…A Taste of Blood…
Prequel to the Véradó series.
Anna is meant to be with Joel, it’s written in the stars and written in the tides.
But Joel is a vampire.
The motorbikes drew up outside the huge, oak gates. Simultaneously, their engines were shut off, shocking the dark, dusty road into silence.
Displayed above the gates, a large wooden sign with the words ‘Zeus Xenias’ burnt into it, welcomed the vampires home. As they dismounted their bikes, they were greeted by a small group of people who’d gathered outside, eagerly awaiting their return.
Blood and dirt covered their shirts, and with satisfaction displayed on their faces, they made their way inside. Their evening’s work was done. Order had once again been restored to the chaotic town they’d adopted as their home and for the moment, their ongoing debt to the island had been repaid. Now it was time for recompense. They thirsted and their waiting disciples were keen to be the ones to sustain them.
Once inside the ancient courtyard, they continued up to the weathered-oak bar. Strings of lights shimmered on the breeze and the air held the subtle fragrance of the ocean.
The bartender, sporting a pink mohawk and various tattoos, glanced up as they took their places. With a warm smile, he poured their preferred bourbon into the waiting glasses, before returning to his duties.
From the far side of the courtyard, a Hispanic woman walked gracefully towards them. With each step, her black, silk dress caressed every inch of her body. Her dark hair was scooped into a sleek bun, leaving her slender neck exposed and vulnerable. Homing in on her target, the woman’s lips curved into a subtle smile and her undiluted accent chimed in his ears. “Marshall, my darling…I’ve missed you.”
Sliding his hands down her arms, Marshall pulled her closely towards him. With the warmth of her skin threatening to melt his hardened exterior, he inhaled deeply, but it wasn’t her floral perfume that enticed him—it was the metallic scent of her blood that swept through his mind.
Leaning down, he whispered, “Bonita,” and brushing the hollow of her neck with his cool, hungry lips, continued, “I’ve missed you, too.”
Chapter One—Burnished skies…
“We’ll be back soon—okay, hun?” And then a distant, “Don’t worry about her, she’ll be fine.” They were the last words Anna heard before the cloud of dust and fumes from her companions’ motor-scooters completely engulfed her.
‘Companions’—she liked that word. It put to rest the idea that Sarah and Lisa were ever really her friends. Friends wouldn’t do that—they wouldn’t leave you at the side of the road, in a foreign country, with nothing but a broken down bike and a fiver in your pocket.
Choking the dust out of her lungs, and to the trill of crickets, Anna grasped the red-hot handlebars and proceeded to push the broken down scooter towards the grass verge where it came to an abrupt halt. Wow—it didn’t seem this heavy when the Goddamn thing worked.
Dry heat penetrated her back as she pushed the machine along the road, her sweaty hands losing their grip on the hot plastic.
They’ll be back…they wouldn’t really leave me here…would they?
It was nearing the end of their two-week holiday on the Greek island of Crete. The trio had been on their way to Hersonissos, where the party of all parties was apparently awaiting them—according to their holiday rep, that is. Although, Anna couldn’t help questioning what that really meant. The posters hadn’t given her much to get excited about. Over the previous fortnight, she’d about had her fill of cage dancers and half naked foam fights. As much as she liked clubbing, she preferred nightclubs with a certain degree of class.
With the breeze rustling through overhead olive branches, she turned, kicked the stand and wedged the bike upright against the curb. Crossing the road, she headed towards the ocean wall and the stunning views it promised to convey.
Dressed in a denim skirt, a red vest-top and matching ballet pumps, there was no hiding against the rustic backdrop. A glance at her watch told her it was 6:58pm but to Anna it already felt much later.
Perched on the wall, with her back to the road, she waited, watching the sun poised above the ocean. Slowly the vast orange ball moved visibly closer to the water, burnishing the sea with fire.
As the crickets grew louder, another quick glance at her watch revealed she’d been alone for over an hour. Her throat was dry and a hard swallow only seemed to make it worse. Trying to repress her anxiety, a mental tot-up assured her that her friends should have been back by now. Surely, by now, a trashy blue tow-truck with the words ‘Bob’s bikes’ or something just as shoddy should have been pulling up in front of her—and perhaps a mean looking mechanic would get out and try to pin the blame of the breakdown on her. Bastard!
As the sun touched down upon the ocean’s sparkling surface, she imagined she could hear the hissing of fire meeting water, and the cloud of steam it would create rushing towards her with the speed of a hurricane.
The far-off drone of an engine broke her daydream and caused her to turn. In the distance a white speck was moving along the road towards her, but it didn’t resemble a tow truck, and the harsh choice quickly entered her head. Have continued faith in my ‘flaky as hell’ friends or flag down an axe-wielding homicidal maniac? Hmm, choices.
Either way, by now, she was certain someone would die. Shutting her eyes tightly, she imagined strangling her friends as they lay in their beds that night—ooh the satisfaction, and then smiled in the knowledge that she’d never hurt a fly—and never could.
The white Ford passed her by without ceremony and the road returned to cricket infiltrated silence. Turning back to the ocean, darkness crept along the shoreline and began to threaten.
‘Leave the bike,’ for Gods sake, why didn’t I think of that before? Stop being so damn loyal. If they can’t supply a scooter that works, why should I stay out here babysitting that hunk of rubbish? How far did I come anyway…four…maybe five miles. I can walk that.
Leaving the moped parked by the side of the road, she took a deep breath and prepared to embark upon the long, arduous walk through the darkness towards the town of Malia—the little town that had been their home for the past two weeks.
The moonless night left only the reflections of the ocean to guide her route as she continued along the elevated main road. Cars were sporadic, and each time one passed, her heartbeat hitched. As she walked, darkness consumed her and her eyes couldn’t focus anymore. She closed them, and then opened them again—no difference.
It was a yellow taxicab that finally bothered to stop. Although it overshot her by several hundred yards, the sound of reverse gear engaging brought hope to Anna’s heart. The cab peeled back along the street, screaming like a banshee through the darkness. A hot/cold sensation of relief tinged with trepidation stilted Anna’s breathing. As the cab drew to a halt, the driver was already winding his window down. A green magic tree masked the smell of cigarette smoke belching through the open window.
“Need a ride?” His Cretan accent was strong, and his unshaven face leery.
“Err, yeah, I guess…actually, you know what—I’m fine.”
“Really? You’re at least eight miles from anywhere, here. I can take you wherever you want to go.”
“Am I? Is it really that far?”
“It really is. Please, get in the back and I will take you home.”
Reaching into her pocket, her hand clutched the scrunched up five Euro note, hoping it would be housing a load of change, but alas, it wasn’t. “I haven’t got much money.”
“How much do you have?”
“Five is okay.”
Forcing herself to relax, she reached for the door handle, but as she did so, the thunderous roar of an enormous motorbike stopped her in her tracks.
As the bike’s engine chugged and heaved in the silent night air, the taxicab sped off leaving Anna and her empty hand reaching into space.
Soon, no more than twin red lights—staring back at her like the hounds of hell were all that remained of the taxi.
Reluctantly, she turned to see who—or what had frightened the driver away so hastily. And there, sitting astride the most enormous black and chrome motorbike, was a huge figure of a man, his wild, blond hair dancing on the breeze. Dressed in heavy biker leathers, he simply stared at her, with eyes as deep as the ocean.
Anna’s heartbeat thundered as she dragged the hesitant air into her lungs. Goose bumps crept from her toes, up her legs, and broke out over her entire body. She could almost feel each one pop through her skin and graze the cool night air.
‘Run,’ is what her head was screaming, but her legs refused to move. Each breath rasped in and out of her trembling body at a rate she couldn’t regulate. She tried to speak, but nothing coherent came out. “Wha…?”
The frozen figure remained on his bike, watching her, like an eagle eyeing its prey.
Finally she spat out the words. “What do you want?” Shaking her head, her eyes stung and she blinked repeatedly in an attempt to relieve them.
Still the man said nothing, but as she continued to stare, she noticed his features soften and a smile play onto his face. The wind whipped at his hair and his pale skin gleamed in the darkness. Wrapping her arms around her body, Anna stole a deep breath and composed herself. Tearing her gaze from him, she turned to walk away, hoping she was still capable of such a basic skill.
The speed in which she was scooped up onto the back of the bike, was so swift, her brain didn’t have time to register. She had no choice but to cling to the bulk of a man controlling the bike as they sped down the road at what felt like a hundred miles-per-hour. Panic didn’t have a chance to fight with the surprising acceptance of her situation and the relief it brought her. Shielding her face behind his back, her arms had his chest locked in a vice tight hold.
With the power of the wind forcing her eyes closed, she clung on tightly, letting all of her other senses discern her surroundings. Their speed left the deafening noise of the engine behind them, and the sounds of the night were allowed to filter in. The crickets, the ocean, the wind in the trees, nothing was missing. “Why aren’t I afraid of you?” she asked, but nothing came by way of a response.
A potent mix of leather and bike oil filled her nostrils along with the unfamiliar scent of the man she held. Breathing him in, she let her hands explore their prize. With her eyes still tightly closed his face already seemed engrained on her mind. His frame was solid, and muscular. “You’re not…you’re not a cage dancer, are you?”
She thought she heard him laugh, but no further reply was given.
The speed of the bike slowed, and she blinked her eyes open. Familiar lights of Malia town crept into view and they were soon upon them. The Beach Road was bustling, and despondency caught hold. “We’re here already…so soon?”
Towards the bottom of the road, the bike pulled up to a bar where a pink neon sign boldly read ‘Oileus’. Smoothly, the bike drew to a halt, and the man got off. He placed both hands gently around Anna’s waist and lifted her high into the air, and before her feet touched the ground, he kissed her like his life depended on it.
Once again, Anna couldn’t breathe. Moths coursed around her insides, their delicate wings fluttered in her stomach, brushing and tickling every nerve ending.
Finally, her feet touched the ground, but as she opened her eyes the bike was already disappearing out of sight. A hard, sharp, gasp of air rushed into her lungs, just in time before her brain was completely starved of oxygen.
Copyright Jennifer Lawrence 2013
To be continued…
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