Thursday, October 29, 2009

KZ's Halloweenies & Whorrors, 4

Ah, poor Adin Swift. Still a tormented vampire, he so struggled in this novel. But just a handful of months after he finally found his HEA, or thought he did, Jackson Spey turned up at that birthday party and blew Adin's assumptions out of the water. Considering the blood-drinking interlude they shared in Plagued (hell, considering how happy Adin was, simply to see Jackson again), it should've been obvious to all concerned that Celia was not, in fact, the partner of Adin's dreams.

Following the blurb is just one of many creepy excerpts from the novel that sees Adin and Jackson together for the first time (in a book, that is).

Yup, Plagued is a chillfest.

* * * * *

The one thing Adin Swift wants more than warm blood and hot sex is to find the man who viciously murdered his parents over 650 years ago.

The one thing Celia Quill wants more than a final, exciting one-night stand before moving to the edge of a northern forest is to settle happily into her new home there.

After hooking up at a club, they more than satisfy each other’s immediate needs. But "immediate" stretches into long-term when Celia is captivated by her vampire lover and Adin senses this not-so-ordinary woman somehow holds the key to his peace.

In the unassuming little outpost of Woodbine, Adin and Celia confront a threat neither had anticipated. Their efforts to comprehend and overcome it take them from a modest farmhouse to a lumber baron’s mansion to a blue-collar tavern complete with town drunk. As their bond solidifies, answers come…but the threat only grows.

Desperate, Adin calls his old friend Jackson Spey for help. The wizard extends their search to a place where the vampire was both born and birthed and has only revisited in his nightmares: fourteenth-century, plague-torn England. Horrific as it it, this journey into the the past may be Adin's and Celia's only route to the future.

In the following excerpt, Adin examines yet another disturbing feature of Celia's new property.

* * * * *

The deeper woods at the rear of the yard beckoned Adin. There was something else he had to check out. He moved toward the shadowed tangle of undergrowth beneath the taller trees.

As he scanned the ragged edge of this untended area, Adin noticed several clearer spaces that might indicate the presence of a path. He studied each one more carefully then struck out through the most promising break in the vegetation. At least this season’s growth wasn’t yet too high or too thick.

A fairly straight trail of depressed earth, with a soggy floor of decaying leaves and brown pine needles, arrowed through the close-pressing trees and vertical, in-tucked spirals of emerging ferns. Adin’s footsteps flushed out two toads and sent them hopping for new cover. Occasionally, from above, a twig or pinecone fell, probably dislodged by a scurrying squirrel. Patches of sunlight were fewer and farther between the deeper Adin plunged into this wild acreage, and its organic redolence grew stronger—reminding him, unnervingly, of the smell released by the freshly turned dirt of graves.

The branches blocking his way multiplied. Adin kept his arms raised to push them aside and shield his face from their recoil. A single caw from a near-by crow startled him, sending a flashing chill through his belly.

Within seconds he spied it—a cylindrical wall of fieldstone, somewhat more than waist-high, hugged all around by the delicate, thorny arms of wild roses. A hazy shaft of sunlight sluiced through the small clearing where the old well sat. Carefully, Adin circled the structure. Its north-facing stones were covered in a patchwork of dead brown and fresh green moss.

Adin didn’t know whether or not he was still on Celia’s property. The well could have served a different homestead or even a hermit’s small cabin, long since torn down or fallen to ruin. Or it could’ve been a source of water for outbuildings—a cow barn, a sheepcote, a horse stable, a pig or chicken pen.

Not that it mattered. The well’s original owner and intended use were irrelevant. Recently, Adin feared, this simple, utilitarian structure had a much more nefarious purpose.

Leaning over the gnarled branches, he flattened his hands on the well’s rough rim. The muscles in his arms immediately went rigid with shock. Gulping air, Adin pulled himself closer to the pit and peered over its wall. Even his sight had difficulty mining the dense blackness. But he both smelled and sensed the presence of things that did not bode well…for him or for Celia.

There was a tunnel entrance somewhere in the well shaft. Adin stared more intently. Yes, he was sure, it was in the western arc of the interior wall. He raised his head to get his bearings. As he suspected, the entrance faced the Browning mansion. Adin pulled back and took a few cleansing breaths. Lifting his hands, he studied them, stroking his palms with his fingers. Slowly, his face twisted.

Whether real or imagined, traces of Birkett’s essence seemed to taint his skin. The vampire, Adin was certain, had slithered over this wall many times, in a number of different forms. But why, why were there conduits between this property and the mansion’s? Adin already thought he knew—this was the theory he’d earlier refused to divulge—but he wanted to verify his assumption before sharing it with Celia. For the moment, she had more than enough issues to deal with.

"Shit," Adin whispered, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. He leaned against a tree as he gazed at the well. He knew he had to approach it one more time.

A cloud passed over the sun, steeping the small clearing in gloom. Adin again stepped up to the well, again leaned over its edge. He closed his eyes and inhaled.

The odors were unmistakable. First, stagnant water, the depth of which was unclear. Second—and certainly not obvious to anybody with normal human senses—death.

There was at least one corpse or skeleton at the bottom of that pit and perhaps more. Adin was sure of it.

Resting his elbows on the wall, he dropped his head to his hands. How many victims had that filthy bastard disposed of in this area? And where, in addition to here, were they?

Aside from these discoveries, which were sickening enough, it nearly drove Adin to the brink of despair when he realized he was only a small step away from becoming like this creature he so thoroughly despised. Without the sexual release that accompanied his feeds, many ugly aspects of his Plague Breed heritage would claw their way out of his blood…


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