A Taste of Blood – Chapter 5

A Taste of Blood

For what seemed like forever, Anna waited inside Oileus for Kelly to finish her shift. And as the last few inebriated customers left, she wondered if she had enough energy remaining to keep up with the ever-bubbly Kelly that night.

Standing outside the front of the bar, Anna waited while Kelly disappeared around the side. Soon the familiar pop-pop of the viper starting up resonated around the buildings, and sent a shiver down Anna’s spine. The noise, however, was soon drowned out by the thunderous throbbing sound of a much, much larger machine.

As Joel pulled up in front of her, Anna grinned. “You again,” she whispered.

He wore faded jeans, heavy biker boots and a white T-shirt, and his loose blond hair fell lazily about his shoulders. Without getting off the bike, he simply smiled. This time, Anna needed no further persuasion. Her whole being felt drawn to him, and she had no intention of fighting it.

Clasping her arm around his, she hauled herself up and straddled the bike behind him, pressing her body firmly against his. The bike was quick to take off, and all Anna heard, when she looked back, was a distant and somewhat annoyed, “Hey!” coming from Kelly.

As the bike drove on into the darkness, Anna asked, “Where are we going?” But just as expected, got no reply. With her arms wrapped tightly around him, she wanted to absorb his warmth, and let it seep into her body, but he felt cool—surprisingly so. It didn’t stop her though. She pulled herself in close and rested her head on his upper back, feeling his strength as his muscles rippled beneath his clothing. The ride took them along the main road, beneath towering rock-faces, and adjacent to luscious olive groves. But in the darkness, all colour was gone, and the whole world took on a monotone hue. The flimsy chiffon fabric on Anna’s top billowed with the breeze and her shorts left her legs exposed. Joel dwarfed her petite frame and she felt small. But it was a feeling she was growing to love.

The ride was long, but not long enough for Anna’s liking. Soon they were, once again slowing down and Anna realised they were back at the same beach they visited the previous evening. It seemed that they had gone full circle, and Joel had taken her on nothing more than a heavenly joyride. He pulled up on the sand, and shut off the engine. But it was clear that he had no intention of letting Anna off just yet. He turned to her, and with his back to the handlebars, pulled Anna into him. With cool hands, he brushed over her arms and clasped her hands, guiding them back around his body. He then cupped her face and homed in on her mouth with his.

Joel’s kisses were like nothing Anna had ever experienced before, or believed she would again. The strength—the passion and the intensity stole her consciousness and her whole body craved so much more. There was a wildness about him, an untamed wanting that he didn’t seem to be in full control of. For a moment she wondered if she could be the one to tame him. But in all honesty, she liked him just the way he was.

The sound of people, not too far away, was a distraction she was trying to avoid. But it was Kelly’s contagious laughter that wouldn’t be ignored.

As she broke Joel’s embrace, the taste of blood lingered on her lips. She eased herself off the bike and reached for his hand. “Come on,” she beckoned, and led him across the sand.

Once again, Kelly was in the company of Bonita and several others Anna didn’t recognise.

Kelly called out, “Hey, what happened to you?” The sly grin on her face told Anna that she knew very well what’d happened, and Anna didn’t feel the need to respond. Letting her bashful expression do the talking, she kept on walking towards her new friend.

“I love it when we all come here.” Kelly announced.

“All?”

“Oh, yeah. You’ve gotta meet my friends. This is Jon, Andy, Fenny and Chris. Oh…and this is Joshua. At the mention of his name, Joshua turned to face them and Anna froze. He was the absolute spitting image of Joel. She swallowed hard, it felt like all of her Christmas’s had come at once. Kelly laughed hard and her eyebrow shifted upwards, “I didn’t tell you. Joel is one of a pair. That’s right, Joshua is his twin.”

Identical twins? Anna’s dream flashed into her mind as her eyes flitted between Joel and Joshua. Wow. There really are two of you. “So you all hang out together all the time?” Her question was directed at Kelly.

“Pretty much.”

“You really are so lucky. You have to go a very long way these days to get a group of friends like this. My friends abandoned me yesterday, to go clubbing in Hersonnisos. They just left me at the side of the road. I’d never do that to anyone.”

“Ahem?” Kelly teased.

“Hmm, well, okay, but that was different. Anyway, I can’t believe I’ve got to get on a plane with them tomorrow.”

“You don’t have to go, you know. There are other ways.” Kelly whispered before bouncing to her feet and taking off across the sand.

With thick fingers, Joel traced up and down Anna’s arm—his touch sending shockwaves through her system. As his arm crept around her shoulder, he leaned in and met her lips with his. Oh my God. With each kiss, his need seemed to intensify. Unable to break from his embrace, she sank into him, absorbing everything about him. As his mouth moved along the line of her jaw, she whispered, “Tell me more about these ‘other ways’.”

But Joel said nothing. Instead, he stood and pulled Anna up beside him. His eyes glistened, reflecting the night sky and all its embellishments.

Towering over her, with the ocean breeze playing his hair, Joel laced his fingers with hers and escorted Anna away from the fire. In the distance, where the sea caressed the shoreline, Kelly was dancing with her friends in the shallow surf.

Joel placed one hand on each of Anna’s shoulders. This time, his mouth didn’t seek hers. This time, he homed in on the side of her neck, and his teeth nipped and teased her warm skin.

“Mmm, so you wanna play?” Anna teased.

Joel’s affections became insatiable. Low growling noises emanated from deep within him, and Anna’s heart pounded with wanting. The sultry sounds of the night were muffled by the noise of her pulse racing in her ears. A slight stinging sensation caused her to flinch, but not enough to want to stop him. Letting out a long sigh, she said, “This is crazy. Or is it me who’s crazy. Look at you…I should be scared of you…but for some reason, I’m not.”

Joel simply laughed.

Curious about Kelly’s words she asked, “Is there another way? I mean—Kelly—what did she mean by that?”

With a nod, Joel grinned and looked at Marshall. For a moment, he just stared at him, and then, Marshall approached. “Anna?” he asked. His voice was deep and his accent soothing.

“Yes.”

“Hello, Anna, my name is Marshall.”

“Yes…I know.” Marshall…the name suited him. Although polite, this man seemed dominant and far more serious than his friend. Dressed in bike leathers and a crisp white shirt, his black hair fell across his face, partially concealing his features. He, too, was tall and far bigger built than any other man she knew.

“It seems my brother is quite taken with you.”

Brother? She found it a little hard to believe that these two were related, with their distinctly different colouring. “Taken with me?” she replied, fighting the burning sensation in her cheeks.

“Yes, and apparently Kelly has suggested you could stay out here in Crete?”

“She did…but…”

“Is that something you would consider?” His inquisitive tone was soft and gracious. Hardly fitting to the man conveying it.

“I guess…maybe…I mean…I don’t know. I’ve only just met you. How do I know I can…trust you?”

“You can trust us. We are peaceful and ask no more than loyalty and respect. In return, we can give you family and a sense of belonging.”

“Family? Are you in some kind of a gang?” she blurted.

Marshall laughed. “No…I don’t think we’ve ever referred to ourselves as that before.”

“Then what are you?” She wanted to understand.

Through the fire she caught Bonita staring back at her. Thankfully she no longer appeared to be threatened by Anna—well, why would she be? It was fairly clear Anna’s intentions were towards Joel. Beaming from ear to ear, Kelly came bounding over. “Well… are you going to stay with us, Anna?”

Ignoring the interruption Marshall continued, “We are simply a family, not one born of flesh…but of blood.”

“I don’t…” Anna shook her head in confusion.

“Don’t you get it?” Kelly interjected, seemingly unable to contain her excitement. “Marshall, Joel and Joshua—they are immortals—they are vampires!”

“Vampires?”

“Yeah—how cool is that?”

“Ha! You are kidding me…tell me this is a joke?”

Kelly’s expression didn’t change. “No, it’s not a joke. Don’t worry though. They won’t hurt you. This isn’t the dark ages you know, vampires can control themselves—if they want to.” Like a child her grin was enduring and her eyes sparkled with excitement.

Anna couldn’t quite grasp her ability to accept the situation. “This is crazy.” Although she was thinking allowed, Marshall responded.

“Crazy—perhaps, but like I said Joel is very taken with you. He wants to know if you would like to stay here—on this island, and spend more time with us—with him.”

Vampires? “I—I would but…it’s not that simple. I’d need to find work—and a place to stay.” Vampires…

Snaking both arms around her waist, Joel pulled her into him. His hold was firm but gentle and once again, Anna melted.

“Don’t worry—we can organise those things for you. But please, Joel would like an answer. He is young and can be very impatient sometimes.”

Joel lifted Anna’s hand and brought it to his lips—the chivalrous gesture conflicting with his rugged appearance. Oh my God—oh my God—oh my God…

Directing her conversation to Joel, Anna said, “But I only met you yesterday. How can you know you want this so soon?”

Silence was Joel’s only response.

Anna pushed, “Please, will you say something…I’m really struggling here?”

“It’s no good,” Kelly interjected. He doesn’t speak. Neither of the twins do.

“Then how do you know this is what he wants?”

“Oh believe me—he’s let it be known,” she replied.

A Taste of Blood – Chapter 4

A Taste of Blood

The slamming of the apartment door, and subsequent drunken giggling tore Anna from her dream. “What the hell?” Groaning, she forced open her eyes.

“Shhh…shhhhh.” Then more giggling constituted the response.

As Anna’s bleary eyes slowly focused, the sight of her friends wasn’t a welcome one.

“Hey, Anna,” slurred Sarah, as she stumbled into the side of Anna’s bed. “Did you have a good night?”

Lisa was already locking herself in the bathroom—and the subsequent sounds of dry-heaving—and not so dry-heaving, told its own story.

“You are kidding…right?”

“What? Aww you’re not mad with us are you? We did try to get hold of the rental guy but…well…my mobile was completely out of juice.”

“Then why didn’t you go back into town and get someone? You left me there, all by myself.”

Sarah laughed. Her mousy hair looked lank after a night of heavy partying, and what was left of her makeup, seemed to have drifted southwards. “What…you’re all right. I knew you would be. I have complete faith in you. You’re very…resourceful.”

“For God’s sake, Sarah, anything could’ve happened.”

“But it didn’t.” Her raised voice conveyed her annoyance. “Christ, Anna won’t you just relax. Nothing happened. You’re okay, we’re okay, now go back to sleep.

It was clear that arguing with a drunk wasn’t going to be productive, and Anna didn’t have the energy to continue. “Fine. But this isn’t over.”

* * *

The following morning, Anna bypassed her comatose companions, trying hard not to wake them. After a refreshing shower, she grabbed her book and headed out to the sun-terrace for some much craved solitude. The late spring sunshine beat down on her tender skin, and the air was filled with the sweet scents of wisteria and jasmine. An hour was all she asked, but thankfully was blessed with more than two before the forlorn pair emerged from the darkness of the apartment, like two bears emerging from hibernation. Sarah hid her red-rimmed eyes behind a pair of dark glasses, and, as ever, Lisa followed suit.

“Morning, hun.” Sarah’s usually high-pitched voice was course and gravely.

Anna didn’t respond. Picking up her glass of fresh orange, she slurped and then noisily turned the page of her book.

“Shame you didn’t come with us last night. We had a real blast. Lisa had her face stuck to this God-awful guy most of the night. It was hilarious.”

Still Anna didn’t respond. I can see why Joel prefers silence, she thought.

“Not still pissed are you? … Jeeze.”

Slamming her book on the table, Anna got up. “Go to hell, Sarah. I’ve had it with you two. You’ve gone too far this time. I’m not your doormat. I should never have agreed to come on this holiday. I know you only needed me to share the cost of the apartment. You never wanted me here—God, I’m such an idiot.”

Laughing, Sarah muttered something to Lisa. And although Anna couldn’t be sure, it sounded a lot like; “You’re not wrong.”

* * *

Heading down the Beach Road, with her book in hand, Anna watched the workers hosing down pavements and laying out tables in anticipation of the lunchtime rush. A pretty ice-cream parlour caught her eye and seemed like the perfect place to unwind. Wicker furniture and brightly coloured floral hanging baskets created a cheery atmosphere that she hoped might rub off. Calling to her from the menu was an enormous strawberry sundae that she was unable to resist, and without hesitation, she ordered.

As she tucked into her ice cream, and flicked through the pages of her novel, it was Kelly’s bubbly voice that interrupted her this time.

“Hey you…what are you doing here?”

“Oh hi, Kelly. I’m err…just reading. I couldn’t stay at my apartment. I’ve had it with those two.”

“Mind if I join you?”

“No, not at all.” Anna handed her a spoon, grateful for someone to share the gargantuan dessert with.

“Great, thanks. I usually hang out at Oileus at lunch time, but they’ll only get me working, so this is way better.”

“You’re so lucky, you know,” Anna stated.

“Why?”

“You get to live out here, in this heat and sunshine.”

“Yeah, it can be pretty nice, I guess.”

“And you get to hang out with…”

“With Joel?” Kelly’s cherry pink lipstick glistened in the sun.

“Well, yeah, that too.”

“You know…you could stay here. There are plenty of jobs, and I have a few contacts who might be able to help. In fact, the guy who owns Oileus, Demitris, also owns loads of other bars and restaurants around here. I could have a word.”

“I don’t know. I have a job back home.”

“And is it a great job?”

“Well, no, but…”

“Think about it. What have you got to lose? And you wouldn’t be alone out here. You have us…if you want us.”

“Huh, you’ve no idea how tempting that sounds.” Anna took a huge spoonful of ice-cream while taking in some of the sights the busy street had to offer.

Kelly continued, “Anyway, our little gathering was cut short last night. Joel and Marshall had to help out back in town. They promised they’d come back tonight…if you’re interested.”

A Taste of Blood – Chapter 3

A Taste of Blood

Gesturing for Anna to stay seated, Joel got up and headed over to the others. Kelly was quick to take his place.

“Well…?” she asked.

“Well what?”

“What do you think of Joel?”

“You are kidding, aren’t you?”

“No. I’m guessing he’s pretty into you—so what about you?”

Really? He’s into me? Stifling her enthusiasm, Anna responded, “Yeah—I reckon I could get pretty into him, too.”

Once again, her eyes sought Joel. He was standing with the tall, dark haired man. Although they didn’t appear to be talking, they seemed to be engaged in some kind of silent contemplation. Looking awkward and superfluous, the Hispanic woman began walking towards Anna and Kelly.

“You must be Anna.” Her Spanish accent was melodic and carried on the breeze.

“That’s right. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”

“My name is Bonita.”

“Nice to meet you, Bonita.”

Staring Anna up and down, she replied simply, “Mmm.” Bonita’s hair was like molten chocolate, and her skin, flawless. Dressed in a dark brown strapless dress, her figure was to die for and Anna clawed back the feeling of inferiority.

“And what brings you to our little beach tonight…Anna?”

“Oh…err, Kelly invited me. I met Joel today, and Kelly thought I might like to come here to see him again.”

“Is that right.” Her eyes narrowed and her lips hesitated. “You’re lucky you know.”

“Lucky?”

“Yes. You chose the right one.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, I’m sorry you don’t know do you.” A sly smile shaped her features.

“Bonita!” Kelly scolded.

Anna pushed, “What don’t I know?”

“I’m sorry, it’s not for me to say,” taunted Bonita.

Frustration, laced with fear, gnawed at her. “Kelly…what is she talking about?”

“I’m sorry too, Anna. Bonita shouldn’t have said anything. But she is right—it’s not for us to say.”

“Should I be worried?”

“No…not at all. Look, relax, Joel’s coming back.”

It was difficult not to be reassured by Kelly. She seemed to have such a gentle nature. Bonita, on the other hand, she couldn’t quite fathom.

From behind, Joel wrapped his strong arms around Anna and rested his head on her shoulder. At the same time the dark haired man summoned Kelly and Bonita over to him. Although Anna couldn’t hear what was being said, something told her their evening by the fire was coming to an abrupt end—and she was right. Joel spun her around, and kissed her with just as much passion as the first time. And with her head still spinning, he left her on the sand.

Gathering herself together Anna turned back to Kelly and Bonita. “Who’s that other man?” she asked, pointing to the man with long dark hair.

“His name is Marshall. But he is of no concern to you, mi amor,” purred Bonita.

Acknowledging Anna’s discomfort Kelly put her arm around her. “Oh don’t mind her, she’s can be a bit possessive sometimes.”

As Anna watched, Joel and Marshall made their way across the sand towards a pair of huge motorbikes, and were quick to disappear from sight. Clutching her shoes in one hand and the skirt of her long dress in the other, Bonita, too, headed off across the sand. Kelly reached out and clasped Anna’s shoulder. “Sorry, sweetie, they had to go.”

“Oh,” she responded. “Will they be back?”

“Not tonight. Come on, I’ll take you back into town.”

* * *

Anna closed the door to her hotel room and rested her back against it. Wow, was all she could think. Wow...

Laying in her bed, with the no-vacancy sign periodically flashing streams of unwelcome blue light into her room she closed her eyes. Sleep was quick to claim her, but as it did, her dreams didn’t feel like her own.

Anna found herself standing alone, beneath a tree, but she wasn’t really alone. There were people all around her, but not with her. The feeling was odd—lonely even. She stared up into the silvery branches set against the jet-black sky. Fairy-lights and coloured lanterns illuminated bare branches, in place of leaves that clearly no-longer grew there.

Her attention diverted to the image of Joel, standing by what appeared to be a bar with other people she almost recognised. The atmosphere was quiet—tranquil, and Joel looked up. She smiled but his gaze appeared to be looking straight through her. Anna turned to see what it was that had caught his attention, and was stunned to see his very same image walking in through open gates towards her.

A Taste of Blood…

…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.

atasteofblood

Prologue
Zeus Xenias

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.”

“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…

For more information on my other novels, see pages located at the right of the screen.

Descending to Hell

It’s so cold and I can hardly see. It feels like it’s beginning to rain, so I wrap my arms tightly around my shivering body. How did I get here? I was asleep – dreaming of some wonderful  place, but now I am conscious – oh, too conscious and I’m wishing I were still in my bed.

My God, where am I? It’s dark, too dark to gauge anything. It seems stony but they are too big to be stones, rocks or boulders, perhaps. A glimmer in the darkness tells me that I am standing along side a lake. The moon is hidden behind a blanket of cloud, I can see it’s hazy silhouette travelling quickly beyond the greyness. When it breaks through the cloud maybe I will discern my surroundings. Until then I will wait here and just try to stay calm.

My eyes are beginning to adjust to the darkness and the cold is getting through. My skin is wet and goose bumps have completely taken over. I’m shaking, is it through cold or fear? I’m not certain maybe both – probably both. At last the moon is breaking the clouds. I need to take everything in quickly before I am once again shrouded in darkness. My surroundings seem monotone. I appear to be in some kind of quarry with a line of people in front of me. There could be five or six of us it’s hard to tell. I can’t make out their features. Even when they glance round at me I cannot discern any detail – they are merely silhouettes. We seem to be standing at the mouth of a cavern, a black hole in the rock face. I don’t know why or what we can possibly be waiting for?

Through my bare feet, I feel a rumbling. It’s getting stronger and louder. The noise is coming from the cave. Everyone is pulling forward. I try to break free but I can’t. I am in this queue whether I like it or not.

Something is emerging from the mouth of the cave. It’s silvery, metallic and shiny and it’s coming fast – now it’s slowing. It’s a … it looks like the car from a roller coaster. I can see it clearly now. It’s pewter and chrome with small black wheels. If I lean, can see the tracks, they end a few meters outside the cavern. The car has drawn to a halt. The queue pulls forward and although my actions are involuntary – I too, step forward.

Someone is getting in the car, a featureless figure. To the outside, it looks like he is going voluntarily but I am beginning to think differently. The bars have clamped him in. I hear his muffled cries as the car draws back inside the cave, and is gone.

I sense someone behind me. As I glance round, I see what I think is a man, I cannot be certain. He is another featureless silhouette and seems to be glancing around frantically as he tries to discern these strange surroundings. I cannot speak, but even if I could, there is nothing I can tell him.

It’s quiet apart from the faint sound of water drawing backwards and forwards over the lake’s gravel base. Once again, I try to pull away but cannot. The familiar rumbling is beginning to resonate beneath my feet. I hear it coming … I know at any moment the car will reappear. There it is, but it is empty and the bar, once again, raised. I crane my head to see. Something is being secreted from the wheels, something thick and dark, shining like treacle in the moonlight.

My pulse quickens as the next in line takes to the seat of the car. The bar comes down imprisoning him. The queue moves forward and the car disappears. I am getting closer. I feel heat coming from the mouth of the cave. Behind me, more and more people are joining the queue. Faceless shadows of the people they thought they were.

The empty car returns and the queue moves forward. The heat is intensifying the closer I get. The clouds have re-formed and once again we are in darkness. The empty car returns and the queue move forward. I can see the tracks more clearly now. They are covered in the blood and entrails of the car’s previous occupants. Panic is rising inside of me. I feel like I’m going to explode. The empty car returns and the queue move forward. Before me lies the mouth of the tunnel. Burning heat is radiating from the entrance. Sweat is pouring off me as I stare into the void. The empty car returns and the queue – I move forward.

I feel myself climbing into the hot metal car. I cannot help it – I cannot stop. The bar clamps me in so tightly I can’t move. The car begins to move. The heat is unbearable, I take one last look behind me, and the queue is moving forward.

Copyright J Lawrence 2012

The West Pier …

A young man walked out through the huge revolving door.  He was suited in navy with a shirt so brilliant white, it was clearly it’s first official outing. A royal-blue tie hung limply around his neck and was instantly caught by the wind, throwing it over his right shoulder where it stayed.

His stare was fixed upon a woman across the street leaning against rusty, white railings. Although she was facing the ocean, her stance told of her disheartenment. He made his way over to her, barely checking the dark road for traffic.

It was a dry evening and a cruel wind masked the sound of the solemn ocean.  The man stood for a moment accompanying the woman in her silence. He followed the line of her gaze far out to sea.  Dark grey waves buffeted violently against Brighton’s deserted West Pier.

“I thought I might find you out here.”

“Well done, Sean,” she returned flatly.

He rubbed her arm in an attempt to comfort her. Her thin suit jacket wasn’t keeping the wind out and goose bumps manifested on her slender wrist.

“Don’t be like that, Kate. Look, I know things didn’t go too well in there.  They’re a bunch of idiots. Just because you’re a woman they feel the need to put you down. They’re a bunch of egotistical pigs.”

“You’re telling me!”

“I know it’s hard but you can’t let it get to you.” He pulled a pack of cigarettes out his jacket pocket and offered her one.

“Easier said than done.”

She placed the cigarette between her lips and took a deep drag, relishing the feeling of smoke in her lungs.

“It’s a man’s world, Sean. I suppose the sooner I except that the better.” Her bottom lip quivered at the memory of her humiliation at the conference just moments earlier.  She’d been leered at and taunted by her peers as she nervously tried to give a professional presentation in front of the board of directors.

This was her first conference. She’d been so pleased to be promoted from Marketing Executive to Marketing Manager in such a short space of time, and for such a prestigious company too.  But things had been harder than she’d anticipated.  Not the work; that was her forte.  It was dealing with the chauvinist pigs on the board that had been so difficult.  Sean was different.  He’d only been with the company a little while and had been a breath of fresh air for Kate.

She found him attractive and could tell that the attraction was mutual, but she’d promised herself to keep it all above board.  After all, she was a ‘professional’.

“Look, I know what you’re doing and I think you’re really sweet – I mean that, but I can’t go out with you.  You’re head of Sales and I’m head of Marketing, it would be impossible.” Her words didn’t betray her true temptation at the situation.

“No it wouldn’t.  I think you underestimate how persistent salesmen can be.” His lip hinted towards a smile and tried to lead hers to do the same. His hair was being battered by the strong wind and he turned from the ocean to gain a little relief from its relentlessness.

Kate’s gaze fell upon the West Pier. “So pretty,” she said. “I love Victorian Architecture, it’s such a shame it’s been left like that.”

“What, the pier?  Yeah, I guess it is a shame. It’s been like that for the past nine years.  They dismantled part of it back in ‘75, health and safety I suppose.  They’re going to re-build it though, work is supposed to start later this year. If you like piers I could take you over to the Palace Pier, there are a couple of bars on it, it could be romantic.” His eyes widened and his brow lifted.

Kate tutted and shook her head. “No thanks Sean.  Give it a rest, you’re no better than that lot in there.”

He sighed. “I’m not being crass, Kate.  Look I know you think all men are arses right now, how can I show you I’m different?”

“I don’t know. Try giving me something to work with.”

“Okay … give me a moment.” He drew a breath. “ Alright, I’ll tell you about my last girlfriend.  The one I try not to talk about.  Well, her name was Steph. We’d been living together for three years and out of the blue she walked out on me.” He dropped his gaze and his voice softened. “She completely broke my heart. And it’s actually taken me eighteen months to pluck up the courage to ask anyone else out, and now I’m asking you.”

Kate could see his cheeks flush slightly. She realised he had always avoided the subject, and she hadn’t known him date anyone else.

Her resolve started to dilute a little. “I’m sorry. I suppose I never thought of you as the ‘nursing a broken heart’ type.  You’ve made me feel cruel now.”

“Good, but I don’t need your pity, I just wanted you to know that I’m genuine that’s all.”

Kate smiled.  She looked into Sean’s eyes and could see he was being honest.  After one last drag on her cigarette she dropped the butt to the floor and crushed it into the pavement with her stiletto. “Let me sleep on it.  We’ve still got another day of this damn conference.  If I can get through that I will let you take me out for a drink tomorrow night.  Deal?”

“Deal.” He grinned.

“So, why are there so many security guards in the hotel lobby this evening? After all this is a telecommunications conference, it hardly warrants that kind of attention.”

“No, it’s not for us.  There’s some big political thing going on here tomorrow.  The Conservative party are sharing conference facilities with the likes of us.  Just think you could be sleeping in the room next door to the Prime Minister tonight. How’s that for important?  Just remember Kate, she’s a woman too and she’s also surrounded by male chauvinists.  So there’s hope for you yet.”

Kate laughed.  “Okay, tomorrow then. I promise.” They turned and made their way back into the warmth and shelter of The Grand Hotel, Brighton.

The Storm

Walking along the white frothy shoreline, the breeze played her ebony hair like the languid branches of a weeping willow. As the storm clouds began to threaten, she turned towards the ocean. Raw, icy water lapped over her toes, numbing her bare skin. The air was heavily laced with salt, its caustic flavour filling her nose and mouth with each inward breath. The sun was almost completely hidden now, snared behind dense, steely clouds. Her eyes were drawn to her left hand, to the solid gold band occupying her fourth finger. The ring had resided there for ten long years. Its once bright, honey cast, dulled tawny by time. Slowly she eased it off, caressing the mark left behind. She drew it to her lips, where the warm metal rested for a brief moment before she kissed it and tossed it far out into the sombre waters.

“Goodbye, my love.” Her words were lost on the harsh ocean wind. Taking a few steps back, she sat down on the cool grey sand, filtering its rough grains through her fingers. The first drops of rain began to fall with a soft thudding, as the perfect round droplets burst open on the soft ground. Silently she sat staring at the waves as they abraded the rugged, Irish coastline. The rain came harder now, the sporadic thudding turned to the rolling of a snare drum. For an instant, the clouds lit up in a sea of brilliant white, outlining their erratic forms. Electricity pulsed through the atmosphere skimming her skin and causing the tiny hairs to stand up. She wrapped her arms protectively around her body, her wet clothes clung to her and goose-bumps were beginning to form. Standing up, she took one last look out at the desolate seascape.

“Rest easy, my Jonathan. Though the ocean has claimed you, I shall see you again. Some day, when my time comes I will join you, and while your soul burns in my heart, we shall remain together.” She pictured her husband, a tall rugged man, wiry black hair shot through with silver flecks and his skin toughened by a harsh life at sea.

A deep rumbling resonated around her, drawing her back to the present. Turning around she smiled at the faces that awaited her, two young children had been holding back whilst their mother said her final goodbyes to her husband, their father lost to the depths during the last storm of this nature.

Copyright J Lawrence 2011