An excerpt from Honor At Stake by Declan Finn
Marco stared at her and said, “What’s wrong? Are you all right?”
Amanda smiled weakly. “What makes you ask?”
He took her arm and led her inside. “The guys on station in Astoria called in to tell me that you showed up to Lily’s house. Vega called me directly. However, since then, they haven’t called in, they’re not answering calls or text messages.” He led her into the living room and gave her the armchair. “So I figure I know what happened to them. They’re dead, and you look like you’ve been hit by a truck.”
“A train. The number seven, I think.”
Marco knelt down in front of her, running his hands over her arms and back, as though being hit by a train would be the same as looking for stab wounds. “I so seriously hope you were in mist form at the time.”
“Yes.” Amanda was about to say more, but Marco’s hands rested on her shoulders, and held her lightly. She enjoyed the feel of his hands on her body, no matter where they were. It was strange, but she hadn’t been touched all that often in the last fifty years or so. She sighed and forced herself to say, “Marco, they took Lily.”
“I know.” Marco sighed. “Well, I figured. If she were unharmed, you would have called here first thing. If she were dead, I suspect it would be over your undead body.”
“You are so sure of that?”
“I like to think so. I suspect you can be as relentless as I am. If they’re going to hold her hostage, they’ll call. If not, they’ll get through some other way. It’s only eleven. I expect that’s like noon on a Saturday to most vampires. Come on, let me make you something to drink.”
He started to rise, and she grabbed his hand, almost pulling her to him. “You are not upset?” she asked.
“Why should I be?” He gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Amanda, you got hit by a frigging train to save her. I’d rather not have you as a smear on the side of the number seven.”
“But she meant something to you once.”
Marco paused. His eyes drifted over her shoulder, spacing out. “Yes. Once. She meant the world to me. Then she meant nothing.”
He paused, looking deep into her Frangelico eyes. His hand slid up her neck, and cupped her cheek, just before he leaned down, and kissed her on the forehead. “You did good, love,” he whispered. “You did good.”
Amanda’s hand came up of its own accord and slid around the back of Marco’s neck, keeping him that close. She looked up at him with a wary smile. “Marco, I–”
She was interrupted by the sound of a thump.
They exchanged a look. That was the sound of something slammed up against the front door of the house.
Both of them were tense and facing the door in an instant. Marco moved first, keeping against the right wall of the hallway. Amanda took the left wall, both moving for the front.
Marco got to the front door first, and opened it.
Lily Sparks was on the top landing, her body having been slammed up against the front door. Her clothes weren’t so much in disarray as they were shredded. Her modesty was barely protected by the scraps that clung to her body.
Without a word, Marco knelt down and grabbed her. She moaned slightly, and she was still warm, so Marco didn’t even bother checking for a pulse. He scooped her up and brought her inside.
Amanda kept watch outside until she could shut the door. “They are gone.”
“Good,” Marco said, his voice completely clinical. “I’m going to need some fluids, and we’re going to start pumping her full of enough vitamins and juices to make her want to puke.” He moved into the sitting room, laying her out on the couch.
Lily stirred, groaning. “Marco?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Just stay still, Lily,” he said. He looked at his watch, then grabbed her wrist to take her pulse. There wasn’t any. “Oh crap.”
Amanda moved to hold Lily down, but the newborn vampire was feral, and fast. She leaped for Marco immediately, and they were both taken in a roll straight to the other side of the room. Lily was on top, and Marco’s left hand pressed under her chin to keep her fangs off of him. The rosary dangled only millimeters away, to no effect.
“The rosary,” Marco grunted. He punched Lily with his right hand while his left kept her at bay. “Isn’t” – punch – “working.” Punch. “She’s too new.”
“I need you, Marco,” Lily groaned, even as he tried to push her away. His right hand pushed against her breast bone in an effort to throw her off of him. He would have bucked, but that would dislodge her from her position, and he couldn’t risk losing control of her teeth.
Amanda leaped onto Lily’s back, but Lily rammed her head straight back, crushing Amanda’s nose. As with any human, Amanda’s eyes started to tear up. Lily delivered a casual rear uppercut elbow to the chin that sent her flying backwards. Amanda landed head first into the wooden coffee table. Had it been metal, she would have bounced back without missing a beat. Had she been human, the impact would have cracked her head open. Instead, she was only knocked out.
This left Marco alone with a feral vampire who wanted his body, probably a la carte.
Lily’s move allowed Marco to thrust his forearm into her throat, but since she didn’t have to breathe, and didn’t have blood flowing in her veins, it didn’t help much. Her body must have kept some residual heat, meaning she hasn’t been dead that long. She hasn’t learned how to continue maintaining her bodily functions yet.
Marco grimaced and said, “This is what I get for teaching you some Krav.”
Lily’s hands flailed at Marco’s face. Had she had any brains about it at all, she would have broken his arm with two hands, then haveher way with him.
And she’d probably kill me in the process, since she’s new at this.
Then Marco met her eyes.
If there was a Bram Stoker’s Guide to Vampyres, rule number one would not be “Don’t invite them into your house.”
That would be rule number two.
Nor would rule number one be “Don’t tell a vampire ’Bite me.’”
That was a rule approximately a few dozen down the line.
Had Bram Stoker survived his tuberculosis long enough to write down a list of rules about his most famous creation, Rule Number One would be very simple.
Don’t look them in the eye. Never, ever look them in the eye.
When Marco met Lily’s eyes, the vampire’s eyes bored into his brain.
A feral vampire trying to enter a human brain was much like an animal trying to operate a computer system. It went wild, flailing around, growling and snarling, barking at every flashing light in Marco’s brain. Likewise, Marco could see everything in her mind. They were wild flashes, as frantic and as untamed as her physical attack. There were flickers and bleeps and images of lust and heat and skin, and what amounted to a pornographic fetish movie, or a Lady Gaga music video.
Then, those images, those memories, faded away, and all of those and similar thoughts focused on Marco. It was only a split second, but more than enough to have allowed her to get lucky, if Lily were smarter or quicker about it.
It was time to end this. And her, if need be.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Marco said, “but if you make me, I will.”
“I want you, Marco,” she growled. “She wants you, too, but I won’t let her have you. You’re mine. Mikhail told me I could have you. If I have to, I’ll kill her.”
Marco’s vision narrowed, and the edges of his eyesight became blurry. He leaned forward as much as possible, still keeping Lily at half an arm’s length. He reached back with his arm, digging his elbow into the carpet, then drove his fist into Lily’s face. She fell back, relieving the pressure from Marco long enough for him to buck and roll her off of him.
Marco leaped back, grabbing a wooden chair. He whirled back in time for Lily to leap after him.
Her chest hit the chair leg first, driving it deep into her body. Lily blinked twice, looking into Marco’s eyes. With one last, weak breath, she pleaded, “Marco…”
His eyes went as cold as Alaskan skies, and as dark as storm clouds. “I would have tried to save you. But you threatened Amanda. All because you want me. You don’t come back from that. You were a soul-sucking monster before you became a vampire. ”
He growled and swung the chair, lifting Lily off her feet, and throwing her into a wall.
“Now go to Hell.”
He drew his second flammable stake of the evening, stepped forward, and thrust it into her throat. The stake burst into flames, and Lily caught fire.
Marco grabbed the chair with both hands and swung her again, away from the wall, as she went up in a sudden blaze that turned her, her clothes, and the legs of the chair, to ash.
He smiled as he watched her burn.
One is a heartless, bloodthirsty killer. The other is a vampire.
A 2016 Dragon Award Finalist
Amanda Colt spends her days alone. She prefers solitude to other people, rarely finding anyone to catch her interest. Books and fencing fill her time.
Until she meets Marco. He doesn’t fit in, just like her. In fact, he seems to be a man out of time. With medieval manners, a gang that fears him, and a mind like a computer, Amanda has never met anyone like him. But for all his magnetic appeal, she can tell he’s hiding something from her.
But Amanda has a secret too. And as she and Marco grow closer, it plunges them into New York’s supernatural underworld. Marco brings mayhem and romance to Amanda’s serene world, and she finds herself falling for him, faults and all.
Bodies are turning up all over New York. Only Amanda and Marco can stem the flow of corpses, and more and more vampires are rising every night.
Can Amanda and Marco save New York?
Or even scarier, admit their growing feelings for one another?
Fans of Declan Finn will find all his typical explosions, action and Catholic world-building wrapped in a New York Vampire giftbag. Both Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance readers will love his foray into the bloody, holy water filled world of the undead.
Join Amanda and Marco as they fight legions of newly born Vampires in Brooklyn. Read Honor At Stake today!