Thursday, July 13, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The Tinder Chronicles

Once upon a time, I decided to write a series of novellas centered around a vampire hunter. His name was Tinder (in case you're wondering, this was years before the dating app), and he was snarky and damaged and I adored him. But my writing career ended up pulling me in another direction, so my plans for an ongoing series ended after three novellas. They're published in one volume, The Tinder Chronicles.

Below is a little peek at Tinder and Bane, the vampire he really didn't want to fall for. As you'll see, their relationship is...complicated. In this scene, Tinder and fellow vampire hunter Lee have tracked a group of vampires to a warehouse near the Port of Long Beach in Southern California. Oh, and just a heads-up: like most vampire books, it's a little gory. But I think that's part of the fun. ;)

A big, burly vamp was coming down the stairs toward me, who I recognized as one of the fab five from Shoreline Village. I shot at him with my crossbow, but he managed to dodge the arrow. Damn it! He lunged for me, and again my agility worked to my advantage. I avoided his grasp and he stumbled down a few steps before righting himself. That gave me a chance to reload my crossbow. I didn’t miss the second time.

The other four were closing fast, and I sprinted up the stairs. On the top floor, I continued my mad dash. When the corridor ran out, I ducked into a big, drab office and slammed and locked the door behind me, a split second before one of the vamps reached me. It was a metal fire door and fairly solid, but I knew it wouldn’t keep a bunch of vamps out forever. I shoved the big desk across the room and up against the door, then leaned against it, gasping for breath, my heart pounding like it was trying to bust out of my chest. Shouts could be heard out in the hall. It sounded like the vamps who'd been chasing me were calling for even more reinforcements. Awesome.

I looked around the room. Besides the desk, all it contained was an office chair and a big metal file cabinet about five feet wide and six feet high. There were no windows, only a single skylight in the center of the fifteen foot ceiling. Yeah okay, I could make that work.

The file cabinet was a bit problematic, because it weighed a ton and I couldn’t budge it. I folded the top door of the cabinet up and back and swore vividly as I began grabbing armloads of files and flinging them out of the cabinet. As I worked on emptying it out so it was light enough to drag under the skylight, I wondered what had happened to Lee. There’d been no sign of him since I entered the building.

It took for-fucking-ever to empty the cabinet. Meanwhile, it sounded like the vamps out in the hall had located an ax and were trying to chop their way through the door. I rolled my eyes at that. If they’d been smart enough to hack through the wall instead of the metal door, they’d be in here already.

Even with all the paper out of it, the steel cabinet was still crazy heavy. Lucky me to find the one file cabinet in the universe built to survive a nuclear blast. I crouched down, grasped it by the edges and threw my weight into it. The cabinet slid about half an inch. I tugged on it again and again, painfully making my way to the center of the room and completely wearing myself out in the process. That sucked, because as soon as I got myself out of this room, I was going to have to run right back into the ground floor and get those civilians to safety.

The chances of living through this were not looking good.

When I very nearly had the cabinet in position, the skylight shattered. I held up the edge of my jacket and hid under it as glass rained down on me. A light thud alerted me that someone had just jumped through the skylight and landed beside me. I lurched to my feet and grabbed a stake from inside my jacket as I whirled around, but was immediately grabbed, transported across the room and slammed up against the wall with my wrists pinned to either side of my head.

I looked up into pale green eyes and a permanent smirk. “Which just goes to prove,” I said, my voice a low growl, “that no matter how bad a situation is, it can always get worse.”

“Hello, Tinder. You’re looking well.”

“Hi Bane. Hey, do me a favor. Let go of my right wrist for a second, so I can jam this stake through your heart.”

Bane was the most aptly named vampire ever, because he was, in fact, the bane of my existence. I’d gone up against him several times over the years. It somehow always ended with him getting away, despite my best efforts to reduce him to something I could suck up with a Dustbuster.

And now he had me pinned to a wall, his big, powerful body pressed against mine to keep me immobile. This was seriously not good. I threw everything I had into trying to break free. Failing that, I tried to head-butt him. He pulled back, just out of range, then changed his hold on me, grasping both wrists with one hand and holding them to the wall above my head while wrapping his other hand around my neck. It fucking pissed me off that he was so much stronger than I was.

“I don’t suppose if I asked nicely,” he said, “you’d be a love and stay in this room for the next half hour.” His English accent made his odd request sound downright civilized.

I knit my brows. “I think that’s about as likely as you jamming this stake through your heart yourself, just because I said pretty please.” I still grasped the big wooden spike in my right hand.

He sighed and said, “It’s such a bother that you can’t be compelled. Makes everything just that much more difficult.” He pushed down the cuff of my jacket with a fingertip, revealing the beginning of the incantation that was tattooed on both arms. My body was a canvas of spells and symbols, all of which provided me with various protections. Several, including the one he somehow knew to look for, made me immune to compelling.

“I live to annoy.”

He grinned at that. And then he said randomly, his voice low and seductive, “You smell like sex. That’s quite often the case, is it not? And yet, you never smell like the same bloke twice. You really should have more respect for yourself, Tinder.”

“Eat me.”

His grin erupted into a full-blown smile. This was slightly unnerving, because Bane was in the minority of vampires that had elected not to file their fangs down. Blending in with the general population was apparently of no interest to him. “Thanks for the oh-so-tempting offer, love, but I haven’t the time, I’m afraid.” In a lightning fast move, he grabbed the stake from my hand and drove it through my right shoulder. I cried out as pain shot through my body. “Rain check,” he said with a wink.

He stepped back from me. I started to collapse but was held up by the stake, which had passed all the way through me and embedded in the wall. “Son of a bitch,” I muttered through clenched teeth.

Bane scaled the file cabinet using the empty drawers as a ladder. He jumped up effortlessly and hung from the frame of the busted out skylight, then kicked the file cabinet over. I hissed, “God damn it!"

He hung by one hand and pointed at me. “Stay.” He said it like he was talking to a dog. Then he used both hands to easily pull himself up and out of the skylight.

I threw every swear word I knew at him as I grasped the end of the stake with my left hand and tried to pull it out of my shoulder. It wouldn’t budge. Just then, the ax finally broke through the metal door. I took hold of the stake again and tugged frantically. My chances of escape where nonexistent since that asshole had knocked the file cabinet over, and no way did I have the strength to pull it upright again. But when the vamps finally busted through that door, I wasn’t going down without a fight. I’d probably be able to take at least a couple of them out before they killed me.

Since the stake was embedded too deeply in the wall to remove it, I knew what I had to do. I gritted my teeth and lunged forward. The stake was a lot thicker at the handle end and the pain was so intense as it tore through my shoulder that I almost blacked out. I dropped to my knees, panting and shaking, but for only a few moments. Soon I pushed myself up and staggered across the room to my crossbow. I pointed the weapon at the door as I sat down, leaning against the upended file cabinet, and waited for the vamps to finish breaking through.

 Only, they never did. Some kind of commotion in the hall interrupted them, with the blade of the ax embedded in the door so deeply that I could see a few inches of it on this side. For several minutes, some kind of battle raged. I thought at first that it might be Lee, but that would have been over quickly, given how many vamps were out there.

Eventually, all fell silent. I gave it an extra minute, then pushed to my feet, holding my right arm against my stomach to try to stabilize my shoulder. I leaned back against the desk and used my legs to shove it out of the way, then paused and listened at the door. Nothing. When I flipped the lock and peered into the hallway, the only thing out there was six piles of clothing. What the fuck?