I know that Mondays usually bring about a new journal entry, but today is a little special. Instead of a journal entry, I am revealing the cover of my newest work and posting the Prologue and part of the first chapter.
There are still some last minute things that have to be done, and I really need to buckle down.
Next Monday, April 20th, 2015 will be the release date of Summoning Doll, the second installment in The Haunted Case Files series. With it I will also be updating the first book, Isle of Illusions, with some new editing and a brand new scene (in the form of a prologue). So for those who have not read the first, it will be a good time to launch yourselves into the series, and for those who have already read the first book, never a better time to re-read the first and pick up the second.
This cover was done by a different artist than I normally use, but I am super pleased with it and also super pleased with the experience. The artist was pleasant to work with and patient with me, I look forward to working with her in the future.
Anyways, without further delay, I give you...Summoning Doll.
“Vater! Mutter! Nein!” Lorenz cried out from a feverish dream. He babbled in German, sweat dripping from his brow.
Cyrus frowned as he dragged Lorenz up, arms winding around his sweaty figure. “Lorenz…Lorenz wake up! It’s just a dream. Come on, we’re in the middle of the desert. You can’t do this here! You’re too dehydrated. This is dangerous! You’re a doctor! You know this!”
Lorenz flailed and kicked his feet as he fought the metaphorical demons in his nightmares. It was always the same. Lorenz called out for his mother and father when he was detoxing.
He startled awake, flinching before pushing at Cyrus’ bare chest, while turning his face away. “Get off! Get away! I’m fine!”
Cyrus gently brushed one hand across Lorenz’s face, getting blond locks out of his eyes and sopping up the droplets of sweat. “You’re not fine! You need to drink…” Cyrus opened his mouth, fangs unfolding from the roof.
Lorenz’s blue eyes swung back to look up at the vampire and he squirmed. “Nein! Nein! I will not! It is wrong! Stop touching me! Nein! This ist wrong!”
Cyrus’ eyes went wide and his arms slack, allowing Lorenz to wriggle free. “Stop…touching you? What are you talking about?”
Lorenz scrambled on his hands and knees towards the opening of the tent. “Nein! I do not feel that way! I would never!...Go away! I don’t need you!”
Cyrus was befuddled, hand outstretched as he watched Lorenz disappear into the cool night air. It wasn’t uncommon for Lorenz to hallucinate when he tried to go cold turkey from alcohol. However, the empty vodka bottle that tumbled out from underneath his bedroll indicated to Cyrus that withdrawals were not the problem.
So then what was Lorenz going on about?
When Cyrus heard a splash coming from outside, he bolted out of the tent and ran down to the water’s edge. By the time he arrived behind Lorenz, the other man was staring down at his reflection, holding a scalpel in one hand. Cyrus didn’t know what Lorenz was planning to do with the blade, or even where he’d gotten it, considering Lorenz was dressed only in loose fitting bed clothes, but he wasn’t about to stand there and wait to find out.
Cyrus dropped to one knee, an arm wrapping around Lorenz’s waist, so the opposite hand could dart forward and wrestle the blade out of Lorenz’s clenched digits.
“What are you doing!? Stop it! I’m not…let go!” Lorenz protested.
Cyrus grunted, tugging the blade free and tossing it into the sand. “Will you just calm down?!” He didn’t mean to, but a growl erupted from his chest, causing Lorenz to freeze and then go limp in his arms. Blue eyes were staring up at him, slightly wide, and Lorenz’s pale body was trembling.
Cyrus sighed out heavily, feeling terrible for having growled. Guilty eyes stared down at Lorenz as Cyrus lifted a dark hand and ghosted it against his cheek, gently brushing back and forth; touching the damp flesh tenderly. “Please, stop Lorenz. I can’t take this anymore. You’re breaking my heart.”
“Ich…I…vhat?” Lorenz’s German accent became thick and verbose in his confusion. It was hard enough to make out what he was saying during his garbled manic outbursts, but now it was worse. It often became thicker and more difficult to understand when he was upset or excited.
Cyrus closed his eyes, slowly shaking his head back and forth. When he opened them again, the look was soft, though slightly desperate. “I care about you, and I do not want to see you hurt or suffering. I don’t know how you feel about me, but we have to figure something out. I won’t stand by and watch you slowly kill yourself with guilt. It’s been two damned years, Lorenz. And don’t you look at me and tell me that I don’t understand what you’re going through. I’m a fucking vampire. I know what it’s like to be a monster but simultaneously a man. If you don’t come to terms with who you are…you’re going to kill yourself and I think if you did that…a part of me would die with you.” For reasons not even Cyrus could put into words, he tenderly brushed his thumb along Lorenz’s bottom lip.
A shiver jolted through Lorenz’s body and he choked out. “I cannot come to terms with mein wants.”
Cyrus furled his brows together tightly, eying Lorenz and the undeniable shiver. “With your…”
Slowly dark eyebrows climbed up his forehead and realization hurtled through him. All the pushing and shoving between the two of them emotionally, and the way that neither would leave the other despite overwhelming difficulties suddenly made sense. They were so close and yet so oddly far away. Neither had wanted to admit what was between them, perhaps out of fear of rejection or maybe it was the fear of what it could mean if there was no rejection. There were so many obstacles standing in the way if either of them gave in to desire.
Cyrus slipped his hand up the back of Lorenz’s neck and tangled nimble fingers into sweat soaked blond locks. He tightened his grip, jerking backwards in a commanding way. Before Lorenz had time or thought to break free, Cyrus leaned forward and crushed their lips together, snaking his tongue out and using it to push apart Lorenz’s lips.
Lorenz was so shocked that a half gasp was enough to give Cyrus full access to that waiting warm mouth. Lorenz found himself kissed deeply, while jerked against the vampire’s tight body. His legs were parted and he was seated firmly so their hips could grind perfectly together. A hand slid down his back, nails raking against the spine before cupping under his rear and squeezing almost to the point of pain. Inside his mouth an expert tongue swirled, and he tasted copper where Cyrus had pricked his tongue against a fang and let a few droplets of vampire blood mingle between them.
Lorenz tugged back, crying out in a moaning whine. “Nein! Ist wrong! You must stop. We can’t…”
Both Cyrus’ hands moved to grip Lorenz by the hips, grinding him back and forth so that thick heated arousals were bumping one another through thin bits of sweaty cloth. “I can do anything I damned well please. I’m a vampire.” Cyrus growled out low and sensual, while leaning up to run his thick tongue from Lorenz’s chin all the way down the center of his throat.
Lorenz kicked his feet like a child throwing a tantrum, making sand flick in every direction behind Cyrus. “Mein Gott!”
Cyrus growled, catching Lorenz by both cheeks and tugging him to stare directly into his red ringed eyes. “You are not a man of God. You are a man of science. Tell me…what science is there that declares this as wrong?!” Cyrus thrust himself upwards, bouncing their throbbing erections together. The act elicited a cry from the throat of Lorenz, and Cyrus smiled. “See? You want me. This is why you keep trying to rid yourself of your need for my blood. You didn’t want to admit it.”
Lorenz whined again, hands coming to rest on dark-skinned shoulders. His bottom lip was trembling and there were tears in his eyes. “I am so confused…I can’t think…” A hiccup convulsed Loren’s chest.
Cyrus leaned over, reaching down to neatly pluck a dainty pink desert rose from a nearby plant. He held it up to Lorenz who took it with a quivering hand. “Don’t think…just feel. Feel me.” Cyrus purred into Lorenz’s ear.
The Old Woman, The Gentleman, And The Doll
Nine years later…
A shot rang out over his head causing Lorenz to drop to his knees. He had entered the establishment through the front while his lover circled around to the back. Something had felt wrong about the small store. Everything was dark, and though the door was unlocked, no one had answered when he called out. Now he was being shot at while hiding behind the counter.
Another shot flew over his head, smashing into a clay pot filled with some kind of incense. It showered down upon him, causing him to sneeze. Scrambling back, he managed to pull out a specially crafted hand-held crossbow. The room was pitch and he wasn’t sure who or what he might be firing at, but the spike of fear in his chest when Cyrus did not appear, had him shooting in desperation none the less.
A groaning sound nearby made Lorenz start, gasping in shock as he swung his blue eyes towards his left; he was not alone in his hiding place. On the floor was a crumpled figure and though the incense stung his nose, he was now aware of a second scent…blood. Crawling closer he groped towards the crumpled figure. His wrist was caught by cool slender fingers and as his eyes adjusted, he could make out a thin and frail looking woman. She lie in a pool of blood, her silvery hair splayed out around her.
“Ssshhh…” She whispered to him in the darkness before reaching a trembling liver-spotted hand into the folds of her robes. She produced a box about twelve inches high and handed it towards him. “Take it. Take it. You must flee this place. Do not…let them…” She coughed, blood dribbling down from her lips.
Lorenz winced, receiving the strange package that was shoved weakly towards him. “I am sorry. We were too late.”
The woman smiled, a bloody hand reaching up to touch his face. She left a smear of crimson against his creamy flesh. “You arrived…exactly when…you were meant to. Now go, go now out into the alley and run. Your lover…will meet you there. Travel north and do not stop…until you meet Him.”
Lorenz started to shake his head, leaning forward in confusion. “Him? Him who? What are you…”
The woman rolled away, light fading from her eyes. Across the room Lorenz heard movement and for no reason that he could ascertain, a need arose in his chest. He had the need to run and run fast.
Out from behind the counter he bolted, tucking the box under his arm as he made for the front door. He could see moonlight spilling onto the cobblestone street and something inside him bid he run and keep running. Over his shoulder he fired a crossbow bolt, not really caring where it went or if it hit anything. It was meant only as a distraction. He continued to move, throwing his shoulder into the door with a jangle of the bell over-head, and swiftly onto the street he emerged.
Panting heavily his blue eyes scanned left and right. He was lost for approximately five seconds before he turned northward on instinct. He was about to take off again when he roughly collided with something. Letting out a yelp he stumbled backwards, pointing his crossbow in the direction of whatever stood in his way.
“Whoa, whoa! Baby, it’s me!” Out of the shadows appeared a short man with dark skin and eyes like golden honey.
Lorenz let out a heavy sigh before his legs started to move again. He snagged his lover’s arm along the way, tugging at him harshly. “We must flee! The old woman ist dead. She said to move und move fast!”
Cyrus blinked in the darkness but let himself be turned, running along-side Lorenz. “The witch is dead? Shit! Did you see the shooter?”
Lorenz shook his head but gestured to the box under his left arm. “She handed me this with her dying breath. It seems important. I’m guessing ist whatever the shooter was looking for. Did you see anything? Smell anything?”
Cyrus glanced over his shoulder, furling his brows. He could see shadows back at the little store and they were attempting to follow. “Humans.” He answered thoughtfully.
Lorenz glanced incredulously to his lover before turning sharply and continuing his dash. “Humans? Could it have been a robbery?”
Cyrus kept up easily, not so much as becoming winded. He shook his head. “She might have been old, but she was still a powerful witch. All of this stinks. I smell silver and potions and…things I have not smelled in centuries.”
Lorenz sputtered and nearly lost his footing. “Hunters!? Ist that possible?” They were in a near pitch-black alley now, their footsteps echoing off old stone buildings. With trembling hands Lorenz began to reload his crossbow.
“I don’t know if it’s possible. I didn’t want to give myself away, that’s why I didn’t attack. I can’t be sure how many there are or if they’re organized. There are too many unknowns in this situation for me to act. Plus, they’re just humans. I have no desire to put their blood on my hands if it’s not necessary. I’d rather just hand them over to the authorities.”
The crossbow clicked and Lorenz nodded, about to turn another corner when he felt his collar jerked.
Cyrus let out a low hiss and dropped down to his hands and knees like an angry cat. Lorenz lifted his crossbow, pressing the tip under the chin of the man who had grabbed him by the collar, and nearly given him whiplash from how quickly he jerked to a halt.
There was an open door in one of the buildings and a tall, slender man stepped out, gently releasing Lorenz and holding up his hands. Said hands were covered in white gloves, the first feature to appear under the moonlight. The next feature to appear was the shadow of a top-hat. Slowly two large and haunting gray eyes came into view as he advanced fully into the light, staring directly at Lorenz.
Cautiously the stranger drew a hand to his mouth and pressed a single finger to pouty lips. “Ssshhh, come. They have nearly caught up with you. Follow me. We must away. You have the box the old woman gave you, yes?”
Cyrus rose to his feet, glaring at the man as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He cursed himself for not having sensed another vampire. This one seemed like a cliché out of a movie. He was dressed in Victorian attire, was pale, and spoke with an accent indicative of a Transylvania native. “I didn’t know we would be meeting Dracula on this excursion.”
The stranger chuckled, lips tilting up in a grin to show off the tips of his fangs. “But I knew that I would be meeting royalty. The witch told me so.” Taking off the top-hat he made a sweeping bow towards Cyrus. “Prince Cyrus…”
Cyrus stiffened, narrowing his eyes towards the other vampire.
“Now if you please, we do not have time for pleasantries. We must away before they catch up. Unless you intend to engage them.”
Straightening his back Cyrus strode past the other vampire and into the dark building. It appeared to be a warehouse. “Not now, not until I know more about what’s going on.”
The stranger nodded, neatly placing his top-hat back upon his head. “As I suspected.”
The entire time, Lorenz was stunned motionless with his eyes wide. He wasn’t sure why, but staring into the stranger’s gray irises had rooted him to the spot. This vampire seemed familiar, but he could not place the reason behind it. He felt his cheeks burn pink and there was the sensation of feeling young, naïve, and small. After a moment he jumped to attention and went scurrying after his lover, clutching the box, and his crossbow to his chest.
The warehouse was mostly empty, save for a large maroon hearse in the center. The tall vampire went to it and opened the back. Without skipping a beat he lifted the lid of a coffin and motioned to the crushed red velvet interior. “Gentlemen, if you please.”
Cyrus’ honey gold eyes blinked a few times before glancing back to the other vampire. “Oh Hell no. I’m not riding anywhere in a damned coffin.”
The tall vampire snorted, “Who said anything about riding?” As if on cue, from out of the front of the hearse a large bulging man with blue skin emerged. He took a few steps towards the rest of the men, a long black pony tail swinging over his thick shoulder.
Lorenz looked up to the large man and could not stop the smile that formed on his lips. “A shadow walker. We will jump? Ah, this sounds exciting.” Lorenz leaned forward and flopped into the coffin. “Cyrus come! There is no time.”
Though he was grumbling, Cyrus climbed into the coffin after his lover. The two had to lie sideways against one another, staring face to face. Cyrus grinned, attempting to forget about the peculiar tall vampire, “Hmm, if the situation was different…this could be a little kinky.”
Lorenz exclaimed something, but the top-hatted figure quickly closed the coffin lid, muffling the sound.
The rear of the hearse was shut firmly and gray eyes turned to the blue man. “I will meet you at the compound in a few moments.” With a nod, the figure sank into the shadows of the floor and vanished.
The vampire moved into the driver’s seat of the vehicle and roared the engine to life. He could feel those that pursued Lorenz and Cyrus winding up the street. Carefully he started to putter out of his hiding spot and turned on the lights. He was about to pull away when a man in the colors of the local police stepped in front of the car and held up a black gloved hand.
Flexing his arm he rolled down the window and leaned his head out. Painted across the hearse right below his arm was an advertisement for ‘The Dark Carnival.’ “Yes officer? Is something wrong?”
The man eyed the hearse with a scowl and motioned to the top-hatted figure. “Out of the vehicle. Go open the back.”
Feigning shock he stepped out of the car and shut the door behind him. “Sir? What’s this all about? I was just here picking up a new coffin for the show. I can show you my papers.”
The man barked out sharply. “Just open the back!”
Rounding the long deep red car, he reached out a white gloved hand and tugged open the swinging door. The officer immediately grasped the coffin lid and flung it open. The coffin was now empty. The man gritted his teeth and slammed the lid shut.
Blinking gray eyes the top-hatted figure held up his hands in questioning. “Officer? What’s this all about?”
The officer huffed, waving the vampire back to his car. “Sorry to bother you. Some urchins robbed a store a few blocks away. I thought they might have been hiding in your vehicle.”
Placing a hand to his chest, the vampire let out a surprised gasp. “Oh my! If I see anything suspicious, I will be certain to report it right away.”
The police officer marched away, mumbling ‘you be sure to do that’ and other such.
Grinning, the vampire slipped back into his car and started for the outskirts of town. It seemed he gained some information during the short interaction.
There was a feeling of weightlessness and they were surrounded by stars. Cyrus wrapped his arms around his lover and snuggled his face beneath his chin. Lorenz moaned, arching against smooth flesh, nearly begging for more. Neither knew exactly where they were and for some reason they couldn’t be bothered with caring. It was beautiful and felt beautiful. Everything was perfect and they wanted to stay forever.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
Grunting, both men found themselves dropped unceremoniously onto damp ground. They were clutching to one another, grinding slightly. There came a chorus of children’s laughter and both looked up with a gasp. They were surrounded in a sea of young people laughing and pointing.
Lorenz’s cheeks turned hot and he scrambled to get to his feet. Looking around in a blind panic he saw tents, cages with large animals, and a few scattered vehicles. “Vhat…vhat ist das!?”
Cyrus got to his feet a bit more slowly, groaning as he rubbed at his rear. “Mmm, it appears to be…a traveling circus.”
The enormous blue man was in front of them, offering a sweeping bow. “Forgive me for the harsh landing. I do not like to be rushed when traveling.” His voice was deep and rumbling, but it held gentleness. He was clearly intelligent and kind.
Lorenz thought to himself, a true ‘gentle giant.’
Cyrus waved a hand, “Don’t mention it big guy. So uh, where the Hell are we and what are we doing here?”
The man motioned to them. “Please, follow me. I will take you to the boss’ tent. You are in a safe place. The Dark Carnival is a haven for supernatural creatures. It has been home to many refugees, for centuries. We are a family of sorts…protected by the Treaties of Blood.”
Both men followed tightly to the blue figure’s heels, but Cyrus stopped briefly, honey eyes going wide. “Wow, the Treaties of Blood. That’s something I’ve not heard uttered in…a long time.” He swallowed hard before shuffling forward again.
Lorenz cocked his head to the side, turning his gaze towards his lover. “What ist this ‘Treaties of Blood’ you speak?”
They were walking towards a large beige tent decorated with hints of red and black. When they reached the flap it burst open and there stood the tall man from earlier. His jacket was removed, but not his gloves or top-hat. “The Treaties of Blood was an agreement that was reached after a long and bloody supernatural conflict; one that your lover’s sire, championed. Under the Treaties of Blood, supernatural creatures were free to form Covens, Clans, Tribes, Families and other such…but in order to do so they must adhere to strict rules of engaging with human beings and with one another. Supernaturals fear for their lives when living alone, but our society as a whole is endangered when a group seeks more power than they need be afforded. Under the Treaties of Blood we police one another, and protect one another.”
Cyrus grumped, crossing his arms over his thick chest. He was ready to go off on a rant, but then he caught sight of his lover out of the corner of his eye. Lorenz was standing with his blue eyes wide before the strange vampire. He looked enthralled, and there was the faintest hint of pink in his cheeks.
A predatory growl started in Cyrus’ throat before he could quell the possessiveness. “You know an awful lot about me! Hell I don’t even know your fucking name!”
Lorenz jumped from the growling expletive that came out of his lover’s mouth. Being startled helped Lorenz to tear his gaze away from the stranger, who had promptly turned on his heels and retreated back into his tent.
“My name is Le Von Funar. I am the owner, organizer, and Ringmaster of this establishment. I have been the proprietor for a rather long time.”
Cyrus and Lorenz glanced to one another before ducking their heads into the tent. It smelled of cinnamon, chamomile and peppermint. There were large rugs lining the ground and curious blue glowing lamps dangling from the high ceiling. A desk sat on the opposite end and there were chairs, pillows and an armoire.
“Please, gentlemen…have a seat. Tea?”
Lorenz swallowed hard, moving over to a plush leather chair and sliding into it with a groan. “Mmm, please.”
Cyrus felt his fangs poking at his bottom lip. He didn’t know why this bizarre vampire with his stupid top-hat bothered him so much, but the situation was really starting to grate on his last nerve. Perhaps it was Lorenz’s reaction. The human seemed at ease, even perhaps…attracted to the tall male and his genteel ways. As he slid into the chair beside Lorenz, Cyrus felt his nails piercing the flesh of his palms where he was balling his fists up so tightly.
“Now then,” Le Von began. “What was in the box that the Gypsy woman gave you? If we know what was so important to keep from her attackers, perhaps we will know what we are up against, hmm?”
Blue eyes blinked, glancing down to the box he had been clutching the entire time. Lorenz wasn’t sure when he tucked his crossbow away into the holster at his chest, but he’d not stopped clinging to the box. He held it tightly as if it was precious and he had no idea why. Shrugging it off, he brought the box down to his lap and started to remove simple brown wrapping paper and twine.
After a few minutes of shifting the paper out of the way, he found a pine box beneath with a sliding lid. It grated against itself as he tugged downwards, pulling the lid out of the way to reveal the contents. The two vampires leaned over the human in order to get a glimpse of the object, assuming there would be some glowing witch’s rock or maybe a weapon of some kind…perhaps an urn. However, what sat inside the box amongst sawdust and crumpled old newspaper was a porcelain doll.