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The Hunter’s Den

Dead of Midnight Book 1

Book Cover: The Hunter's Den
Part of the Dead of Midnight series:
  • The Hunter's Den
Editions:Kindle
ISBN: 1234

Hollywood by night is soaked in as much blood as it is neon light. The streets and clubs exist as nothing more than hunting grounds for the vampires that reside within.

When the love of her life is ripped away by bloodsuckers, Jules swears an oath of vengeance. Now she is out for answers and some blood of her own.

The vampire hunter books got one thing right: the best defense against a vampire is a crossbow from a distance. But when things get close, this novice hunter and her alluring prey Morgan might have more in common than a lust for blood.

Taking inspiration from urban fantasy like Supernatural and books like Vampire Chronicles, The Hunter’s Den is a paranormal thriller/vampire romance.

Excerpt:

The heart in Jules’ chest needed to slow down. If it didn’t, it was liable to beat its way right out of her chest. Remember to breathe, she told herself. It’s all part of the process. Probably. No way worrying about the side effects could have any kind of positive effect. Maybe if she didn’t focus on it…only it was hard to focus on anything else.

The blood that Jules had drunk only a few seconds ago was hard at work inside of her. She could feel it and see it in her mind with clarity, and every thump of her chest seemed to push the sensation to the far reaches of her body. She knew she had to take control or it was going to take control of her. The first step was to open her eyes, which had forced themselves shut as soon as the blood hit her tongue. Her eyelids listened to her, so that meant the rest of her body would, too.

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The first thing Jules noticed was how the darkness of the street she had chosen now seemed so much less so. It was almost as if the full moon had lowered itself to where she stood. The lights that filtered in from Hollywood Boulevard were brighter, too, and their colors were so much more intense then she remembered them. OK, great, so it was working, and maybe she didn’t need to focus on her pounding heart.

Jules took a wobbly step, and the ground felt like it was going to slip out from under her. She forced one foot in front of the other, and then did it again, and again, and then the ground stopped moving. Now her feet felt good. Really good. She wanted to put them to good use so she started moving faster and faster until she realized she was practically sprinting with just a minimal effort. If anyone was watching her, she would have looked like an insane person who either took too much of her medication or not enough. Maybe that wasn’t too far off. Maybe she should have started with just a drop. There was no going back now.

Get it together, Jules thought. She pulled her compact mirror out of her pocket and examined her eyes. Still green, maybe a little more so than normal, but she didn’t spend too much time staring at her own eyes. The important thing was she didn’t look as different as she felt. She had everything under control, everything was fine, the blood is just doing its thing. No sense in sitting around thinking about it, and no time like the present. She took a few deep breaths and headed for the action.

Familiar crowds walked along both sides of the street. They didn’t look entirely different than on any other night. Sam never said it would make normal people look any different. Come to think of it, he also didn’t explain exactly how vamps would end up standing out to her. Maybe she would just know one when she saw one. The more she watched them, the more she could feel her vision adjusting to their presence. Each person seemed to have a physical aura about them. Jules could see it, and though some of them were slightly different sizes, for the most part they were all the same hazy shade of green. She looked at her own arms to see if she had one, but there was nothing there.

The blood was definitely working. That meant part one of her plan was, too. Now she just needed to find part two. Everywhere Jules looked, there were more green auras. They were becoming more pronounced- whether that meant the blood was becoming stronger or she was just becoming more sensitive to them, she couldn’t be sure. She peeked her head into bars, into shops, and saw nothing but green. No success yet, but at least it was more efficient than the hunt the day before. Besides, something about the blood had put her in an incredible mood.

Something in her gut told her she was headed in the right direction. It was either the blood or it was her intuition. Either way, she did her best to listen to it. It told her to press on, to the west, so she did. At first, she thought it might have been in her head. Eventually, Jules began to sense something different. The white noise of the city- the blaring horns, the chatter, the same DJ set that seemed to emanate from every bar- it all seemed to get a little bit quieter. She could still hear music, but this was different. It wasn’t bass hitting her over the head. This was more subdued, and unrefined, definitely a live band.

Jules moved toward the music and it grew louder, along with the voice inside of her. Her heart picked up the pace again. This time, she knew it wasn’t her body adjusting to the sudden influx of vamp blood. One of them was close. If Jules could feel the vampire’s presence, could the vampire feel hers? Or would she just blend in with all of the other humans in the crowd?

The door of the place was propped open, and that was lucky because it looked to be about two feet thick. Something from another era, another world. Her eyes needed only a moment to adjust from the glow of the outside, and when it did, they were drawn to one man, in the middle of a group and somehow alone.

His eyes were already focused intently on hers. Even at that distance, they stood out from the rest of the room. There was no glowing sign above him that read “vampire.” He had no aura, at least not one that was visible. But she could feel him in her heart. She had never seen a living creature so strikingly beautiful and had to remind herself that he was not living. Jules carried so much anger inside of her. She wanted nothing more than to unleash it on a hideous beast. But no amount of training, no amount of nights spent longing for this moment, could have prepared her for the sight of the beautiful monster that sat across the room from her. If there was evil in his gray eyes, he kept it hidden. Probably a defense mechanism.

Jules stared at him and he stared back, but his gaze was so intense that he seemed to be looking at an object through her. She fought the urge to turn around- she knew there was nothing there. Instead, she found the strength to break from his gaze. She began to glance around the room, acting like she was looking for someone. Yeah, that could work. Maybe if she acted like she was interested in everything but him, she could actually catch him off guard.

Part two of the plan was completed. Or maybe it was still in progress. She wanted to get the vampire out of there, maybe lure him to a back alley. She could play like a weak damsel, then turn the tables when he least expected it…but how was she going to get him out of there? Especially when he was with someone else that she hadn’t noticed before. A blonde in a red dress. She was human, judging by her aura. She was expensive, judging by her shoes, and probably cold judging by the cut of her dress and the temperature in that place. Was that the vamp’s mark for the night? Seemed pretty typical. That girl had no idea what she was in for, probably just picked the boy with the prettiest eyes and the best cheekbones in the room.

Jules watched out of the corner of her eye as the vampire leaned in close to the blonde girl. He whispered something in her ear, and with no change whatsoever, the girl stood from her seat and walked away. She watched Jules as she did so, but the lack of malice or any real emotion was all the more unsettling. Jules shifted her focus back to the threat himself, and he was still staring at her.

Then, he threw her even further off balance. She knew the side of his mouth wasn’t curling into half of a smile. She’d seen that kind of smug look before, but never on a creature of the night, of course. The vampire then lifted his hand with the least amount of effort possible and gestured towards the now open seat next to him.

This time, Jules had to check behind her to make sure she wasn’t staring at someone else. He wasn’t. She had to think quick. They were in a public place, not a battleground. She couldn't just shoot him or she'd cause more than a scene. Best case scenario she gets arrested. Worst case scenario, she gets an innocent person hurt or killed, and then she gets arrested. On the flip side, it's not like the vampire could really do anything to harm her in the bar. He would never risk the attention. This was just all part of the game.

She found her mind going back to Daniel. She must have fallen asleep during the part of the lecture where he went over what to do in the event a vampire wants to buy you a drink. He would have thought this was a terrible idea. Crazy, dangerous, he would have said. Ha! It was probably a good thing she left him behind. Besides, she would be fine as long as she kept the upper hand.

The guitars blared behind her and seemed to push her further forward. Jules listened, and she smoothly walked over to the table. Her courage was sky high, and that only added to the absurdity of the situation. It's crazy what a crossbow and a loaded pair of boots can do to a girl's self-confidence when they're mixed with a vamp blood cocktail. Still, this wasn't how she had pictured the hunt transpiring. For everyone else in the bar, the two of them might as well be on a blind date. That was fine, the fewer people that got involved, the better.

Jules sat down, and the candle on the table gave her a clearer look at her target. The dim light of the flame caused shadows to form under the man's razor-sharp cheekbones. Her heart pounded; some mixture of adrenaline, the fresh blood inside of her and a genuine curiosity to see how this was going to play out.

“I've never seen you in here before,” the vampire said with a voice that sounded as though it was made from warm velvet.

“Yeah, it's my first time,” Jules said, resisting the urge to look into his eyes. She could feel them burning into the side of her head.

“Can I get you something to drink?” he asked. His voice was barely above a whisper, but she could hear it so clearly above the music.

“No, I don't drink,” she lied, mostly. But she wanted to keep a clear head. At least as clear as it could be while it was full of vamp blood.

“Me neither,” he said, “but why, then, do you come to bars in Hollywood?”

“Why do you?” Jules asked. She stared at the band.

“Plenty of reasons. Like the music. I need to keep up on current trends. And, of course, the company.”

“Oh, are you meeting someone here?” she asked, playing dumb.

“I wasn’t planning on it until you walked in,” he hummed. She kept quiet. If she didn’t know any better, she might think she was getting hit on by the most attractive person she’d ever seen. Jules knew better, and this wasn’t a person.

“The name’s Morgan, although I suppose you already know that much. You could at least tell me yours,” he said. Jules cracked and looked at him, finally.

“How would I know that?” she asked, genuinely confused. Who did he think she was?

“You followed me in here, right? How did you find me?” his voice was still calm and cool, almost playful. Clearly, he knew that Jules wasn’t just an innocent bystander. Whether he knew about the crossbow in her jacket remained to be seen. Was this just a game to him?

“Sorry, I don’t recognize you. Are you an actor or something? I’m new in town,” Jules said, maybe laying the line on a little thick.

He actually laughed. “Your voice says you’re telling the truth. The knife in your boots says otherwise.” Her eyes went wide. Guess there was no reason for her to play dumb anymore. Apparently, she needed to work on her disguise for next time- if there was going to be a next time. “I think I can answer my own question. I can smell it on you…which, I’m sorry to say, I don’t care for. I like your natural perfume much better. There’s someone else in there with you, isn’t there?”

“Excuse me,” Jules blurted out, fearing the upper hand was already lost to her.

“I’m just saying,” Morgan continued, “it was clever of you to try it, but don’t you know drinking vampire blood has drastic long term effects on the human body? Besides, if you were really that curious, you could have just asked me, darling.”

“I'm not really the begging type,” she said, “and it's Julian.”

“I knew there was something I loved about you, even from a distance. It's that fire in your eyes. You're showing it much brighter now. And Julian, what a lovely name to match.”

Jules came close to blushing before she remembered who she was dealing with. She'd deflected advances like this before. “Yeah, well my dad really wanted a son.”

“Ha! Fortunately, he did not get his wish. I'm afraid I must ask you a personal question, Jules,” Morgan paused, waiting for her reaction. Normally, Jules would have never let some stranger at the bar start calling her by her nickname- let alone some vamp. It rolled so naturally off of his tongue, though. She couldn't bring herself to be mad, and in fact liked hearing it.

“You can ask it, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna answer it,” she quipped.

“Did you come here to kill me?” he asked without a hint of anger.

“Yeah,” Jules remarked simply. She felt a twinge of regret for something she hadn't even done yet. It must have been manufactured by the vampire, some side effect of the blood or his presence.

“I see. That's what I had gathered, but I just wanted to be sure. Well, should we get on with it then?” he asked.

Jules was thrown for a loop. “Here? In front of all these people?”

“Would you rather we take it outside?”

“Yeah, I would, actually.”

“Very well, after you,” Morgan whispered.

Jules might have been a rookie, but she wasn't stupid. “I'll follow you, Morgan,” she said and found herself liking how his name felt on her lips.

“Very well,” Morgan stood up and walked towards the back of the room. “There's a service exit over here, it shouldn't be too crowded out back.”

Jules followed behind him but stayed out of arm's reach. Daniel had made it clear how fast they could move, but the space made her feel more comfortable nonetheless. The door swung open to a back alley, full of garbage bags and not much else. On one side was a fence coated with barbed wire. A dead end. On the other, at the long end, was the street, escape. If she had to run, she'd never make it.

“Well, here we are,” Morgan raised his hands as though he was presenting the battleground. “Forgive me if I say that I'm a little disappointed at how our first meeting has turned out.” He walked towards the brick wall, and Jules took the opportunity to unholster the crossbow while his back was to her.

“I just thought maybe-”

Jules cut him off mid-sentence by pulling the trigger as he turned around. She hit him, though evidently not where she wanted to because he kept talking.

“Hey, you shot me! Ow!”

The wooden bolt was lodged firmly in the vampire's abdomen, about six inches off the mark. It wasn't her finest shot. Fortunately, it had gone clean through into the wall behind him, rendering Morgan immobile for the time being.

“You're just lucky I missed,” Jules growled as she pulled the knife from her boot and walked towards the vampire. He looked to be mostly disabled by immense pain. Jules guessed wood really did the trick. She'd never truly hurt someone before, at least physically, aside from sparring with Daniel and that one fight she had in elementary school. She had gotten herself this far, though. The pleasure was no longer there. But her resolve still was.

“And here I thought we were getting along so well.”

“Maybe you should just save it.”

“Don't I get one last request?”

“After what you did to me, I don't owe you anything.”

“Could you please at least elaborate for me what I have done to deserve your cruel brand of justice?”

“Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. Unless maybe it was so meaningless you've forgotten. Well, I haven't.” She had practiced the speech in her head so many times in the past. There was always emotion there, mixed in with the memories and the desire for revenge. Now that the moment was here, it was magnified. She wouldn't cry this time.

“Trust me, I would remember meeting someone like you,” Morgan said, his voice wavering slightly, “so I'm afraid you might have me confused with someone else. Although I am a bit jealous he got your full attention.”

“Not me. The love of my life. You took him from me, and for a year I wished you would have just killed me instead. It took me so long to learn that it was you that deserves to die. You, not me. So this is for him.”

Jules’ hand shook as it clutched the knife. She moved closer to Morgan, who didn’t appear to be going anywhere other than the wall.  Could she really go through with it?

“I think you've got me mixed up, darling,” he said. “That’s a terrible story, but I didn’t kill your lover. Couldn’t have been me. I’m only just off the wagon, understand?”

“No…I don’t understand.”

“I know what it’s like to have your life taken away from you,” Morgan whispered, and Jules found herself staring into his gray eyes. “I know that the pain never really leaves, and I know that feeling that’s always lurking beneath the surface, just under the rest of your thoughts.”

Jules didn’t know why, but she believed this man. Perhaps she would have believed anything he said. She also wanted to know more, or maybe she just wanted to continue to hear his velour voice. It was the only thing she felt now. The energy coming off his body was magnetic and it pulled her closer, and his eyes gripped her tightly and kept her there. Somewhere in her mind, a small voice told her to stop, to resist. The rest of her body wouldn’t listen. It screamed with desire, and she was ready to give in.

“Let me be your remedy,” Morgan breathed into her ear, “and you can be mine.”

Morgan came off of the wall and left the arrow planted behind him. He ran his hand across her cheek and through her jet black hair, towards the back of her head. The chill of his touch made her skin tingle all over, and Jules felt his fingers in her hair, pulling her head back. In that moment she was helpless to him. He brought his lips close to hers and they hovered there for a breath or two and in that moment Jules thought if she had to wait any longer she was going to lose her mind. Unless, of course, she already had.

Then, Morgan kissed her. She closed her eyes and let the feeling envelop her. It was her first physical connection with anyone since she had been with Sam. Now, a wave of passion was breaking down a wall within her. It didn’t satisfy her. It only made her want more. Morgan, though, had other plans. He took his lips away from hers and moved them just beneath her ear. He tasted her, and the coolness of his tongue on her skin made Jules shiver lightly.

First, she felt his tongue move lower, then it stopped in the middle of her neck. She gasped gently as his teeth went into her, and the sensation would have made her go limp if Morgan wasn’t holding her. The two of them were locked together, and for a moment Jules felt complete, like her half had finally been made whole. She could feel the blood leaving her, but the pleasure that Morgan left behind was more than enough to make up for it. Besides, the pain was long gone, replaced by nothing but ecstasy and love for this beautiful creature.

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