In my previous post and the one before that, I gave you sneaky little previews of my latest book, Taste Of Blood, my fifth book in the Indigo Skies series and my latest dark fantasy novel, which is to be released on Sunday 15th April.
Preorder it now so you can wake up on Sunday morning to a new book to devour. But if you can’t wait that long, here’s an extra free chapter…
3. Warehouse Forty-Two
The house was silent when I stepped inside, but I gave the rooms a cursory sweep, anyway, leaving Simon waiting by the front door. He raised an eyebrow when I drew near again, describing me as paranoid.
I ignored the comment. Was it paranoia if it was justified? After all, it seemed prudent to check that my anonymous caller hadn’t let himself into my house again. What if he was waiting in my bedroom? I scrubbed that idea, irritatedly.
Not that I was going to enlighten Simon with the situation. He’d only stress, which would simply impede my thoughts. And right now, I needed a clear head.
Simon collapsed onto the sofa, the injuries he’d sustained vanished thanks to the healer at A and E. It was still a novel thing for this twenty-first century time traveller to experience. He’d nigh on chewed the healer’s ear off about the whole incident. It seemed he was more concerned about that than why Lia had come after us and what she wanted with details of his past.
My iCom buzzed in my pocket. An electric thrill shot through me leaving an icy wake. It could be the anonymous caller again. I flicked the phone open for a voice call without much pause for thought.
“I have good news and bad news,” Maloney’s voice rang out.
Disappointment clanged with irritation in my gut. I’d wanted it to be the anonymous dialler. I’d wanted to hear his voice again as much as I wanted to find out who he damn well was and why he was involved. But, most importantly, why he was trying to help me. If he was trying to help me.
“Please tell me you caught the bitch,” I spat without thinking, heat burning in my hand. My temper was soaring. Energy surged to my fingertips, magic tingling there with the threat of combusting anything I touched.
Simon’s concerned gaze switched from my clenching fist to the heated expression on my face. I turned slightly away so that I wouldn’t have to look at him and know that I’d let him down.
“I found the machine,” Maloney answered. “It’s been stored in an evidence warehouse on the east side.”
I tried to remember the storage blocks in that area of the city. It had been so long since I’d had anything to do with them. Were they the ones just for storing or for incinerating? I couldn’t recall. Still, with something like a time machine, it would surely have been put out of commission for good. “Has it been destroyed?”
“No,” he replied, hesitation marking his voice. The pause lasted too long.
He released a sigh. My spine tightened at the sound. “The er… The powers that be rebuilt it.” My blood began to boil, fear squeezing a knot into my middle. “And er… Someone broke into the warehouse they’re keeping it in about forty-five minutes ago–”
“For fuck’s sake!” I snapped. Sparks showered from my fingers. Simon recoiled in his seat on the sofa. His concern was almost palpable. I pretended not to notice, anger burning through me as hot as the flashes emitting from my trembling hand. “I’m heading over there.”
“No, Violet!” Maloney tried to warn. “There’s a team already on their way–”
I clipped the iCom shut and stalked through to my office. Maloney wasn’t going to stop me. If Lia was still over there, I needed to be ready. I flicked through the desk for my gun and extra ammo. The hilt of my knife glimmered beneath my gun holster. I slung the latter on and then pulled the sheath from where it lay.
Was a bullet enough to kill a vampire? It was so long since I’d needed to have that information. Maybe I needed to stake them. Or was that old movie trivia? I bit my lip. It was better not to chance it. I secured the weapon around my ankle, tucking it neatly out of sight.
It would be fun to carve Lia’s heart out of her chest and feel the air begin to pulse with death as it stopped beating.
My hand froze on the office door, the heady desire dissipating. The thought had been fuelled by my loathing for the woman, but it had surprised me. A shaky breath released from my lips. Killing wasn’t something I had ever revelled in. In fact, I detested it. It was death that delighted, clinging to me in euphoria as I rode the waves of nausea and ice wrought from each mortal expiration.
So, what was this? Where had this thought come from?
Did it correspond to the change in my powers?
I pushed the frightening notions aside and drove myself through to the living room.
Simon was still watching me the way you’d watch a three-legged kitten learn how to walk. It was unnerving and unnecessary. I started to tell him he could stay put, it would be safer that way, but he cut across me with surprising vehemence, leaping to his feet.
“No way! I’m coming with you.”
“I have no time to argue,” I snapped.
“So, don’t argue.”
My eyebrow rose, unbidden. I turned, heading towards the door. “I’m not slowing down for you, so make sure you lock the door.”
Simon moved fast, keeping on my heels like a concerned puppy, but that didn’t seem to matter. By the time we’d made it to the warehouse it was crawling with cops. They’d set up a cordon in blue and white tape, cars and officers dotted around the scene like guards. I flashed my private investigator badge, but I was still refused entry, despite the fact that a couple of the officers recognised me from my earlier days in the force. Then it became obvious why I was being denied.
Bakiir, general jerk and detective, stepped out of the open warehouse hangar discussing something with his inferiors. His eyes found mine and narrowed with derision. He strode across the lot towards us. “This is my crime scene, Eonsen. So, get your dirty necro boots turned around. This whole industrial block has been evacuated.”
I grit my teeth, feeling the mage energy rising in my hands again. Melting his face off would be satisfying but it wouldn’t get me where I needed to be. “This has great significance to an investigation that I’m–”
“I don’t care.” He put his hands in his pockets and smirked. My fingers twitched. “You have no jurisdiction and your authority is crushed by mine. You’re not coming in.”
“I’m working with Maloney–”
“I don’t give a rat’s arse who you’re working with. You’re a dirty little necro and I’m not letting you in.”
I started forward, sparks flickering from my blistering fingertips, but Simon grabbed my arm and yanked me back. “He’s not worth it,” he insisted, glancing down at the uncontrollable flicker colouring my fists.
He steered me away from the tape, dragging me as far as a parked police car, before giving me a concerned once over.
“What’s going on, Violet? You don’t seem yourself.”
My fists unclenched, stiffly, and I leaned against the car bonnet, taking in a long, slow breath. “I’m fine. Just anxious about finding Lia before she can do anything else,” I half lied.
He pulled a face like he wasn’t convinced, but he didn’t get the chance to quiz me any further as a police officer pitched up at our side, claiming he’d been asked to remove us by a senior detective. My eyes narrowed on Bakiir over the officer’s shoulder. He was smirking and waving. I quickly lifted my fingers from the cop car’s bonnet, feeling the metal begin to heat beneath the angry energy pooling in my hands, ready for combat.
The officer put his hands against the base of our spines and ushered us out of view of the warehouse. “You know, they’re not here, anyway, Detective Eonsen,” he said, keeping his tones muted.
He smiled softly, continuing to escort us out of Bakiir’s eyeline. “You can go back, if you want, but there’s nothing there, ma’am. Whoever you’re trailing has already gone and they’ve taken whatever they wanted with them.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Simon asked suspiciously.
The man stopped having led us an adequate and shielded distance from the crime scene. His eyes flickered to my face. “I’ve had the pleasure of working a couple of times with you, Detective Eonsen, and your type certainly doesn’t hamper your ability to crack a case. Good luck, ma’am.”
He started to leave, but I called him back. Another ally still on the force could never be a bad thing. “What’s your name?”
“Officer Morell, ma’am. Ian.”
We headed a bit further down the road, slipping into a quieter area between two more hangars, hoping no one would disturb us. Simon waited, shifting nervously from foot to foot, expecting me to answer his previous question properly now that we were alone again. Tough luck. That was one of can of worms that was staying sealed.
“Right, we have to think,” I said, pacing.
We couldn’t be seen from the main thoroughfare thanks to an industrial bin shielding us from view. Hopefully that would give us time to figure out where Lia and her possible accomplice had gone before Bakiir chucked us off the industrial estate for good.
“If the machine really isn’t there any more then where could they go?”
“Well not far, that’s for sure. The thing’s too big.”
“Which means they’re probably still somewhere nearby.”
“Even with Bakiir and everyone here?” Simon asked incredulously.
I shook my head and shrugged. “They have to be. Forty-five minutes isn’t enough time to move a big thing like that. But if it is here – and I can’t see how they would be able to move it so quickly with such short notice – then it means that Lia is more likely to use it as soon as possible, before she gets caught.”
Simon stilled. “We don’t have much time either, then.”
I rubbed my forehead and looked through the gap between buildings. It was such a big estate it would take forever to search all of it and by that time Lia might have figured out how to use the machine and carried out her nefarious plan. “It needs to be somewhere hidden but with enough space for her to get the time machine in. And it’ll have to be somewhere used to dealing with a large amount of energy usage so the machine doesn’t trip–”
“So surely the best thing would be to wait until there’s a localised blackout. I mean, that’s how it worked last time, right?”
I shook my head. “No. The blackout happens when the machine is working so we’d be too late by the time we got to her.”
My accomplice sighed, kicking a stone with the toe of his shoe. “I wish Logan was here. He knows more about electronics and mechanics–”
Mechanics. That was it.
I grasped Simon’s arm, making him start. “The production plant!”
I began running, shouting over my shoulder to a confused and stumbling Simon as I raced.
“There was a vehicle production place signposted on the way in! I think it backs on to the police warehousing section!”
We sped between the buildings until we reached the corrugated metal monstrosity. The car factory stood disappointingly silent and firm at first glance. Pushing doubt aside, we quickly inspected the perimeter.
The lights were off, but the doors were shoved part of the way open and, as we got closer, we could hear voices hailing from inside the building. Signalling to Simon to remain quiet, I crept to the entrance and chanced a glance at the interior. It was dark. Machinery obscured a full view of the place, but there were drag marks across the floor where something heavy had obviously been pulled inside.
The owners of the muffled voices were somewhere deeper in the gloom, obscured from sight. It was hard to interpret their words from outside. For all I could guess, they were a couple of employees. But hadn’t Bakiir said the industrial units had all been evacuated?
I beckoned Simon and we snuck inside, hiding under the cover of machinery as we followed the hopeful tracks. In the centre of the room a large chunk of sunlight tore across the space, proudly displayed by the glass panel in the roof. Like fate was guiding us, the pool of ochre lit up the machine and the vampire we were looking for.
The apparatus was already plugged into the mains, power humming from its engines. Lia was fiddling with the controls. She readjusted her glasses and glanced at the huge circular frame where the portal through time would appear.
Crouched behind the end of a conveyer belt, I opened my iCom and discretely dialled Maloney, still watching the scene with a lead ball of horror rolling in my gut.
Lia waved a hand up at a small control room as if signalling to someone. It was a rickety metal box, with thin window panes, that hung from the rafters. The glass showed nothing but a dark interior. I squinted, fancying a figure had moved within, but there wasn’t anything obvious.
Could it be my anonymous caller? The person that had been in my house? Been in my bedroom? The voice that had muttered ‘not yet’?
And what exactly did ‘not yet’ mean?
A shiver blew over my skin, bubbling and rolling over goosebumps like a winter river.
Maloney finally answered my call just as Simon nudged me. Lia had powered up the portal. I swore and handed Simon my gun, snapping down the line to my flustered colleague that we needed police back up and fast.
“Calling for help?”
I looked up just in time to dodge the kick Lia aimed at my head, a smirk twisting her lips. My iCom went skidding across the floor, booted viciously from my hand. If she’d managed to connect that shot with my head, I’d be seeing stars. Damn vampire hearing.
Simon was sprawled to my right, scrambling to his feet, his back to the enemy, useless in terms of defence. I threw a quickly formed burst of energy that knocked the bitch off balance, trying to give us time to gather ourselves. She stumbled, grasping the edge of a car bodice as I surged to my feet.
“Why are you here, Lia? What do you want?”
She cackled, anguish and insanity flickering in her shiny glare. “What do I want? I want my partner back. I want Cerin!”
I swallowed. The last time I’d seen Cerin, I’d forced his soul back into his flaming corpse and commanded it to attack his own henchmen. It hadn’t been a pretty way to go. Still, Cerin was the one that had altered both Simon and me through a combination of serum and electrocution. He’d treated us and countless others like lab rats. So, as soon as the opportunity arose, I’d grasped a chance to turn the tables and electrocute him to death, the lightning force powering through his veins until his corpse lit from the inside.
“But that’s not going to happen, is it?!” Lia shrieked, her fists clenched, her body shaking. “I’m not going to get him back!”
“You need to let go,” I tried hesitantly.
“Let go?!” The cry was shrill. Incredulous. She released a short sharp laugh. “We’d been together for hundreds of years. You have no idea what it feels like to love somebody across time!!!”
She moved back to the machine, standing close to the portal as Simon and I edged nearer. He kept the gun trained on her. It was safer to give him something to simply point and shoot than letting him use his new mage powers.
Not that Lia noticed the weapon. She was smiling at the glowing portal swirling in front of her, mania stretching her pale skin tight and spectral.
“But if I go back in time… I can stop it. I can stop it from happening.”
“You’re a scientist,” Simon exclaimed incredulously. “Do you know how mad you sound trying to change time?”
I glanced at Simon. He’d once, desperately, suggested altering the past. Clearly his stay in the present had given him enough pause to realise how many lives and paths could be changed by the tiniest alterations.
Unfortunately, that moment’s distraction was all it took for Lia to lash out again, throwing me with her superhuman vampire abilities. My whole body was lifted off the floor and flung against a huge piece of machinery where I crumpled like discarded paper.
Working on autopilot, I dragged myself back to my feet, pain throbbing in a hundred different patches, my limbs stumbling like a drunk in the night. Lia was grappling with Simon. They danced like boxers as I drew near, pooling energy into my hands to throw at the vampire and distract her, my legs still reeling from dizziness. The vampire stilled for a moment, taunting him, despite the gun in his hands.
It was a clear shot.
The ball of energy released, thrusting forcefully from my hand, but, to my horror, Lia sidestepped at the last possible moment. The glowing sphere skimmed easily past her and blasted Simon instead. It caught him full force in the stomach, thrusting him backwards…
And through the live portal.
Lia cackled in derision at the space where Simon had vanished. My mouth contorted, skewed in ghoulish recognition of the new horror that had befallen us. She rounded on me, my gun, the gun Simon had been holding, clasped in her hands. She must have caught it when I’d knocked him off his feet. Fuck.
“Looks like your friend is going to die twice.”
Then she smirked and dived through the portal before I had a chance to stop her, her body disappearing into the whirling, voluminous blue. With my gun.
My heart sped up. Panic set in. The machine was making a noise, warning it was going to shut down. It had transported two people, already. Could it support transporting one more? Red lights started flashing on the console. My wide eyes snapped from the portal to the door. A lump formed in my throat. What if there was no way back?
Gritting my teeth, I launched myself into the portal and closed my eyes.
Don’t forget, Taste Of Blood is out on Sunday 15th April! Preorder now to receive your copy as soon as it goes live!
Available from all awesome retailers.
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