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Testi

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Crescendo

Crescendo

Book excerpt

Chapter 1 - En garde

The man with shoulder-length, dark blond hair and edgy smile sat motionless in in the shadows, in a wooden bar chair, waiting. No one had really noticed him, but then he had made sure that they would not. Wearing a black suit and silk shirt, his white silk tie almost glowed. Leif Sufferden realized he was a tad over dressed for the rough-neck bar in Batavia where several fist fights broke out on a nightly bases, stabbings were not unheard of, and the police had had the place shut down for various violations in the past. Why, only in the past week someone had been stabbed to death, right here. There had been shootings, too, of course. But, tonight, “Side Winders” happened to be open, and its customers couldn't be happier, unless they were high on something other than liquor and weed.

A smile crimped Leif's lips while he watched the blond woman strut in from the street on four-inch heals into the dank bar. They were blue to match her eyes, not that anyone would notice this little detail, but he did. Their eyes met. He slid his eyes in the direction of the pool table closest to him. She gave him a small nod. Her smile broadened to reveal white teeth. Her fangs hadn't come out as yet. She always did have great control. It was one of the things Leif admired about Darla. Her control. That, and her zeal for violence.

All male eyes in the room were zeroed in on Darla like a heat seeking missile. Who could blame them? Wearing a halter top and the shortest possible micro-mini, her heavily made-up eyes darted across the faces of four men who were playing pool. Conversation around the pool table had come to a halt. She had suddenly become the one and only highlight in their uneventful evening. She boldly eyed them right back. They noted she was by herself. A lone woman who walks into a bar—especially one of this ilk—was just asking for trouble. On top of it, she looked like a hooker. No matter what, it looked like their luck had changed quickly as she twitched her way toward them, her movements more pronounced. Looking hungry, her eyes became more cat-like as she licked her lips, like she might take a big hunk out of one of them.

She stepped around their stilled bulks, wiggled her small ass with exaggeration, smiling and making eye contact with each one as she strutted by, sliding the fingers of one hand across the bumper of the table. Pausing next to the biggest one, she looked him up and down. He had the usual biker tats—a lot of skulls and spiders—and a skull logo displayed on his clothing. His hang-over beer gut gave the impression he did more drinking than anything else. An ugly scar down the left cheek that interrupted the two-week old beard sprouting around his chin and jawline told the story of a guy who had seen a bar fight up close and personal.

“Hullo,” she purred, then licked her rubied lips. “How's the game?”

“Oh, fine,” the large man said. The others pumped their heads, chiming in agreeing noises. “In fact, I think it just got better.” He and the others rumbled with knowing chuckles.

“Mind if I join you?” she asked, her hand sliding up his sausage sized fingers.

“Not at all,” the large one said, motioning toward the table. “Here, you can use my cue stick.” He held it out to her, showing his more gentlemanly side, a wide grin to sell it.

“Thank you.” She took the cue stick from him, holding his gaze for a long ten seconds. She fingered the tip with a red lacquered nail and returned his gaze. “I know just what to do with it, too.”

The men all chuckled as though they were in on the joke.

She propped her ass onto the bumper portion of the pool table, and settled the larger end of the cue stick between her parted legs. The men leered and chuckled at her act.

“Hey! No sitting on the pool table!” the owner cried from the back of the bar.

“Aw, shut the fuck up, Hank. We're just havin' us a little fun here!” shouted the large man. He looked down at the blonde, almost expectantly.

She wiggled a finger in the universal “come closer” signal. He did.

“What's your name?” she asked.

“Stan,” he said. “Stan Baker.”

“Hello, Stan Baker,” she said. “Let's get to know one another.” Putting the cue stick down, she spread her legs further apart.

“Okay, pretty little girl,” he said, moving in front of her, but not yet touching her, while the others looked on, making groaning noises, wishing they were in his spot.

“You want me, don't you, Stan?” she asked.

Stan let out a bark of laughter. “Does a bear shit in the woods?” The men laughed. By now those around the other two pool tables, and some men at the bar had turned around to watch the scene.

“Come here, then. Kiss me,” she said, leaning forward. She puckered up her red lips.

“Alright.” The other men made sounds of encouragement as their large companion placed his hips between her knees. His large hands went around her small waist as he nudged himself between her thighs. Her skirt hiked up so far, he wondered if she had a thong on—or nothing at all. Either way, he was going to score tonight. Her legs wrapped around his large girth while her hands went up his chest. Her fingers twined behind his neck. She didn't flinch from his bad breath, or his over-powering body odor, but allowed him to bring her in for a kiss. His buddies made noises again, nudging one another.

No one noticed the man in the suit, Leif, had risen from his chair in the far corner. Arms folded, he watched with passive interest while the man pressed Darla back onto the pool table. The kiss lasted for more than twenty seconds. He did wonder when Darla would make her move. She liked playing with her food.

Three vampires stepped into the bar, and scanned the room until their eyes met Leif's. He nodded at them, and slid his gaze to where Darla was in a romantic tryst with the large man. The only female in the group cast her light brown eyes to the biker and Darla, then back to Leif. Her name was Kadu Litore, a Jamaican-American. Leif thought she had been one of his better turns. She definitely enjoyed the hunt, now that they were free to hunt humans. She smiled brilliantly, and already her fangs were out. She licked her lush lips in anticipation. Her slightly dusky chocolate skin looked as though it were oiled. Her bare arms and legs didn't agree with the cold weather outside. One would think it was a ninety degree day, but it was only in the twenties with a bitter north wind. That alone should have tipped anyone off what was going on here. But it didn't. Every human was either into the game on the telly, their drink, or looking at the scene at the pool table, unaware that they had been invaded by vampires.

Leif watched Kadu, the only other female vampire, approach the bar. The other two, males, waited for a signal from Leif. Licking their lips as they sized up the rest of the crowd. Their eyes had slid to the bar where the only human women sat drinking.

Four more vampires strode in. They each acknowledged Leif with a slight bow. His hand out, Leif gestured for them to mingle with the crowd in the bar, and choose their warm meals. A crowded bar was something like a smörgåsbord for a vampire. A human's warm blood scent on the air made them lick their lips in anticipation.

Smiling, Leif turned back to check the progress of Darla with the large biker. Suddenly, the biker jerked back from her. Hand going to his face the biker said, “You bit me?” He looked at his hand. There was blood on his face where he'd smeared it.

She chuckled and nodded.

The men around them jeered.

“Oh, so you like it rough, do you?” he said more gruffly.

“Yes. And you had better like it, too,” she said with a little playful snarl, her delicate nose crinkling.

“Oh, I do, darlin'. I do,” he said. His hand went back as if to strike her. It swung down toward her face. In a lightning move, Darla caught his large fist and held it. His eyes became big with surprise that the petite blond could hold him off so easily. Startled, the other men around them shifted, exchanging looks with one another. No one was laughing now.

In a lightning move, she grabbed his hair and yanked his face toward her, smashing his lips against hers. The biker braced himself against the table with both massive hands, but relaxed into it. His sounds of delight suddenly turned to screams, which he couldn't really get out because their lips were clamped together. Dark blood rivered from their locked lips while Darla held the biker's mouth against hers, both hands behind his head, with a grip like a python's. His hands clawed and grasped her hair and pulled, doing everything to disentangle himself from her. He lifted his and her body off the table, trying to free himself, trying to get the scream past their locked lips. She didn't budge, she didn't give an inch.

Leif felt his smile widen and a chuckle bubble up. “Kitten,” he said quietly, but knew she would hear him. “Let the poor bloke go.”

The three companions moved in, about to intervene. Seeing this, Leif shot across the room so fast, he seemed to disappear and reappeared in front of the three with a cue stick braced across his hands pushing them back.

“Tut-tut, gentlemen. The lady is busy at the moment. You can wait your turn,” Leif said with a British accent and cocky smile creasing his handsome face.

The man with long greasy hair, lunged toward him. Leif threw a punch to his face, knocking him back where he fell to the floor. He didn't move again.

“Like I said, wait your turn,” Leif said, with more warning in his voice. He held the other two men in his thrall. They now had no desire to move or do anything. Over his shoulder he said, “C'mon, Darla, luv. We need to party. Let the poor bloke go.”

His muzzle freed, the biker's screams filled the room. People turned to see what the commotion was all about. Suddenly the blonde woman, Darla, pushed the man away with a force that sent him blundering back, arms cartwheeling. Blood bubbling out of his mouth, he bounced off the wall, and fell to the floor, sobbing and uttering incoherently as though he had no tongue.

The woman sat up, and spat a large red piece of meat out of her bloody mouth. She licked her lips, then took a finger and wiped around her mouth to swipe at the blood. She stuck her finger into her mouth and sucked the blood from it. Flopping onto her side on the pool table, she looked down at the biker and said, “What's the matter? Vampire got your tongue?”

“Everyone,” Leif called out, “feed!”

Kadu turned to the man at the pin ball table, grabbed him by the collar, and yanked him backward. Fangs extended, she sunk them into his neck from behind. His surprised scream became one of submission. His knees buckled, and he sank to the floor where she followed him.

The two male vampires at the bar had already put thralls on the women, and now began to feed.

Leif shoved one of the two men left standing toward Darla. She grabbed him and hauled him down on the pool table, arching his back until his throat was exposed. She buried her fangs in his neck.

Leif growled at the last man nearby, he grabbed his arm and drew it up to his mouth. Fangs sank into warm flesh. Crimson ichor pooled into his open mouth, and only now he realized how hungry he was.

The man's arm was suddenly yanked away from his mouth. Leif jerked back and found himself looking up at a tall Native American wearing jeans and a blue jean shirt with a southwest design embroidered into the yoke.

“I don't think you asked if you could take his blood and I'm pretty sure he would have said no,” the Indian said.

“You? You're—”

“Dead? Try Undead.” Dante grabbed a cue stick from the table and twirled it like a propeller before Leif could make his move.

 

Chapter 2

War

I landed into the bar a few seconds behind Dante, using the ley line. The dank bar and the heavy smell of old smoke and beer caught me by surprise, but I didn't let it slow me down. In one sweep I saw vampires everywhere drinking from their hosts, knowing full well they had been attacked. They had no way to resist the vampire's thrall. My hand went to the snaps of my dagger sheath at my thigh. With a flick I let the Dagger of Delphi loose. Like a silver arrow it darted to the nearest vampire, and plunged into its chest. With an inward gasp, the dark-skinned female vampire fell to the floor, her heart poisoned with silver.

A mere two seconds later, the air twanged with another's presence. I turned my head to find red-headed Quist standing over the female vampire which the dagger had dropped. He lunged with the laser wand he held, and ran it across her long neck. Deadly accurate, it severed the female vampire's head cleanly. Within a few seconds, the body began to fleck with decay. Must have been a new turn. Older vampires took longer to decompose.

Dagger of Delphi flew off to the next vampire—a woman with long black hair, hovering over a man at another pinball machine. But it couldn't get to her chest and hovered, waiting. Shit. I grabbed up a cue ball from a nearby pool table and threw it with keen accuracy, hitting her on the shoulder. She snapped her head my direction and pulled back from her human, letting them sink, and then drop to the floor. Her eyes glowed red, her mouth rimmed with blood.

“Look, honey, that's no way to get a date,” I quipped. She turned fully toward me, her grimace terrifying, the bottom half of her face painted in the gore of her feast. She lunged toward me. She didn't get far. The dagger plunged into her chest. Her body buckled instantly.

Once she was down, Quist moved in and lopped off her head with the laser. I couldn't believe it no longer bothered me to see him do this—to watch a head roll away from the shoulders completely detached. Well, as long as they were vampires, it didn't bother me at all.

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