun,   and   nudged   the stallion forward. "Let's   see—"   I   had   to   clear   my   throat.   I   probably   hadn't   spoken   in   a   couple   weeks. "Let's   see   who's   wandered   onto   kith   land,   eh   big   guy.   Looks   like   a   good   opportunity   to   kill some stupid bastard who can't read a no trespassing sign." The   shadow   shifted,   to   the   cap   of   the   hill.   It   appeared   he   squatted.   My   mind   spun   to imagine—   Maybe   I   didn't   want   to   know.   But   he   didn't   flee,   and   he   didn't   move   toward   me. I   eased   the   9mm   in   its   holster   to   ensure   it   was   loose,   quickly   shifting   my   hand   back   to keep both on the shotgun. In   the   five   minutes   it   took   me   to   near   the   base   of   the   hill,   the   intruder   still   hadn't moved.   I   studied   the   pickup.   It   wasn't   a   working   truck.   Too   clean.   It   was   far   from   new,   not something   I   imagined   an   assassin   would   drive.   Not   a   rental.   I   raised   the   shotgun   to   ruin the engine to make a point, but decided to find out who was above. First. The   man   rose   from   a   short   stool   as   Dancer   struggled   over   the   crest   of   the   miniature mesa. "Hey. You know what all the shooting was about? ‘Bout scared me to death." He doesn't know the half of it. I   shifted   the   muzzle   of   the   shotgun   away   from   his   head,   but   glared   at   him,   at   the telescope he had been peering through. "An   awful   lot—"   I   had   to   clear   my   throat   again.   "Lot   of   open   range   around   here   for you to pick my property to star gaze. Can you read?" "Beautiful   night   isn't   it?"   he   said.   "No   moon,   not   a   cloud   anywhere.   It's   gorgeous   out here. Laramie is no metropolis, but the sky can't be beat out here." I   looked   over   my   right   shoulder,   at   the   circular   glow   of   Denver   dotting   the   horizon   a hundred-sixty miles southeast. Damn humans. Pollute everything they touch. No respect for anything. "So it was the dark. That why you missed the no trespassing signs?" The smile faded on the man's face. "Didn't expect anyone would mind out here in the middle of nowhere," he said. "Not the middle of nowhere. This is my home." My anger rose again. "Whoa," he said, raising his hands in the air. "I'm sorry. Didn't mean to offend you." I   realized   the   shotgun   again   pointed   at   his   head.   I   swung   it   to   the   left,   worked   to   relax my   grip.   The   throp   throp   throp    of   the   base   helo   approached.   It   wasn't   yet   above   the   slip   of mountains   to   the   north.   The   human   wouldn't   hear   it   for   a   few   more   minutes.   He   probably didn't even hear the SUV racing up the dirt road. He   turned   to   see   what   I   was   looking   at.   The   headlights   knifed   through   the   night's peace,   its   brake   lights   giving   the   dust   rising   behind   it   an   eerie   glow.   That   dust   wouldn't settle for hours. He probably didn't smell it. Couldn't see the glow. Damn humans. "Is that coming because of me?" he asked. I   had   strung   up   a   dozen   men   over   the   arch   of   the   ranch's   gate   in   the   past   two   hundred years.   I   almost   wished   I   could   do   that   tonight,   to   make   a   point.   But   I   had   bigger   battles   to wage. "Laramie is a three hour drive. What're you doing out here?" "I'm visiting a college buddy," he said. "Where?" "Baggs. It's—" "I know where the Hell Baggs is, you idiot. Who are you visiting?" He   grimaced.   I   edged   the   end   of   the   shotgun   back   toward   him   to   remind   him   he   had good reason to answer my questions. "No one you would know. He works for DOT—" "Tony?" I demanded. His   eyes   widened.   I   could   sense   the   temperature   of   the   skin   on   his   face   rise.   I   had been   giving   every   baby   born   in   the   tiny   hamlet   of   Baggs   a   tidy   government   bond   for seventy-five years. I know everyone there. I am a walking almanac of Baggs, Wyoming. "What's your name?" "Amil. Amil Gardner." That name I didn't know. "You aren't from Wyoming." He laughed. "You know everyone in Wyoming?" The   helicopter   grew   annoyingly   loud.   He   had   to   hear   it,   but   he   didn't   look   up   into   the sky.   Was   he   deaf?   In   reality   the   radiation   emanating   from   the   thing   wasn't   noticeable,   but out   of   habit   I   pulled   dark   glasses   out   of   my   breast   pocket   and   put   them   on,   pulled   my   hat farther down over my forehead, and turned up my collar. Nearing,   the   roar   of   the   helo's   turbines   were   thunderous,   but   he   was   asking   me   a question.   He   finally   looked   into   the   sky.   I   waved   the   helicopter   off.   It   was   several   more moments before it banked and turned away. He   spoke   again.   Despite   the   cold   night,   the   temperature   of   his   face   had   gotten   even hotter. "I said, did I wander onto some secret military base, or something?" That's   what   I   thought   he   said.   I   sighed   when   the   roar   faded   and   I   took   a   deep   breath. I    hated    the    damn    helicopter.    But    it    was    necessary    to    secure    the    kith's    land.    The contraption   moved   two   miles   away   and   hovered.   I   looked   down   at   the   SUV   that   had veered   off   the   dirt   road   and   approached   up   the   rough   terrain   near   our   clump   of   hills.   I looked away quickly from its headlights. The   SUV   stopped   seventy-five   feet   away.   The   driver   killed   the   lights.   I   blinked   away the   dancing   blotches   for   a   moment   before   I   took   off   the   glasses.   Two   men   ran   up   the   steep incline with M-16s. One of the men shouted. "Is everything okay, Ms. de Rais?" "Escort this gentleman back," I said. The intruder stammered, "Back?" "Make him comfortable while he waits for the sheriff." I kneed Dancer down the hill. CHAPTER THREE ~ I    dismounted   and   Domingo   took   Dancer's   reins.   The   man   smiled,   despite   the   fact   it   was four   in   the   morning.   Out   of   habit,   I   went   through   the   names   of   his   six   children,   each   a   U of W graduate, worked for the kith's corporate face. "You have a nice ride, Ms. de Rais?" I   smiled.   The   man   refused   to   call   me   Renee.   "It's   getting   warm.   I   hate   when   the   snow disappears." "It's getting into the fifties mid-day now," he said. "How's Maria?" I asked. "Grumpier   than   ever.   The   doctor   gave   her   new   medicine   for   the   arthritis.   Doesn't seem to do much good." "Maybe this fall you'll accept an apartment in San Lucas." "This   is   our   home,   Ms.   de   Rais.   Unless   we   stop   pleasing   you   and   you   chase   us   away, you'll have to bury us out there." He    hooked    his    thumb    toward    the    western    mesa    where    eight    generations    of    my American kithmen lay at rest, including several of Domingo's ancestors. I   pulled   him   to   lean   down   so   I   could   kiss   him   on   the   cheek.   I   thought   of   when   he   was a kid, mesmerized by the opportunity to visit my domain at night. Not good to think lovingly of the humans. They die too quickly. "Good night," I said. I   turned   and   pulled   the   shotgun   out   of   its   scabbard   and   marched   for   the   main   house. I   was   starving.   I   crossed   the   breezeway   eager   to   get   something   to   eat   but   jerked   to   a   stop when   I   sensed   the   presence   of   humans,   more   than   should   have   been   at   my   residence.   If Tom   came   down   from   the   upper   compound   he   would   have   met   me   at   the   stable.   I   slid   the shotgun's safety off. My nape tingled. I stood in the blackness listening. I   could   hear   relaxed   breathing   at   the   formal   entry   and   in   the   hall   near   my   library, distressed   breathing   from   one   within   that   room.   The   fricking   intruder.   They   brought   him here instead of the upper compound. Dolts. Can't anyone read my mind? I   walked   around   the   side   garden   to   look   for   the   SUV.   It   was   there.   I   walked   back   to the   patio   and   entered   the   house.   I   heard   the   click   of   lights   being   turned   off,   night   goggles being turned on. "That you, Ms. de Rais?" "It is," I called back. I   walked   slowly   through   the   sitting   room   and   into   the   hall.   When   the   man   recognized me he lowered his M-16, turned off the goggles and removed them. "I   meant   you   to   take   the   man   to   the   upper    compound,"   I   said.   "Has   anyone   called   the sheriff yet?" He   stood   frozen,   blinking.   Humans   hate   the   dark.   It   was   as   if   their   brains   couldn't work if they couldn't see. "I take it that means no." "No, ma'am." Raul   nor   Adam   would   have   needed   to   be   told.   Why   do   humans   need   so   much   time off?   I   stood   glaring   at   the   man   for   a   few   moments   waiting   to   see   if   it   would   dawn   on   him that he should make the call. Perhaps if he could read my expression. "Well?" "Would you like me to call, ma'am?" "Sure. Why don't you do that?" I shook my head. Too   bad   he   wouldn't   be   able   to   see   that   either.   I   turned   and   walked   into   the   library.   I leaned   the   shotgun   up   against   the   wall   inside   the   door   as   the   intruder   turned   toward   me and spoke. "Why've I been left in pitch black all night?" I   unstrapped   my   web   belt   and   hung   the   .45   on   the   peg   on   the   wall.   "You   said   you liked the dark." I removed the Kevlar vest with its 9mm and hung it on the next peg. "For stargazing. I'll have you charged with kidnapping." "Just holding you for the sheriff." "Why? I didn't do anything." "Trespassing not a crime where you come from?" "I didn't hurt anything. I was just standing there looking through a telescope." "On   land   you   weren't   welcome   to   visit.   There's   a   lantern   on   the   mantel   if   you   must have light." "How am I supposed to see to light it?" Humans. So frickin' helpless. I stepped toward him and grabbed his arm. He jerked it away. I had to laugh. "What's so funny?" "You're awfully goosy." "I've been sitting here in the dark for— I don't know how many hours." I   grabbed   his   arm   and   propelled   him   toward   the   fireplace,   placed   a   box   of   matches   in one   hand,   lifted   the   other   to   show   him   where   the   lantern   was.   I   stepped   away   and   turned my back to avoid the light from the striking match. The   room   flickered   with   light,   before   washing   with   a   yellow   glow   as   he   lowered   the glass   bowl   around   the   flame.   It   was   a   wavelength   of   light   I   can   tolerate   for   days,   as   long   as I don't stand too close. "Does this place have a furnace? It's freezing in here." Now he pushed the hostess in me. I    studied    him    as    he    plunged    his    hands    back    into    his    pockets    and    hunched    his shoulders.   He   was   a   healthy   looking   specimen.   Tall   like   most   humans   this   century.   He didn't   like   haircuts   much,   wore   it   in   that   intermediate   length   that   allowed   weeks   to   pass without   growth   being   noticeable.   He   should   just   let   it   grow   down   his   back   and   be   done with it, or cleave it like the proper Roman gentleman. "There's a fireplace, if you know how to start a fire," I said. His    expression    implied    the    effort    might    be    an    act    that    violated    the    Geneva Convention   for   unwelcome   trespassers.   He   shuddered   against   the   cold,   but   must   have decided   he   could   take   the   torture   this   one   time.   He   bent   over   to   collect   wood   from   the near box. A manly physique. His tight jeans showed he might be up to a good romp. I   could   eat   you   and   spit   you   out.   Make   you   scream.   Come   back   for   more.   Oh   lord. How was he going to get those blocks started? "You don't have a clue. Or are you some mystical fire starter?"  "What do you mean?" I   sighed.   "Are   there   any   country   boys   left   in   this   world?   Put   down   those   blocks   until you have your kindling ablaze, you oaf." "Oaf? You been reading the classics lately." There   was   a   day   a   millennia   ago   I   would   have   slowly   cut   every   inch   of   skin   off   your body for speaking to me like that. Lucky for you that was a long time ago. I   walked   away   and   sat   in   one   of   the   overstuffed   chairs,   picked   up   my   book   from   the side   table.   My   guest   struggled   at   the   hearth   for   a   few   minutes.   In   my   peripheral   vision   I caught   him   look   my   way   a   couple   times.   A   light   rose   from   the   hallway,   and   a   few   moments later Lucinda entered, carrying another lantern. "Ms. de Rais, would you care for dinner now?" "Mr. Gardner, care to join me?" "You eat dinner awfully late around here. But I guess I could take some breakfast." I   closed   my   book   with   my   finger   marking   my   page,   while   I   thought   about   what   I wanted.   "Scramble   us   some   huevos   rancheros,   heavy   on   the   green   sauce,   cheese   and mushrooms,   with   a   thick   side   of   ham.   Pour   us   a   glass   of   Chardonnay.   How   ‘bout   you   Mr. Gardner?"   I   didn't   wait   to   hear   his   response.   "Send   someone   in   who   can   start   a   fire   for our chilly guest, too, please?" "Yes, ma'am." Lucinda grinned and rushed away. "You're really not trying to read in the dark, are you?" Lucinda's   nephew   ran   around   the   corner,   had   a   fire   going   in   about   ninety   seconds. Amil   Gardner   stood   watching,   slapped   his   hip   in   frustration   as   the   boy   slowly   laid   ever- larger   pieces   over   the   flaming   kindling.   The   room   brightened.   Roberto   handed   Amil   the poker   and   showed   him   how   to   close   the   damper   as   the   fire   caught   and   the   smoke   leveled off. "What do you do in Laramie, Mr. Gardner?" "Are   you   really   going   to   have   me   arrested   for   trespassing?   I'm   sorry   about   that. Everyone   has   those   signs   up.   But   they   usually   mean   if   you   hurt   yourself   you   can't   sue   us because we had signs up warning you away." I ignored his question like he did mine. "You don't lead a Boy Scout troop." He   laughed   and   turned   to   face   me.   His   face   distorted   in   that   curiously   human   fashion when thoughts escaped them. He's going through the steps. No I'm not blind. How could I use a shotgun, or read. "People actually get used to the lack of color in my eyes," I said. "Sorry. Didn't mean to stare. In this light—they seem to glow." He   looked   away   and   pushed   his   hands   back   in   his   pockets.   I   thought   of   earlier   times when   I   ruled   consuls,   governors,   and   generals   with   a   flash   of   my   eyes.   Humans   are   so easy    to    manipulate.    I    swore    centuries    ago    I    would    never    indulge    in    the    practice    of manipulation again. I managed my will in less underhanded ways. Amil shifted his weight. His cheeks warmed again. Not from the fire. Is my studying making you anxious, sweet human? I   hadn't   taken   a   human   lover   since—   Tom,   truly   my   last   fling?   The   years   seemed   to pass   faster   than   they   should.   I   mentally   undressed   my   guest.   He   had   never   spent   a   day   at labor.   I   missed   men   who   could   swing   a   sword   for   half   a   day,   mount   a   horse   and   ride   the sun   into   the   ground.   Those   were   real   men.   Kill   ruthlessly,   make   love   with   equal   intensity. Take my pain and come back for more. Men   of   the   current   century   think   they   are   something   if   they   spend   four   hours   a   week in a gymnasium. Amil   Gardner   was   an   overly   educated   man.   Soft   hands.   I   would   take   him   in   a   pinch. Be   entertaining   for   a   night   or   two.   But   he   would   be   good   at   conversation.   Better   than many I met the previous hundred years. That   was   my   failure   with   Tom.   I   should   have   sent   him   off   to   live   in   a   dozen   countries for   a   year   each,   come   back   to   me   with   stories   to   tell.   A   good   man   isn't   simply   bred,   he must be correctly aged. Next time. Amil   Gardner   wouldn't   be   my   next   lover.   He   was   too   old   to   have   the   flexibility   to   be   a Revenir's    lover.    I    needed    to    start    them    in    their    teens.    There    are    no    longer    arenas, gladiators   to   get   them   good   and   blooded.   The   next   option   was   an   athlete.   Used   to   pain. Cowboys were good. Had grit. But not the staying power. "Now you're  staring," he said. Or   I   could   take   a   turned   human.   I   wouldn't   mind   watching   my   back   for   a   century   or so. "Earth calling Ms. Deray." Lover Hell. I'm gonna kill 'im. My   incisors   flanged   outward.   Second   time   in   hours.   Not   a   good   sign.   I   needed   to exorcise   some   demons.   Athletic   sex   does   that.   Not   as   good   as   eviscerating   an   enemy,   but I've sworn that off. CHAPTER FOUR ~ I    pulled   my   finger   out   of   my   book,   set   the   novel   down   on   the   lamp   table,   and   rose.   I   stared at   him   a   degree   harder.   Renee,   Renee,   Renee.   The   foolish   man   hasn't   a   clue   who   he's talking   to.   I   forced   myself   to   relax   and   felt   my   cheekbones   flatten,   lips   slowly   descend where they belonged, claws shorten, and disappear. "Do   not   speak   to   me   as   you   would   one   of   your   students."   My   voice   rasped   harsher than I intended. "How'd you know I'm a teacher?" Lucinda's   footsteps   echoed   down   the   long   hall.   I   waited   until   the   woman   appeared   in the doorway. "Come, Mr. Gardner. Let's get you your breakfast." Neither   of   us   said   anything   as   we   followed   Lucinda   into   the   dining   room.   There   were additional   lanterns   lit   for   the   man's   benefit   and   the   hearths   at   each   end   of   the   fifty-foot room   were   ablaze.   I   decided   to   chance   a   blister   or   two   and   rolled   up   my   sleeves   and unfastened   a   couple   buttons   of   my   blouse   against   the   warmth.   It   had   to   be   nearly   forty degrees in the room already. Amil   walked   to   one   of   the   fires   and   held   out   his   hands,   turning   them   to   spread   the warmth.   Lucinda   retrieved   a   silver   tray   with   two   glasses   of   wine   from   a   nearby   buffet.   She walked to him. His eyes jerked about uncomfortably before he took one of the glasses. That   disappointed.   I   hoped   he   would   know   enough   to   take   both   glasses   and   bring   one to   me,   and   wait   for   me   to   taste   mine   first.   Propriety   is   so   lacking   in   the   humans   of   the   past couple centuries. Lucinda delivered my glass and left the room. "You have that disease, don't you? The one that makes you sensitive to light?" There's   not   just   one   disease   that   does   that,   you   oaf.   Sensitive   doesn't   come   near describing my affliction. I    otherwise    ignored    his    question    and    queried    him    about    himself.    He    patiently answered,   no   doubt   hoping   his   good   behavior   would   keep   him   from   the   clutches   of   the Carbon County Sheriff. My    guesses    were    mostly    on    target.    He    was    one    of    those    humans    who    thought spending   a   few   hours   in   a   gym   made   him   a   man.   I   caught   myself   in   my   prejudice.   I couldn't    say    I    spent    much    time    swinging    a    sword    any    more,    or    riding    a    horse    hard through the night. I hadn't even writhed through the night in the sheets for decades. Behave, Renee. Behave. He   taught   computer   science,   was   from   Texas,   an   only   child.   He   hoped   to   finish   his doctorate   someday,   and   teach   at   the   university   level.   Unmarried.   No   attachments.   Perfect for the needs of a Revenir. Roberto   ran   into   the   room,   the   only   way   the   lad   knew   how   to   convey   himself.   He shoved a page off the teletype at me. "Thank you, Roberto." The ten-year-old beamed and ran off. "Bastards." "Something wrong?" Amil asked. What gave you that idea, you idiot. I   read   on.   The   report   said   no   fatalities   in   his   household.   There   were   a   few   ranch hands   hurt,   but   nothing   the   kith's   medical   team   couldn't   handle.   Four   humans   and   two endowed   attackers   were   killed.   They   believed   there   were   at   least   another   half-dozen   that got away. Search parties were out. There was no request for assistance. I vibrated in anger, my jaws thickened. I struggled to make them fade. "By the expression, that must have been bad news," Amil said softly. I   looked   up   as   Lucinda   entered   with   a   tray.   I   threw   back   the   rest   of   my   wine,   set   the message   and   my   glass   on   the   table.   I   strode   to   a   nearby   desk   and   rolled   back   the   doors, out   of   habit   slid   my   hands   into   the   gloves   I   required   to   work   the   teletype   keyboard   for   an extended   period.   I   quickly   tapped   out   instructions   to   Tom,   my   security   teams,   and   best wishes to the Canadian ranch manager. After   I   finished,   I   stripped   off   the   gloves,   leaving   the   desk   open,   and   returned   to   the dining table. "Sit." I waved Amil to the table. "I apologize for the interruption." There   was   still   steam   rising   from   the   plates,   but   that   was   probably   a   reflection   of   the room   temperature,   not   that   of   the   food.   The   aroma,   especially   from   the   seared   ham, incited   my   hunger   though.   I   dived   into   the   food   without   the   courtesy   I   wished   Amil   had shown   earlier.   I   didn't   care.   I   was   ravenous.   Perhaps   it   was   all   the   lusty   thoughts   the human had provoked in me the last hour. Or the anger over the attack. "I've   only   seen   pictures   of   teletypes   before,"   Amil   said.   "Didn't   know   there   were   still any around." "Can have anything manufactured," I said with a half-full mouth of eggs. "I wouldn't think the new LCD monitors would bother you." "More radiation than you would think," I answered. "When   you   read   the   note—"   He   stopped,   obviously   considering   whether   it   was   wise   to raise a bad topic. "Your face really changed. I hope— I hope it wasn't—" "It   was   serious.   About   as   serious   as   you   traipsing   onto   my   property.   There   will   be some   red   faces   at   the   security   shift   meeting   in   an   hour   because   of   you.   That   I   found   you before they did will raise some voices." "I   don't   see   how   you   can   consider   me   driving   a   few   hundred   yards   inside   your   fence line such a serious thing." "That's   because   you   have   no   idea   who   I   am."   I   jammed   a   big   forkful   into   my   mouth. Sauce dripped onto my chin. "Besides a sloppy eater," I said behind my hand. He grinned for the first time. It improved the looks of his sun darkened face. "So, who are you?" Another   question   I   opted   to   ignore.   "I'll   be   flying   up   to   Canada   tomorrow   to   see things for myself. Would you like to tag along?" I stopped chewing. I had no freaking  idea where that came from. Why   in   the   Hell   would   I   invite   an   unknown   gentile   so   deeply   within   my   camp?   I'm going insane. "Canada?" His brows arched. Oh,   God.   He's   thinking   about   it.   Take   it   back.   Quick.   I   can't   take   it   back.   Retreating shows weakness. "It's spring break. I have some time. Will it keep me away from the sheriff?" Well at least he has a sense of humor. And he isn't bad looking. Relatively intelligent. Trucks   approached   from   the   upper   compound.   Sounded   like   at   least   a   half-dozen.   It didn't   take   them   long   to   react   to   the   Canadian   news.   Security   around   the   residence   would be   a   lot   tighter   the   next   month.   I   wouldn't   get   any   privacy.   I   hate   that.   No   more   quiet rides by myself. I might as well head for Killdeer and give them whatever support I can. "I imagine it would be hard to jail a man I'm flirting with." "Flirting? Is that what the trip would entail? I have you know I'm not that easy." That's too bad. His soft flesh would feel good. Been a long time. "It   would   give   us   an   opportunity   to   evaluate   if   you   might   fit   in   the   organization,"   I said.   "We   can   always   use   a   good   technologist."   I   sopped   up   some   of   the   remaining   sauce in my plate with a rolled up tortilla. "A recruitment trip now, is it? What's your organization?" My kith. My world. The    trucks    stopped    outside.    I    could    already    smell    the    dust    descending    over    the residence.   I   listened   to   the   stomping   boots,   counted   without   meaning   to.   Men   spread   out all   around   the   ranch   house.   The   door   off   the   side   patio   opened   and   closed.   Four   men approached.   I   recognized   Tom's   footsteps,   his   distinctive   lope.   He   wore,   of   course,   his cowboy boots. The other three wore soldiers' boots. I   sensed   dust,   manliness,   and   the   musky   odor   of   anxiety   on   each   of   them.   One   had chewed    tobacco    earlier    in    the    night.    A    disgusting    human    habit.    A    replacement    for smoking which I do not allow any of my people to practice. They came to set the predictable perimeter around me. In   the   past   I   needed   no   protectors.   Humans   needed   protecting   from   me.   Now   there are weapons more dangerous than naked steel. Tom   entered,   his   hat   in   his   hand.   His   expression   was   casual,   as   though   he   came   to talk   about   spring   range.   He   had   been   through   the   exercise   enough   times   it   didn't   rattle him,   but   I   scented   his   anxiety.   He   stopped   several   steps   away.   I   rose   and   went   to   him.   He leaned deeply so I could kiss him on his cheek. The   chief   of   security   stood   back   several   more   paces.   His   ruddy   good   looks   always piqued   my   interest,   but   the   man   was   married,   and   that   seemed   important   to   humans   for some   reason.   He   wore   his   regular   vest   with   its   9mm,   a   .45   on   his   hip.   The   two   additional guards   fanned   out   to   each   end   of   the   dining   room.   They   carried   50   caliber   machine   guns slung   from   their   shoulders,   a   precaution   in   case   an   endowed   made   it   through   the   outer perimeter. A body cut in two isn't going to regenerate. "You've been busy," I said to Tom. "You haven't visited in days." "Sorry. It's always something. I think I'm starting to slow down. That doesn't help." A   shame   I   never   turned   him.   Maybe—   I've   worked   with   more   than   my   share   of turned-humans.   But   not   in   millennia.   I've   mellowed   in   my   old-age.   But   would   he   accept the role? If he survived the turning? Ach. As though I would take that chance with him.    Tom   turned   a   steely   glare   toward   Amil,   who   had   stood.   His   eyes   were   open   wide, flipping   back   and   forth   from   the   three   wearing   black   fatigues.   I   imagined   he   started   to catch on that he hadn't strolled onto just anyone's property. My   security   chief   stepped   forward.   "Renee.   Forgive   me   for   the   lapse.   I'll   have   him escorted to Rawlins. The sheriff doesn't have anyone nearby right now." I   could   scent   the   turmoil   broiling   within   the   man's   emotion.   He   was   a   lot   sorrier   than his words implied. "Joseph.   Don't   worry   about   that.   If   I   let   you   string   electric   wire   all   over   my   ranch   a ground   squirrel   couldn't   move   without   you   knowing   about   it.   But   I'd   be   stuck   in   a   box   to avoid   the   EM.   I'm   more   upset   that   neither   of   you   did   anything   about   that   street   light erected   near   the   front   gate.   Where   the   Hell   were   you?   Visiting   some   other   planet?   I   was ready to kill you both." Their faces flushed. Eyes went wider. They hadn't heard yet. How could they not know, been told since? "It won't happen again, Renee." Joseph's   voice   vibrated   in   anger,   his   own   disappointment.   It   was   no   doubt   made worse   by   the   attack   to   our   north.   His   face   turned   an   unhealthy   red.   Not   good   for   a   man   in his seventies. "I've invited Amil to fly to Killdeer with me tomorrow." Tom   smiled.   It   was   a   knowing   smile   he   didn't   try   to   hide.   There   was   no   jealousy. Joseph   jerked   a   look   at   Amil,   as   though   studying   him   again   would   point   out   any   dangers. I   held   up   my   hand   to   avoid   any   argument.   There   was   no   danger   to   me   from   any   unarmed human. Joseph knew that too well, but it would shock me if he didn't react that way. I   invited   the   two   men   to   join   us   for   a   glass   of   wine.   There   was   no   argument.   They knew   me   well   enough   that   it   wasn't   a   casual   point   of   etiquette.   After   we   were   all   seated,   I queried   the   two   men   hard   on   a   dozen   topics.   Both   Tom   and   Joseph   would   glance   at   Amil from   time   to   time,   uncomfortable   about   talking   about   sensitive   items   in   front   of   the gentile. Halfway   through   what   turned   into   a   conference   I   realized   I   either   had   to   kill   Amil Gardner,   or   seduce   him   and   bring   him   into   the   kith.   I   hoped   for   the   latter   option.   He should   have   paid   attention   to   the   no   trespassing   signs.   I   should   have   had   him   escorted   off the ranch immediately. I'm an idiot. Or simply need a sexual partner more than I realized. "I hope you're flexible with the hours you sleep," I told him. His expression wore as blankly as I expected. Let him figure it out. © R. Mac Wheeler 2017
SCI FI Fantasy Dystopian
Revenir Chapter 1 ~ O f   all   Asahel's   crimes,   what   drove   me insane   was   his   kith's   flippant   use   of   the repulsive term vampire . We     are     a     proud     race.     Not     the unholy,      blood      sucking      miscreants Hollywood portrays. Asahel's    entire    kith    of    half-breeds had   to   be   eradicated.   They   polluted   the gene    pool,    threatened    exposure    of    all Revenirs. I     stepped     from     the     plane     into nothingness,       counted       as       I       was instructed   over   and   over   the   past   hour, and   deployed   my   parafoil.   The   sky   was still    purple,    but    I    had    little    time    to worry   about   EM   from   the   falling   sun   as the   manor   below   raced   toward   me.   Five hundred     feet     evaporated.     I     plunged more   directly   than   I   intended   to   hit   the broad    roof    at    the    right    angle    to    keep from continuing across it. The    collision    echoed    in    my    head like   a   bomb   blast.   Barrel   tile   shattered. Shards    ripped    through    my    jumpsuit and    sliced    my    leg    and    knee    as    I    slid across    the    roof    of    the    yacht    house.    I came   to   a   painful   stop   on   the   ridge   of the roof. I       looked       down       at       the       four fingernails     pulled     back     at     a     thirty- degree    angle,    the    blood    coating    the terracotta   tile.   Pain   jabbed   through   my right   shoulder   too,   so   I   pulled   in   the nylon    canopy    one-handed    before    the breeze   could   catch   it   and   drag   me   off the damn roof. I   slid   down   the   backside   facing   the bay,    lay    back    and    waited    to    see    who investigated,   time   as   much   to   allow   the broken    bones    to    knit.    My    collarbone, wrist,   ankle   and   leg   I   knew,   were   toast. This     landing     lacked     finesse.     What would   jumping   from   a   plane   at   a   higher elevation feel like? Skydiving     might     be     something     I would    try    again.    It    definitely    got    the blood   flowing.   The   rush   beat   downing   a bottle   of   vodka.   Didn't   make   me   have to pee twenty times, either. The   pain   eased   in   fifteen   minutes. No   shouts   rose   from   below.   No   bullets flew    at    me.    I'd    made    it    farther    than Adam    and    Raul    predicted.    They    had threatened   to   quit   my   security   detail   if   I followed    through    with    my    plan.    Like they    would    give    up    that    honor.    They called me an idiot. Chauvinists. I   wielded   a   slate   axe   and   led   men into      battle      millennia      before      their ancestors learned language skills. "Their     loss,"     I     whispered.     They would    pay    for    their    lack    of    faith    for months to come. At   least   Rick   remained   helpful.   He shared     my     excitement     for     going     it alone.   He   didn't   discuss   the   risk—knew my     mind     was     made     up.     A     frontal assault   would   have   required   a   hundred warriors.   Commandos   was   the   word   he used.   Said   the   casualties   with   that   kind of     an     assault     would     exceed     twenty percent. The   ado   would   have   been   hard   to cover up. He said my idea was ingenious. What    an    intelligent    man.    A    dork, but    what    a    sweetheart.    He    would    get anything   in   the   world   he   wanted   after   I dealt with Asahel. I   wiped   the   last   of   the   blood   off   my hands    and    took    a    last,    deep    breath before   rising   to   remove   my   harness.   I climbed   to   the   ridge   of   the   yacht   house and    studied    the    compound.    A    perfect vantage point. The    scene    looked    remarkably    like the     image     Rick     pulled     up     on     the Internet.    No    one    patrolled    the    eight- foot   walls?   Obviously   they   thought   the razor   wire   that   topped   them   sealed   off all   danger.   Who   the   Hell   was   Asahel's chief of security? Ignorant bastard. If    one    person    had    been    strolling across    the    grounds    my    crash    would have   set   off   the   alarm.   I   walked   down the   front   hip,   lowered   myself   over   the edge    of    the    roof,    and    dropped    to    the gravel three stories below. I   followed   the   breezeway   leading   to the   carport   as   Rick   recommended.   He said   the   kitchens   were   the   busiest   part of   any   residence.   "Easiest   way   to   get   in is   to   have   someone   let   you   in."   But   my nerves       precluded       sitting       around waiting   for   someone   to   stroll   through an   outside   door,   allowing   a   temporary break in the security system. Just smash through a window. "Edana,         Edana,         Edana,"         I reproached    myself    using    my    ancient Roman   name.   I   sighed.   "As   soon   as   an alarm   goes   off   Asahel   will   flee   to   a   vault I'll   never   penetrate,   and   his   people   will take my head." I   knelt   in   the   deeper   shadows   just off   the   carport,   hoping   I   was   out   of   view of    any    cameras.    I    ran    through    the options   Rick   and   I   discussed   for   getting into   the   house.   The   beep   beep   beep    of   a keypad    on    the    other    side    of    the    wall made   me   smile.   Someone   was   actually going   to   exit   the   door   fifteen   feet   away. That    was    fortuitous    timing.    The    gods had    to    be    on    my    side.    I    stood    and walked    as    casually    as    I    could    toward the   door,   hoping   anyone   who   glimpsed me     on     a     monitor     would     assume     I belonged. Overfilled    garbage    bags    preceded whoever     exited     the     door.     Over     the stench   of   the   trash   I   smelled   a   single turned-human.   I   drew   my   katana   and thrust    the    blade    through    the    thing's throat,   flicking   the   sword   to   ensure   he never   recovered.   I   ignored   the   deluge   of blood    that    flowed    over    my    shoulder and    arm    as    I    dragged    the    twitching body   inside.   I   pulled   the   two   bags   of trash   in   before   the   door   swung   shut.   I don't    know    why.    Like    anyone    would miss all that blood. I   pressed   my   back   against   the   wall and   listened.   For   seconds   it   was   hard   to hear   anything   over   my   pounding   heart. I   hadn't   been   this   excited   in   centuries.   I was    in    battle,    facing    dozens    between me    and    the    ancient    council    member who    disregarded    the    law    he    swore    to uphold.    His    poor    choices    condemned dozens of blameless half-breeds. I     couldn't     allow     one     second     of indecision.   I   gathered   my   resolve   and moved forward. I     worked     my     way     through     the residence    taking    the    heads    of    guards and   servants   to   keep   them   from   raising alarm.   So   far   so   good.   I   stepped   into the   arch   of   the   dining   room   entrance. Asahel    sat    eating    breakfast    just    as    I expected for the hour. He   looked   up   wearing   a   glint   of   a grin.   His   expression   should   have   shown terror. My   skin   crawled   and   I   broke   out   in sweat. Crap! I    lunged    back    into    the    hall    as    a machine   gun   exploded.   A   round   caught me,   flinging   me   against   the   far   wall.   I staggered   to   my   right.   A   trail   of   bullets followed,     gouging     a     ragged     furrow through    the    wall.    The    air    filled    with wood      splinters      and      plaster      dust. Crouching,   I   estimated   where   Asahel's guard   stood,   and   thrust   the   katana   into the wall. My   fist   and   arm   followed   the   sword until     I     felt     steel     penetrate     flesh.     I kicked,     plowed     through     the     drywall snapping    a    wall    stud.    My    blade    had caught   Asahel's   guard   in   the   armpit.   He stood   with   a   shocked   stare   at   the   blood flowing down the edge of my blade. The    machine    gun    clattered    to    the floor.     I     withdrew     the     katana     and beheaded   the   male   who   stood   between me and the onetime general. Asahel    rushed    around    the    end    of the   long   dining   table.   He   held   his   own sword,   a   wicked   looking   but   unwieldy scimitar.     Nothing     like     my     graceful katana.   Racing   footsteps   approached.   I only had seconds. Asahel   opened   his   mouth   to   engage me, to stall. I'd have none of that. I   stepped   right.   The   katana   flashed. His   head   and   sword   struck   the   Persian rug   at   his   feet.   Before   the   rest   of   his body   teetered,   I   picked   up   the   head   and heaved   it   into   the   hallway,   blood   flying from     the     neck     like     a     pyrotechnic pinwheel.    It    thudded    against    the    far wall   and   bounced   several   times   along the slate tile. "Your lord is dead!" I shouted. © R. Mac Wheeler 2017
R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author