Monday, October 28, 2013

Dawning Apocalypse by Jill Cooper Excerpt

Dawning Apocalypse Excerpt 
Behind the backdrop of the moonlight she saw a human form moving, shadowing the movement of several officers on the west side of the building.
“Bob’s still here.” Natalie used their keyword for vampires since the media had dubbed the ‘serial killer’ Pinhole Bob thanks to the marks left on the victims’ necks. “He’s on the move.”
Her ear cleared of static. “Be careful,” Charles Buckle, her guide and old mentor said with a stern sharpness to his voice. She didn’t have a cover story if she got caught and the last thing she needed right now was having her parents awoken in the middle of the night by the police.
Natalie managed to skirt closer by ducking car to car. She reached down and gathered some small pebbles, but they were big enough to do what she needed them to do.
Reaching her arm back, Natalie propelled them toward the police cruisers and then ducked down low, her back against the tires and her knees bent to hide her frame. The flashlights from the officers changed direction and their footsteps moved to investigate the noise.
Natalie used that time to move around the side of the car and duck behind the other side of the apartment building. Using a drain pipe, she climbed the side of the house like she was Miss Piggy in the Great Muppet Caper, only with more skill and more comfortable shoes, and launched herself onto the roof.
She sailed through the air, her legs extended and the soles of her boots collided with the chest of a fangy vampire, his eyes glowing yellow like the rodent he was.  His back crunched against the roof and Natalie rolled onto her feet, reaching inside her pocket and retrieving her wooden stake.
She gave it a spin for bravado and took an offensive stance. The vampire launched an attack, swinging his mighty claws, but his eyes flashed recognition.
 He stopped. Recoiling away, he hissed a warning.
“Finish it.” Natalie taunted. “I’m just a girl. Come here and take me on.”
All vampires fought to the death, but not this one. He ran like he was afraid, like he was acting on more than just instinct. “Hey!” Natalie called and lunged; grabbing the hem of his jacket and yanking him backwards.
He growled, his nose against hers. There was no fight in him at all. He was the most non-vampire vampire she had ever fought. When Natalie pushed the wooden stake into his chest, it was too anticlimactic. Like the battle had to be fierce to be won, but he just dissolved.
Into a black puddle, like they always did.
And then there were a dozen small lights shining on her.
Crap, Natalie thought and dove to the ground, rolling against the flat roof. Voices ran out from downstairs. “Someone is on the roof!”
She scampered across the rooftop on all fours, keeping her belly low to the ground. When she reached the other side, footsteps charged the fire escape. Her heart galloped so fast in her chest, she could barely breathe. There was no time to think or plan, Natalie just had to react.
She jumped off the roof, landed in a squat on the dumpster below, and dove onto the grass. She fell into a rolling summersault and before she knew which way was up, Natalie was charging from the street. But she wasn’t alone, there were officers charging her and in the distance, a car engine reved to life. Sirens turned to full volume.
If ever Natalie needed an emergency super spy extraction, it was right then. But there was no one that could help her. Only she could get herself out of this. Heck, Natalie had created a dream dimension out of nothing where everyone she knew had an alter personality. She herself was the all-powerful slayer. What would the slayer do?
She couldn’t get caught. She couldn’t be arrested or let the secret out, not without WOMP being seriously pissed of at her. Natalie didn’t know if she was right or wrong, but she needed to hide.
And hide fast.

-----------------

Beneath her the door to the third floor opened. “Nat! Chuck, I can’t find her.” Tristan’s voice rose and fell with anxiety.
Natalie couldn’t acknowledge him, no matter how worried he was. There was still work to be done.
 She charged onto the roof, the door swinging shut behind her and she was elbowed square in the nose. The pain radiated through her head, she gave up ground to the vampire. He spun, kicking her in the stomach. Natalie was completely caught off guard and was angry at herself for charging after him without thinking, without a plan. She was forced against the metal door, the vampire using his body weight to leverage her still.
His breath was dank, rotten, like only undead creatures could be. The vampire moved in for the kill. Natalie grabbed his head with both hands and pushed him back while one of her feet stomped on his foot and her knee crashed into his groin. Dead or undead, that move always worked. When the vampire groaned and bent over in pain, Natalie grabbed his arm, twisting it painfully behind him and used a powerful kick to his lower back to force his face and chest against the brick stairwell.
He growled. His leg shot out behind him and kicked Natalie in the stomach. She lost ground, losing her grip, but didn’t fall. The vampire spun wildly, charging after her with both fists swinging. She ducked, going down low and then came up high beside him. Natalie grabbed his arms while her leg shot out straight, catching him in the gut. Using every ounce of super strength the girl had, Natalie flung the vampire overhead. With a crunch he landed flat on his back on the glass sunroof that overlooked the science lab classrooms.
He moaned, his head falling to the side, winded and in pain. Natalie spun the wooden stake in her hand and approached. Her chest heaved with each breath as her lungs were desperate for a reprieve. This vampire was different in the way he moved and his skin was pasty white and even paler than other vampires she fought. His eyes had a yellow glow, but behind them was the glint of blue; like eyes of a human.
Natalie went down on her knees beside him and raised her arm to strike. It was time to end this creature and send him into the bowels of hell, whatever that meant exactly. Was there such a thing maybe as liver of hell, or maybe spleen of hell?
She drove the stake through his chest, triumphantly. Her smile fell when instead of the beast dissolving into black goo he gave a cry; an all too human cry.  Horrified, Natalie pulled the stake free and saw it was dripping red blood.
Human blood.Blood just like hers and the people she swore to protect. It was now flowing from the giant wound in his chest as the vampire hollered in pain. Natalie’s body shook, adrenaline surging through her body and she dropped her stake to the ground.
Tears marred her vision as the vampire man clutched at his wound. Blood poured around his fingers as his yellow eyes morphed back into blue.
He wasn’t really a man, but wasn’t really a beast. She placed her hand on top of his and her fingers soaked in a pool of blood.
Tristan was beside her, but Natalie’s eyes never left the man—the beast as he struggled to breathe. It was gulping fast like a drowning man, but there was no hope. There was nothing anyone could do.
“Tristan,” Charles spoke somewhere behind them, calmly, tempered. “Get her out of here and get her home.” His voice was insistent, demanding.
“Mr. Buckle?” Her custodian was somber, his glasses in his hands. “I can’t. I killed--.”
“I know what you did, Natalie,” he spoke to her softly and with compassion. “But there was no way for you to know. The FBI have begun to notice the disruption. We have to get you out of here before they find us. If they find you with the body--.”
Natalie shook her head. “I can’t just leave.”
“Chuck is right.” Tristan said softly. “I’ll take you home. Please, Nat, let’s move.” He touched her elbows in an effort to help her stand.
 “I killed a man. A man.”

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Inside the room the air was cool and musty. It smelled like what Natalie imagined most grandparent’s homes smelled like; a combination of mint and pain relieving ointment.
Diddemonires still had aches and pains? The paladin’s mind emptied as she studied the two sleeping forms in the bed, listening to their light snoring. One form was a woman, short and petite. The other was tall and lean.
Tall and lean? Gregory Silver was short and round.
She walked right into a trap.
Natalie turned and prepared to dart from the room when several pistol safeties clicked off. The hair rose on the back of her muscle and she went ridged. “Move a muscle,” a deep masculine voice said behind her, “and we drop you.”
She froze, not even able to breathe as the lights came on around her. The covers of the bed were pulled back to show she had been part of some kind of sting operation. Grace McFarlane and Jack Davis, both still wearing their uniforms stood. Grace was smiling, but Davis was not as he removed his gun from the bedside table, right next to a simple touch lamp. “I always get my man, Johnson, even when he’s a woman.”
“I can explain…” Natalie started, but knew whatever she said wasn’t exactly going to make much sense.
Davis pointed his gun at her. “No one listen to a word she says. She’s killed dozens, maybe even hundreds. Psychopathic bitch.On your knees.”When Natalie didn’t respond immediately he said it more forcefully.“On your knees!” The paladin guessed she was getting her Jack Bauer moment. In retrospect, it wasn’t as much fun as she thought it’d be.
Two agents behind Natalie kicked her behind her knees and she fell with a gasp. They were awfully strong for human men. She landed with a thud and could feel Fizz moving with anxiety inside her pocket. She prayed he wouldn’t try anything. Fighting her way out of this wasn’t going to work, not with that many guns drawn on her.
“Drop your weapon.” Grace said calmly, aiming her gun at the paladin’s head. “Hands on the back of your head, slowly. Interlace your fingers.”
Natalie did as she was asked. As soon as her hands were behind her head, her wrists were tugged on violently as handcuffs were placed around her wrists. She grimaced as the faces  aroundmorphed green to reveal their true nature; demonires.
How unfair was that? Demonires with a license to pack heat! Talk about tipping the scales in favor of un-justice.
 “Natalie Johnson, you are under arrest for breaking and entering; for the attempted murder of Gregory Silver; and for the murder of as many as fifty-eight citizens of Meadow’s Creek so far. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say…” Davis grabbed her by the elbow and hoisted her to her feet.
He spun Natalie around and pushed her through the crowd of agents that had been on the sting mission. He dropped his demonire face before they got downstairs which told Natalie not all of the town’s police were turned. Some were still human and they would either be a liability or an asset. She wasn’t sure which.
Her cheeks were flushed with humiliation as the faces of the police force were filled with gladness. 
Outside, Natalie was greeted by a host of squad cars. She was led toward one as the back door opened. Across the street her eyes fell to a familiar green face sitting in the passenger seat of a convertible. He gave her a charming smile and waved two fingers at her. Beside him sat the mayor, Gregory Silver. The two clinked two glasses of champagne.
Before she was forced into the back of the police car, her eyes locked with Morach’s and she was overcome with a feeling of loss, despair.
 “Checkmate.” Morach said with a maniacal smile.

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Tristan beamed. “You’ve grown so much this past year. There was a time you would never be able to say something like that.”
Natalie grew taller under his gaze. “I get my strength from you.”
“No, you don’t. You’re Nat. You’re strong all by yourself, princess.”
“I like it when you call me that.” Natalie said softly.
“It’s true. You’re even better than a Disney princess. You’re the Miller princess.”
Natalie’s heart leapt and tumbled in a way that was special; new. “I’m yours?”
“Uh-huh and there’s something I want to give you. I wanted to wait until it was special, but you look like you could use some cheering up.”
“Give me?” Natalie was surprised. “Did you get me a present?” She bounced lightly.
Tristan fished around inside his pocket and finally pulled out a small box; it was a small velvet box. Natalie saw ones like it on television all the time and in her sister’s bedroom. Her head spun, wondering what could possibly be inside such a box.
“I wanted to do this at that fancy restaurant last week, but it was still on layaway.” Tristan flipped the box open.
Natalie gawked at the silver ring. It was a simple band and crusted on all sides with jagged cuts of gems in a rainbow of colors. She never knew anything could be so beautiful or that anyone would ever think enough to get something so nice just for her.
“I know it seems kind of dorky, but when I saw it, I thought, that’d be perfect for Nat. I could see how it’d look on your finger. You never ask for anything. You just do this incredible, responsible job and you never ask for anything nice. The way you were just now with your dad…I guess I never saw how much responsibility you really have. I need you to know, Nat, I’m serious about this thing. Us.”


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