Free Dark Fantasy: Taste Of Blood – Chapter 4

So this is it. Tomorrow is the day. Taste Of Blood, my fifth book in the Indigo Skies series and my latest dark fantasy novel, will be released. I’ve been sharing excerpts all week. You’ve had chapter onechapter two, and chapter three.

You can still preorder it to make sure you can wake up on Sunday morning to a new book to devour.

But what’s that? You need one last chapter to keep you going until tomorrow…?

4. Way Back When

Bitumen stabbed into my cheek and palms, my body flattening against the ground as I fell. Simon was calling my name, but my head was spinning.

Time travel certainly wasn’t anything like teleporting.

I pushed myself to my feet and immediately stumbled. Sound washed in and out, stabilising in my brain. The blue swirl disintegrated to nothing as the bottom fell out of my stomach. It didn’t feel like my body was quite my own.

Not that it felt like that, recently, anyway.

Simon grasped my arm. He held me upright as my vision cleared. His shirt was burned, scorched by the energy ball I’d flung earlier, and there was a small cut to his cheek that he hadn’t been sporting before. My hand grasped his hand, noting unexpectedly grazed knuckles. We seemed to be in an abandoned parking lot, but Lia wasn’t in sight. The only thing I could see was my gun discarded on the bitumen.

Had Simon fought her? Gun and all?

I pressed into him, still wobbly on my feet, demanding we find the vampire bitch to end this. He began tugging me in the direction she’d taken, handing me my gun, which I quickly holstered out of public view. Who knows what kind of backwards twenty-first century society I was about to face.

My steps were ungainly and stumbling, but I ran with him. It was like I’d grown an entirely new pair of legs and this was the first time I was using them. Still, I had nothing to worry about on that front. My limbs grew stronger as we sprinted, my only goal to find and kill the bitch before she could alter time.

Then we were running through a town centre, people frowning at our clothes as we raced by. I ignored them, focusing ahead with burning tenacity. Another figure was cutting a hurried path through the pedestrians way in front of us.

It was definitely Lia, but she was getting further and further away no matter how much we pushed ourselves. Another one of those damned superhuman abilities that had allowed vampires to survive so long.

She took a sharp turn into a mall and we hurriedly followed. Except, by the time we’d reached the crowded shopping arena, Lia was nowhere in sight. We raced up the stairs and vaulted across shop floors, checking toilets and stairwells like madmen.

There was nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was like she had evaporated.

After a determined hour of searching, we admitted we were at a loss.

It was a disaster. Anger raged through my bones. How could I have let her escape? How could I have potentially threatened our world’s future? I should have killed her when I had the chance. I should have made sure the job was done right.

“We’ve failed. Everything’s lost. The future is lost.”

Simon looked at me uneasily as we stood in the middle of the shopping mall.

People were still giving us strange looks as they wandered past, their arms laden with shiny plastic carrier bags, leaving us a wide berth. Where was the hessian? The paper? The environmentally friendly? What was wrong with these people?! How had he lived in this hell of a past? This hell where we were stuck!!!

Exasperation and hopelessness clawed at me. “We have no idea where Lia’s gone,” I stated, trying hard to keep the panicked tremor from my voice. “No way back home. No money. And no goddamn clue where to go next.”

No Logan. No home. No friends. No work. Nothing.

Everything I was… It didn’t exist yet. And if Lia got her way, maybe it never would.

The panic shivered up my back and into my brain.

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Simon frowned and awkwardly fished a thin sliver of more plastic from his pocket. He held it up between us and then looked at me like it should mean something.

“What’s that?”

“My old bank card.”

I blinked and then looked closer at the thing clutched between his fingers. It was colourful, except for a silver square, and it seemed to have numbers embossed on it. There was also the name ‘Mr S McHale’.

“I kept it for sentimental reasons, I guess,” he said, looking oddly at it. After a moment, he cleared his throat. “It should still work, as long as we are in the right year and present me doesn’t flag it for fraud.”

I swallowed. It seemed too good to be true. “Do you remember flagging it for fraud?”

“No,” he replied slowly, thoughtfully. “My house was robbed, though. But that was cash.”

“Then you might have just saved us, Simon. For now, anyway.”

He beamed, more confident than I felt.

We split up, a plan beginning to form. Simon went to a cashpoint to withdraw as much money as he could for the moment. Meanwhile, I found the nearest newsagents kiosk and checked the date on the stacks of papers filling the shelves.

The shop assistant eyed me suspiciously, checking out my skin-tight trousers and heavily ribbed jumper. They weren’t the most out there of latest fashions, but they were obviously odd enough to stand out in the twenty-first century. It was something else to have to consider.

I left the kiosk, suddenly self conscious. Now that I thought about it, Lia had been dressed in extremely plain clothes that would have passed for normal here. Clearly, she’d planned this down to the smallest detail. Maybe that was why she had eluded us so easily in the mall, because of her ability to blend in.

Maybe it was time I sought a new wardrobe.

I walked defeatedly towards my meeting point with Simon, checking out the window displays. There were a number of different stores showcasing purely women’s clothing draped over ridiculously thin mannequins. Clearly unisex fashion stores weren’t a thing, yet. I absentmindedly wondered when it would be. Loosely examining the differences between times was calming, as long as I didn’t think too deeply about how far I was from home.

How I might not be able to get back.

It would be a good idea for both Simon and I to switch clothing. Incognito was a good look. Perhaps that was why my wardrobe was usually so subconsciously unremarkable. I paused by one of the more interesting displays. Now wouldn’t be the time to indulge in my wilder side. Maybe if I was a teenager again…

I cast an eye over the other women in the mall, taking in their side zipped jackets and colourful leggings. Blending in would be an advantage here. Who knew how long I’d be stuck in the past…?

I swallowed down the fear that threatened.

My eyes skimmed over something called jeggings, almost ignoring the skirt beside them in a move to peruse the jogging bottoms. But something niggled deep in my subconscious and I found myself staring at the fake leather material, instead. It was tight and short, yet the already worn tan looked malleable enough to run in.

My anonymous caller had told me to choose a skirt…

Another shiver traced my spine at the thought of his voice.

Who was this guy? How had he known I’d be looking at clothing?

Specifically, a skirt?

“You okay?”

Simon’s voice made me jump. I rounded on him, almost ready to draw my gun. He didn’t seem to understand the intent of my actions, my brain half expecting my mystery caller.

“I know this is a big thing for you. Time travel is hard.”

Simon continued his concerned spiel, but I consciously stopped listening. He was trying to be helpful. I got that. Only, thinking about how trapped in time I might be wasn’t something that would help me stop Lia. Once she had been dealt with then I had all the time in the world to contemplate our fate. There were no real pluses to this situation. Except perhaps one.

Simon would technically be back home.

But even that would pose time altering problems. Especially as he had been down as missing, presumed dead, when he’d reappeared in the future.

“I’m fine, Simon. We just need to concentrate on the job at hand,” I lied. Just another lie. So many lies.

He nodded.

“I think we should split up again and get some less noticeable clothes. We could meet over at that food place in half an hour?”

“Okay, McF–”

I grimaced and held up a hand before he could get started. “For gods’ sakes. Please, no Back To The Future jokes. I don’t think I could stand it right now.”

“No Sherlock or–?” He saw my face and swallowed. “Okay, I get it. I’ll meet you in half an hour.” He handed me some cash and disappeared.

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I stared at the money. For months, it had been me bankrolling Simon. It was strange to experience it from the other end.

Retail therapy wasn’t exactly what I needed, but it was the only kind of therapy I was going to get. I bought the skirt, my sizing suddenly a much lower number than in the future. Clearly it wasn’t a new thing to move the boundaries in that department. And it wasn’t the only outfit I bought, either.

Finding the date in the newspaper stall had only made me realise that Lia had brought us back to the week when Simon had originally time travelled to the future. That meant our time frame was small as the vampire would be itching to kill past Simon before he could alter the future.

As far as I could follow, her logic was thus: if she prevented me and Simon from meeting then she could stop us travelling to New York and killing her boyfriend. The fact that Simon’s disappearance had been publicised also meant she could pinpoint his last known movements and kill him at any point in the day up until the moment he was transported.

I sighed. My cases were getting harder, but my pay check was getting smaller.

Simon was already at the fast food restaurant when I got there. He’d chosen a table by the window and had seemingly ordered plenty to eat plus an extra drink for me. There was also a newly opened, smartly presented box with its contents splayed on the table top, weaved in between the various cartons of nuggets and chips.

“Good job I got us one each,” I said, tucking two new backpacks under the table and taking a seat on the stupidly high stools. Simon nodded, glancing at my outfit before returning to his toy. “What is that?”

“It’s just a tablet. I thought we’d use the free Wi-Fi in here to find out what I’m doing.”

I frowned, half way through a bite of a burger. “Come again…?”

“Past me,” he clarified and put the old fashioned tablet on the table between us. It displayed a colourful grid with various highlights and notes. “I had an online calendar,” he explained, “so I knew what days I was doing things no matter where I was. If I use it to find out where past me is then we can keep tabs on me.”

“Good idea.”

“Two compliments in one day. You really are ill.”

I slammed my plastic cup down with a little more gusto than needed, ice jangling within its flimsy frame. “I’m fine.”

Simon ignored me, taking back his tablet and fiddling with it. “You’re not. You haven’t been since before we got here, but seeing as it’s you I’ll just wait until you explode or something random and then I’ll find out.”

“Concentrate on your calendar,” I snapped.

Simon shrugged and returned to his clunky device.

Ignoring him, I started demolishing some of the nuggets. They tasted weird compared to the ones I was used to, but that wasn’t exactly a top concern right now. Lia was my top concern. And secondary to that was getting home.

Would anyone notice we were gone?

A nugget paused on its way to my mouth. Maloney would work it out. I tore into the nugget with more gusto than necessary. He was the last person I’d called. He ought to be able to trace the location of the time machine through that. He would realise what had happened to us. And if he didn’t…

I looked across the mall through the glass of the restaurant. It didn’t seem so bad, but it wasn’t home. There was no Logan here. Life without my younger brother, no matter how little he needed me any more, was unthinkable. I’d even miss Maloney. And there was Graeme and Bella, even if they still weren’t talking to me.

Maybe I didn’t have a partner or a lover, but I had my work.

Plus, just a few years down the line in this time, supernatural types were about to evolve, bringing horrific laws and segregation. And then the oil was going to run out, which, judging by how plastic coated this century was, could only be a very bad thing. At least in the future, we’d learned to cope without that and make better substitutes.

I couldn’t make a life for myself here. I had to get back home.

“Hmm… Good news and bad news,” Simon reported, sliding the tablet my way again.

“I wish everyone would stop saying that today.”

“Well, is it ‘today’ any more when we’ve travelled through t–”

I gave him a look.

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He cleared his throat and then shuffled uncomfortably before tapping the screen. A little box enlarged with details of today’s plans for past Simon. “According to this, I’m away on training right now. Not far, but far enough that Lia can’t get to me, yet. It also means that we have somewhere to stay tonight and work out our next move.”

“And the bad news?” I asked with trepidation.

“Well, it means a couple of days wasted not knowing where Lia will be for sure. And that brings us closer to the date of my original time travel. So, not including tonight, we have two more nights until D Day. Plus, past me only comes home the night before. Well…” He paused, but apparently hadn’t finished jabbering. “I checked out the house when I got back and I’d been robbed so I stayed at my brother’s. The first time I was properly in my house since I returned from training was when I was kidnapped through time.”

“Okay, so?”

“So, if Lia wanted to get to me before I time travelled then she’d probably only know to get me at work or at home and I’m only there the day that I time travelled…”

Which meant an even narrower window of opportunity to get the bitch before she altered the future forever. I grimaced.


Don’t forget, Taste Of Blood is out TOMORROW! Preorder now to receive your copy as soon as it goes live!

Available from all awesome retailers.

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