Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sample Sunday Free Peek at Until Dawn: Last Light!

Here it is guys! The first chapter of Until Dawn: Last Light for Sample Sunday! Enjoy! And remember, you can get your copy of Until Dawn: Last Light for your smart phone, kindle or PC for only $0.99 on Amazon! Click here to see reader reviews and get your copy today!

Chapter One

As I pried my sword from his flesh, I was sure that’s where I’d be going; that is, if I could actually die. It wasn’t like it was the first time I’d killed a man and, God help me, it certainly wouldn’t be the last. After all, that’s what I was created for, not that I really had a choice in the matter. The way I saw it, everyone had a purpose and mine was simple: kill.
“That’s got to be a record,” I mumbled, shoving the prehistoric cell phone back into my pocket. Not even eleven o’clock and I had a dead guy on my hands. It was going to be a long day.
I couldn’t count the number of lives I’d taken over the years. It wasn’t like I kept a tally or souvenir for each victim. To say there’d been a few would have been the understatement of the century. For the sake of my dwindling sanity, I avoided counting all together. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to know. It was just easier that way. It wasn’t like I was proud of the monster I’d become. The nearly six years since the “accident” felt like a lifetime. But that was survival. This was different. This was war.
I crouched beside the soldier, the smell of his blood overwhelming my senses; its metallic taste settled in the back of my mouth. He looked young, no more than twenty-two, twenty-three at most. He never would have gone down that easily if he’d already been turned. No, he was still human. Probably a new pawn in the General’s game, trying to make some extra cash to support his family. It was amazing what people would do for an extra buck; the going rate for a soul was up to a quarter of a million dollars. A fleeting moment of monetary bliss in exchange for eternal damnation? Sure, what the hell! Apparently, money could buy happiness. Greedy bastards. Like I really had any room to talk. I’d be right there with them.
Fishing through his pocket, I pulled out a leather wallet and flipped it open. Private Scott Morgan, United States Army, Active Duty.
“Thank you, Private Morgan,” I mumbled, emptying the contents of the wallet into my bag. “You just gave me exactly what I’d need to hunt down everyone you’ve ever known and loved. Not to mention the scumbags you’ve been working for. Nice work, the General would be so proud.” I tossed the worn leather onto his chest. To the average person, it’d look like a mugging.
I wanted to feel bad for him – really, I did – and a long time ago I might have. But, each year that slipped by stole a little more of my humanity. I guess immortality made you hard. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cried, let alone felt grief or sorrow. In fact, I rarely felt much of anything anymore.
I missed it – feeling. But, it was for the best. Couldn’t go around crying over spilt milk for the next who knew how many years. Milk, blood – whatever.
When William first found me, he warned me not to lose myself. “Forever is a long time to live in darkness,” he told me. I didn’t understand what he meant then, but I did now. I pitied that man. If six years felt like a lifetime, how would a thousand feel? Maybe I’d be unfortunate enough to find out; that is, if the world didn’t end by then. That was a big “if.”
People always had a knack for creating enemies; race against race, religion against religion, country against country. But, when it all came down to it, there were only two sides that really mattered: them and us. Everyone else was as good as dead, whether they knew it or not. It wouldn’t be long now; the General’s lies were spreading like venom through a vein. The world thought it knew terror. The world was wrong.
“Are you coming out, or are you going to keep hiding in the shadows like a coward?” I said flatly, keeping my eyes fixed on the dead soldier.
Footsteps started down the back of the parking garage. A chill ran down my spine as I pushed away unwanted memories. I turned to face the man, his heavy claps echoing against brick walls. “Bravo, warrior, bravo! I’m impressed.”
As he stepped closer, I took in his aged face. His leathery skin was creased and discolored; his head, a mat of salt-and-peppered hairs. He was probably in his late fifties, physically that is. It was almost impossible to tell how old some of the General’s men really were. I wrinkled my nose; he smelt of bad BO and cigarettes. I kept one eye on the black dagger gripped firmly in his right hand. He knew how to use it, he just wouldn’t get the chance.
“Roland, I’m shocked to see that you’re still alive,” I sneered. “I was sure Baldric would’ve had you killed by now.”
Baldric or the General, just saying his name made my skin crawl. Years ago, William explained to me how Baldric was the first vampire to ever walk the face of the Earth, created by the Devil himself. Story tells that he used to be a creature of great honor; in fact, he was the great King’s right-hand man and one of the original seven Chosen. Some where along the line Baldric became filled with greed and fell away from God’s graces, seeking a power unimaginable and turning against our kind. William said that he was so hell-bent on taking over the world that he sold his own soul just to attain it. Funny, I didn’t think monsters like us had souls to give. Learned something new every day.
Baldric had spent the last thousand years lurking in the shadows, building his army, waiting for the just right moment to strike. That moment was upon us.
Roland chuckled as he stepped over the soldier’s limp body. “It seems that you’ve come outta hidin’, princess. How long has it been now?” he asked, licking his lips as he took me in.
“Not long enough, bloodsucker,” I spat.
“Oh, come now. You haven’t missed me even a little? You’re gonna hurt my feelin’s, pet. Well, I’ve missed you more than you could possibly imagine. It never ceases to amaze me how much you look like her.” He said the word with such reverence, as if the woman he spoke of was the most treasured creature to ever walk the face of the earth.” Absolutely mouthwaterin’,” he purred.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, suspicious.
Roland studied my face for a minute before throwing his head back and laughing. “You really have no idea what I’m talkin’ about, do you? Well, isn’t this rich? What, is your precious master keeping things from you?”
“Look like who?” I demanded, swallowing my anger. I had to stay focused. Losing focus meant death, and I was sure as hell not about to give Roland, of all vamps, the satisfaction of killing one of the Chosen.
“Never you mind, warrior. All you need to know is that I’ve told the General all about you, and he’s quite excited to meet you, to say the least. I’m sure he’ll be pleased to see that you’re so,” Roland smirked, looking me over with his good eye, “grown up.”
“Careful. That’s how you lost the other one,” I reminded him, admiring the scar that trailed down the left side of his face, disappearing behind a tattered eye patch. I took pride in my work. Consider it a sexual harassment lesson. A little medieval, perhaps, but he learned, right?
“Play nice, kitten,” my patchy foe warned as he retreated back a step. He flashed a tight smile, running his finger along the dagger’s dull edge. Roland walked a full circle around me, stalking his prey. He couldn’t fool me. I saw the fear in his eye, the beads of sweat rolling off his forehead. He wasn’t just scared, oh no, he was terrified, and rightfully so.
As much as he wanted me to think he was a threat, we both knew it was a far cry from the truth. It wasn’t even a question of if I could kill him. I could, and with very little effort. I’d already played out in my head each way it could be done. Roland knew it, too, maintaining five feet of distance between us at all times. As if that were enough. Still, I had the smallest amount of respect for him, showing up to a fight he knew he’d never win.
“You forget that I know what’s goin’ on in that head of yours,” he said matter-of-factly. “I couldn’t imagine, havin’ so little control of your own body. It must be quite overwhelmin’. I can’t deny that I’m jealous of your kind. You’re the ultimate predator, a natural born killer, constantly searchin’ for the kill. You’re two steps ahead of everyone else. Hell, you probably already know how this little conversation is gonna end.”
“Not well for you,” I hissed.
I hated to admit it, but it was true. Roland knew all about our kind; after all, his leader was one of us. He probably knew more about me than I knew about myself. It made me sick.
The way I saw it, we were nothing more than killers. Of course, we weren’t nearly as bad as Baldric and his bloodthirsty followers. We’d been called a number of different things over the years, but God’s warriors, or the Chosen, seemed to be what most people referred to us as. That is, those who even knew of our existence. There were some that even referred to us as the seven archangels, sent to protect Earth from the evils of darkness. I didn’t feel very angelic.
We were faster and stronger than any mere human, with heightened senses like no other creature, not even the vamps. We were created to be the ultimate killers, and that we were. The only thing stronger than us was the General.
And one thing I knew for certain, he needed to die.
“How many have you killed now in the name of the ‘Lord’? A hundred? Two hundred? A thousand? Do you lie in bed at night and wonder if you’re on the right side? Or have you already become the same cold, emotionless murderer your ancestors were?” Roland chuckled, aware that he’d hit a nerve. I glowered over my shoulder as he paced behind me.
“It might be too late for them but there’s still time to redeem yourself, warrior. The General wants to work together to create a new world. He’s offerin’ his hand to you, to make you one of his own. He gives his word that you’ll be kept safe in the dark times to come. This is a great honor, pet. With the future king at your side, you’ll be invincible. The General has gone some time without a queen; a crown would suit you.” He flashed me a dark smile.
“Never,” I snarled.
I watched as he struggled to hide his frustration. “You’re lucky I’ve got specific orders not to kill you,” Roland spat.
“Ha. As if you could.”
“You stupid girl!” Roland roared, waving the tip of his dagger in my direction. “Let me make this very clear. The General is a powerful man and he gets exactly what he wants. If he wants you, he will have you. One way or another. And I’m gonna to bring you to him.”
“It’s nice to see that Baldric has put your skills to good use. He always did need a dog to do his dirty work.” I paused, watching the anger wash over him. “Go fetch, boy.”
Blinded with rage, Roland growled and lunged toward me, fangs extended.
Fear. What did it feel like? I’d already forgotten.
The weight of his body hurled me into the brick wall behind me. Blood trickled down my throat as the tip of his dagger pierced the surface of my skin. Roland’s eye bulged as I shoved my blade further into his chest. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” I breathed.
I ripped the sword from his body and he doubled over, collapsing to his knees and gasping for air. I raised my sword for the kill.
“Leave him,” a voice commanded from the shadows. William. I’d know that voice anywhere.
“He’s still alive,” I hissed, pressing the edge of my blade firmly against Roland’s throat. William knew as well as I did that the vamps could heal. Of course, they couldn’t heal nearly as fast as we could, but they could heal nonetheless. There was only one sure way to kill one: decapitation. My fingers tightened around the sword’s hilt.
“I said leave him,” William repeated. “The damage is done. He is no longer a threat to us. Now, get out of here before reinforcements arrive.”
Whether I agreed or not, didn’t matter. William would accept nothing short of complete obedience. I grabbed a fistful of hair and pulled Roland’s face to mine. “You tell your king that I’m coming for him. I will kill him.” I dropped him back to the asphalt, sheathing my sword before shoving it back into the empty guitar case.
Wiping the blood from my hands, I fled the dark parking garage without looking back. It already smelt like death, something I’d grown accustomed to.
The early afternoon light slapped my face as I stepped out of the alley. I shielded my eyes with a pair of dark sunglasses and scanned the sidewalk. It was less crowded than usual. Apparently fear had driven half of the over populated city of Santa Cruz to hide away in their homes, staring at the TV like mindless zombies, waiting for more bad news. Even on the streets I could see the fear in people’s eyes. The paranoia was spreading. It seemed like everyone was afraid to die. Funny, I had quite the opposite fear.
The Department of Homeland Security had put the United States on high alert for a couple of weeks; threat level red – severe risk of terrorist attack. Flights were grounded, beaches and major landmarks were closed; most schools had even canceled class. Uncle Sam told us to go about our daily business, ensuring us that there was no need to panic. Yeah, because a soldier at every street corner really eased the nerves.
The truth was, we were on the verge of global catastrophe and no one even knew it. Each new day was one step closer to the apocalypse. All of the modern luxuries of our world would cease to exist. For those unlucky enough to survive, life would never be the same.
I headed down the sidewalk with my head down. I needed to get back to the apartment before someone spotted me.
Too late.
Cindy bounced up and down on the other side of the street, frantically waving her arms over her head to get my attention. It was working. She managed to get everyone’s attention – including the soldiers’. She darted across the busy street without looking, ignoring the honking horns and obscene gestures.
I tried to look as normal as possible. What did “normal” look like again? It was getting harder to pretend. I gave my friendliest smile as she approached, waving casually. It was probably best if she didn’t know I’d just killed a man. Cindy had always been a little melodramatic.
“Hey, girl! What are you doing here?” she asked nosily. “And, like, when did you start playing the guitar?”
“Oh, um, for a while now,” I lied.
“Zoë, can I be honest with you?”
“Here we go again,” I mumbled. “If I say no, can we end this conversation before it begins?”
“You look like hell,” she continued, ignoring me entirely. She tugged on my long brown hair, frowning.
“Thanks,” I breathed. I sure as hell felt like it.
Cindy was one of the few friends I had left. She had attached herself to me a few years back and, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to shake her off. Aside from a couple of mutual friends, we had nothing in common. Not to mention that I was no longer “human.” That kind of put us on different playing fields.
“Did you even take a shower this morning?” Cindy pressed the issue further. She tucked an auburn lock behind her ear, drawing attention to her perfectly painted face.
“I woke up late,” I said through clenched teeth.
“Well, at least you’re finally taking my advice on color. That sweater, like, really makes your eyes pop,” she said matter-of-factly. “Girls would kill to have eyes like yours. Now, if only you’d stop wearing those God-awful sunglasses all the time, people would actually have a chance to see them.”
I wish I could’ve taken that as a compliment. My eyes, with their blue-teal color, had drawn in unwanted attention throughout my entire life. It only got worse after my “transformation”. Our eyes were much brighter than human eyes. I couldn’t be seen without sunglasses or contacts to mask the intense color. They made me too unique. Unique was bad. I needed to blend in, look “normal.”
“Speaking of sweaters, you realize it’s, like, ninety-eight degrees out, right?”
“Yep,” I mumbled. She was on a roll.
It wasn’t like it was my favorite sweater; it was just the easiest way to cover my skin. I’d been branded with the mark of the Chosen. The ancient black symbols covered nearly my entire body, trailing up my back and over my shoulders, around my sides and down my arms and legs. I had no idea what any of them mean. Not even William knew. Perhaps it was a language long forgotten, or one that never existed on this Earth to begin with. Either way, I’d always thought they were sort of beautiful. But, it didn’t really matter what I thought, I had to keep them hidden. One look at them and the General’s men would know exactly what I was.
It was Baldric’s personal mission to hunt down and kill all of the existing warriors, all of them except for me. Roland had made that perfectly clear. What the General wanted with me, I didn’t know, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I already had enough to deal with, what with the end of the world and all. I didn’t have time to think about what sick plans that monster had for me. As for exterminating the others – less competition, I supposed. William said that the General had been around for so long, he could sense who our successors would be. Once the rest of us were out of the way, he’d find our replacements and train them as his own. There’d be no one left powerful enough to stop him and the world would be his.
“Oh,” she added, “and I expect those jeans to be in my hands by tomorrow. I want to wear them for a hot date I’ve got this weekend.”
“Why? You know they won’t fit,” I snapped. Cindy, standing four inches shorter than me, was curved in all the places that I wasn’t. I regretted my words the second I saw the pained look in her eyes. She’d always been a little sensitive about her weight.
“I’m sorry,” I sighed. “I didn’t get much sleep.” I didn’t get any sleep. I never did, not any more. If I wasn’t out pretending to be afraid and “normal” like everyone else, I was fighting a war that no one knew about.
“Anyway,” she said bitterly. “Have you heard from Josh lately?”
“Yeah, he called me a couple days ago. He’s trying to find a weekend to drive up from L.A.”
Some days, hearing from Josh was the only thing that kept me going. He was one of two people I still spoke to that were part of my old life, before the “accident.” He reminded me what it was like to be human, if only for a moment.
Her devious grin returned. “Think he’ll ask me out this time?”
“I don’t know,” I mocked. “Has Hell frozen over?”
“Ha. Ha. Someone thinks she’s funny.” Cindy grumbled.
I had dried blood under my fingernails and the smell of Roland’s BO permanently burned into my nose, not to mention I was melting in that stupid sweatshirt. I was in no mood to see Cindy drooling over my best friend. I started racking my brain for something to say to change the subject before she could take it any further when I spotted a young soldier standing guard across the street at the entrance of a small military tent. I did a double take; he looked exactly like the soldier I’d killed in the alley – what was his name? After a while, I guess they all looked alike. He was nervous, inexperienced and obviously human, unlike Roland. I counted the beads of sweat dripping from his forehead. His hands fondled the machine gun unsteadily, like he was scared to touch it. His eyes darted back and forth and I wondered if he’d been informed of my whereabouts.
He was right to be afraid; he’d be an easy kill. He’d stagger forward, fumbling to position his gun in the right direction. There’d be a natural pause before he pulled the trigger where he’d wrestle with his conscience over taking another human life. That’s when I’d strike – straight for the throat, quick and painless. He’d be dead before he even knew what hit him.
I hated that – being able to see it as if were actually happening. Innocent, guilty – it didn’t matter. My mind discriminated against no one. Sometimes it would play out over and over again in my head, going over each possible scenario, anticipating each move and telling me how to respond. It always ended the same, though. Someone died. It was like some sort of six sense for our kind, one that we couldn’t shut off. It was all about survival. We had to be one step ahead, constantly searching for the kill.
William assured me that, with time, I’d get used to it, that I’d learn to control it. But, after six years, that wasn’t the case. I knew exactly how to kill half the people walking around me on the street – including Cindy. There was something disturbing about knowing how easy it would be to kill one of your best friends. And William tried to tell me that we weren’t monsters. Right.
The soldier looked up at Cindy and gave a quick nod. His eyes lingered on me for a moment too long. He knew.
“Isn’t he, like, totally hot?” Cindy batted her fake eyelashes at the man, flashing a girlish grin. “I gave him the time of his life last night. He looked like he needed to lighten up.”
“Don’t you have any shame?” I said, disgusted.
“Don’t you? Gees, Zo, it sounds like you need to lighten up. A little shame would do you good. Don’t act so innocent with m– Hey! Watch where you’re going, lady!” she shouted as a middle-aged woman shoved past us.
The woman ignored Cindy’s outburst, talking a mile a minute into her cell phone. “What? What are you saying? I can barely hear you, slow down.” She paused for a moment before sinking to the sidewalk. “No! It’s not true! Not my baby!” the woman wailed.
“What? Are you sure? Everyone? But – well try calling him again,” cried another voice. The street came alive around us, each call bringing more unsettling news.
“Zoë, what’s going on?” Cindy looked to me, as if I should have all the answers. I did, but that was beside the point.
“I’m not sure,” I lied.
Of course, that wasn’t true. I knew exactly what was happening. William had been preparing me for the past six years for just this. First China, then Europe, and now the United States. It was the end of civilization as we once knew it. Soon, nothing would be left.
“We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news.”
A series of TVs in an electronic store window caught our attention. Cindy and I, along with anyone else in earshot, inched closer to the smudged glass. The televisions were all tuned in to the same news station. The female reporter was trembling, mascara running down her cheeks. I could hear the camera crew in the background telling her to stay calm. Her voice was unsteady as she read from the teleprompter.
“It is with great sadness that we bring you the following. Just moments ago, a tsunami struck the east coast. States stretching from Maine to Florida have been reported to be completely under water. The wave was the second largest recorded in history, topping out at just over one thousand feet. A tsunami of this magnitude has not been seen since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and is expected to greatly exceed the number of casualties. U.S. military troops have been deployed for search and rescue. So far, there are no signs of survivors. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. Please, stay tuned for a message from the President of the United States.”
Cindy sniffled, wiping a stray tear from her cheek. “All those people. It’s so sad.”
It would have been nice to cry, to mourn for my own country, but my reaction was quite different. Rage consumed me as I watched aerial shots of the aftermath flicker across the screens. So much death, so much destruction. I clenched my fists until my fingernails broke skin.
I warned William of the tsunami over a week ago. I saw it happen, just as I’d foreseen many of the other events that had taken place across the globe as of late. He told me there was nothing we could do about it. “Some things are beyond even our control,” he said. I found it hard to believe that there was absolutely nothing we could’ve done to stop it, to save even a fraction of those people. I couldn’t help but feel slightly responsible for their deaths. Their faces would haunt me forever and, as William said, forever was a long time.
In the blink of an eye, white noise took over the broadcast, the buzz of static scratching at my ears. And then, nothing. An unsettling silence lingered in the air. No one seemed to notice, no one except me.
“I think we need to get out of here, Cindy”
No response.
“Cindy, I’m serious, we need to go. Now.” I grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her away from the crowd.
“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Let go of me!”
I spun around, shocked to find a stranger in my clutches. “Oh, I–”
“Freak.” She pulled away from me and stormed off down the sidewalk. Fitting coming from a woman with a purple Mohawk.
I turned to face the electronics store that was no longer there; wide screen televisions replaced by manikins in bikinis and swim trunks. Disoriented, I stepped toward the street, the hot sun beating down on me through a thick layer of endless smog. Tall buildings, crowded streets and busy people. Los Angeles.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said to myself. “Not again. Not here.”
It was another vision. That was the only explanation for it. I should have been used to them after six years, but I wasn’t. There was nothing normal about seeing into the future, not that I thought I was even remotely “normal.”
I scanned the many faces as they passed by me, hoping I wouldn’t see Josh’s among them. You didn’t want to be in my visions. Usually the people I saw ended up dead. That seemed to be a pattern in my life.
Vibrations licked the soles of my feet, pulsating through my calves and up my thighs. I swallowed hard.
All at once, the Earth shook violently, snapping the street like a twig. Chunks of asphalt sailed through the air, plowing through buildings and cars. The concrete beneath me lifted, knocking me off my feet. Before I could find my footing, a shop window behind me exploded, shards of glass burrowing deep into my skin. I crawled for the nearest car, pressing my back against its dented side. The driver was dead; I could smell his blood. Maybe it was mine.
It was like watching a scene from a movie, played out in slow motion. There was no running, no escaping. The Earth swallowed anything and everything in its path. It screamed like a freight train in my ears. One by one, buildings toppled over like dominoes. And, within seconds, the once glorious-city was nothing more than a pile of rubble.
“Look out!” someone screamed, but I was already looking over my shoulder, watching the building as it barreled toward me. That was it. It was over. I braced for impact.


  1. You are one *ell of a writer. You know that? That's some awesome good on a popsicle stick. ;)

  2. This girl is going to be famous one day; very talented! Up and coming author for sure! Highly recommended read! Hey Jen, I'm proud of you. You're doing what you love :)