Darklands: a vampire’s tale, by Donna Burgess
Description: Twenty years ago, Susan Archer witnessed the brutal murder of her beloved twin brother.
Now, the murderer, Devin McCree, has returned. Although Devin is a “Deathwalker,” Susan soon discovers that he is not the monster she has feared for so long.
Leaving her old life behind, she joins Devin on his run from a crazed vampire hunter. Unwilling to let his love disappear, Michael soon follows.
Can Michael save Susan? Does she even need or want to be saved?
“Darklands: A Vampire’s Tale” is a violent tale of survival, bloodlust , and two people trying to hang on to the last shreds of their humanity, while teetering on the edge of immortality.
“Darklands: A Vampire’s Tale” is the first volume in the Darklands Vampire series.
“I’m completely wasted,” Peter announced, sounding more proud than he should have. He nodded to the server, an old Goth gal dressed as an even older vampire. After a moment, she appeared with yet another pitcher of something too red and too thin to be anything other than watered-down Kool-Aid tainted with a little cheap house rum.
He was already too drunk—he would be sick before the end of the night. Susan considered saying something biting, but instead, regarded her brother across the small table through the gray haze of smoke. It was almost like looking into the mirror, with Peter dressed as a dead and festering Raggedy Andy to her zombiesque Raggedy Ann. They were dizygotic twins and nearly identical in every sense. With their deep blue eyes and auburn hair, they were stunning, even in make-up that displayed their pretty mouths sewn crooked and their tanned skin grayed to the pallor of death. They fit well with their surroundings, especially on Halloween. The place was a retro-Goth club, patterned after the gloomy death-children of the 1980s, a dark sanctuary where the jocks and preps dared not go. It had no sign out front, and most of the kids referred to it as “The Hole.” An apt title, Susan determined.
Situated so close to the bay, the club’s windows were perpetually fogged with salty condensation. Inside, dark velvet swathed the walls in crimson, violet and inky black. Smoke curled up like ghostly fingers from the glowing ends of cigarettes. The air was a puzzle of odors, both good and bad, depending upon the proximity to the entrance to the restrooms: cloves, tobacco, pot, spilled vodka, a hint of dried vomit. Lights from a small dance floor flashed red, pink and purple in time with the electronic beat of the music. The rules of Halloween were the rules of The Hole year-round.
The damned costume itched in all the places that Susan would rather not scratch in a crowd, even in the questionable crowd that loomed in the shadows of The Hole. She would have been just as happy back at the apartment with a fat joint and a little wine. But Peter? Peter was a “party-guy” since leaving Reading. The rest of their little group of art college social misfits had departed an hour ago, with ideas of sleep or sex in the backs of their tired minds, leaving Susan and Peter at a booth in the back corner.
Susan was about to call it a night when she spotted the guy again. Charlestowne was a resort town, with a smattering of small colleges tossed in the mix. It was a transient city. People came to school or to hide, either way often vanishing overnight. She was not accustomed to seeing the same faces more than once. But this face she did not mind seeing again.
How many times had she encountered this particular guy in the past few weeks, though? The thought made her bristle. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was more than simple coincidence. She had seen him in the library, cutting through the park much too late, and even once, heading home long after sunset.
The first time had been nearly two months ago, back in the summer. Susan had become drunk with a strange girl named Mary Lei at the pizza parlor near campus and had almost been attacked as she walked home in the middle of the night. This man had intervened.
He looked her way, and she wanted to glower at him. That was the darkchild’s way, after all, but a drunken college-girl smile was all she could offer.
He seemed to materialize at their table. “May I join you?’
“No,” Peter said.
“Ignore him,” Susan said, scooting over to make room on the cigarette-burned vinyl. She shot Peter the scowl she had not been able to use on the guy.
“I’m Devin McCree,” the man said, sliding in next to her. Susan sipped her drink, trying too hard to act casual. She wanted to look at him, to stare, but instead stole glances when she thought they might go unnoticed. He was dressed all in black and had short, messy golden hair. His ginger eyelashes framed blue eyes much darker than hers and Peter’s. Close up, it was evident he was older than she originally thought.
The idea of an “older man” did strange things to the pit of her stomach. She took another, longer drink and then asked, “So, what are you? It is Halloween, you know.”
“What do you think I am?” he asked. He had an accent, British perhaps, but softened to the point it was almost indistinguishable.
Susan considered a moment before answering. “A guardian angel? Or, a vampire? I know a girl who says the city is filled with vampires.”
He laughed. “Maybe it is.” He glanced at Peter. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s fairytales and bullsh**,” Peter said pointedly. “And her friend’s a weirdo, anyway.”
When Devin suggested Susan take a walk with him, Peter nearly lost his head. “You’ll excuse us,” he said, climbing awkwardly from the booth.
Glancing at her new friend, she shrugged. Devin stood and let her out, smirking as Peter hooked his arm through hers and dragged her away toward the ladies’ room. “Don’t leave, okay,” Susan called over her shoulder.
The bathroom smelled even more like vomit and cigarettes than the bar. Susan shoved the door closed and yanked her arm from her brother’s grasp.
“Stupid! What the hell’s the matter with you?”
“You can’t just leave with some guy,” Peter said. “You know better than that.”
“He’s the guy, Peter. The one who saved me.”
“He’s much older than we are. He might be a nut.”
Susan leaned over the sink and peered at herself in the mirror. She fingered a stray smudge of mascara from beneath her eye. “Maybe he’s the one taking the chance.”
Peter rolled his eyes and rested his chin on her shoulder. In the mirror, they appeared like double vision. “F**king please! You’re real dangerous.”
“Well . . . that’s different,” Peter argued.
“If he wanted to hurt me, he’s already had the chance.”
“Still, I don’t feel good about it.”
“Give us forty-five minutes, okay?” Susan pleaded.
Peter clenched his jaw. “It only takes a minute for a crazy person to kill a girl. Or rape her. You never think about that stuff.”
“He’s hot, Peter.”
“He’s too old. And he’s weird. Mom and Dad would have a sh**-fit—“
“You’re gonna tell them?” Susan challenged.
“But what? We came to here to get out from under their thumbs, Peter,” Susan said. “I should thank him, anyway, don’t you think?”
Peter frowned. “Sounds like you plan to really thank him.”
“You make me sound like a giant whore.” Susan smiled, then pressed her nose to his. “Forty-five. No more.”
Peter shrugged. “Forty-five. No more.”
Susan planted a kiss on the faux-stitches at the corner of his mouth, then rushed through the door.
“You’d better have your clothes on,” Peter called after her.
Susan’s Doc Martens clapped dully against the damp street, but her guardian angel or vampire, whichever, made no such sound as he strolled. When he gave Susan his threadbare pea coat, she slipped into and pressed it to her face, breathing in the scent of age.
They reached the apartment just as a light rain began to fall. Susan led Devin inside and up the creaking, slanting stairway to their room.
“Ah, very nice,” he said when she opened the door. She stepped aside to allow him to enter first, but he did not move.
“A decent Deathwalker must first be invited into one’s home,” he told her.
“Please come inside, Mr. McCree.” Then she asked, half teasing, “’Deathwalker?’ You’re not some kind of monster, are you?”
Devin kissed her more gently than she had ever been kissed. “Do I look like a monster?”
“N-no,” she stammered, taking a handful of his shirt and pulling him across the threshold.
The place was low rent and even lower square footage. If they were not twins, it was doubtful she would be able to live so amicably with Peter in such a tight space. The wood floors were scratched, the hot water did not always work and the kitchen was a two-burner stove and a refrigerator barely wide enough to accommodate a frozen pizza. Susan had bought a foldout love seat from the Goodwill store for ten dollars, and Peter had brought his thirteen-inch black and white television from home. They had painted the walls with murals of monsters, Goths, castles, mystic creatures and lands—the landlord would have a stroke when they moved out. It smelled of cheap patchouli incense and mold.
Susan peeled off the wool coat and draped it on the back of a desk chair. “Sit down. I’ll get us something to drink.”
Devin plopped on the loveseat. “That can wait. Come here and let me kiss you again.”
She obeyed. How could she not?
Devin’s warm tongue traced the line of her lips. With a tiny gasp, Susan opened her mouth slightly, eager to meet his tongue with her own. He tasted of marijuana and whiskey with a hint of something metallic; it was quite lovely. When he pulled back, she saw that her makeup was smeared across his lips and chin like a bruise. She thought of Peter. Would he return in forty-five minutes, as agreed? She imagined him still in the bar, or walking around downtown, sulking; that was just like him, anyway. He was the reason she seldom went out. Part of her hoped he would not return until dawn.
Devin pressed his lips to her neck.
She felt a little strange, as if there was an itch inside her skull. She decided that it was from the alcohol and tried to ignore it.
“I could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then, the skin of my throat began to tingle as one’s flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer, nearer,” Devin whispered against her skin. “Tell me from where that quote is from, or I shall bite you.”
“Dracula,” she said. “Dracula. And you can bite me, anyway.”
“If you insist.”
Devin kissed her throat again, and Susan slipped her hand into his thick hair, pulling him to her. He groaned and pressed his hips against hers. She stroked his chest and then his stomach but stopped there, afraid to move lower.
“Here,” he said, taking her wrist and guiding her hand to his lap. His eyes were almost closed.
Susan shook her head, and a lazy grin spread across Devin’s face.
“Yes. I’ll not hurt you.”
She shook her head again, a little girl gesture, but still, she was unable to resist. She leaned forward and kissed him, tasting the saltiness of her own skin on his tongue. Her palm pressed the bulge in his trousers and then drew back.
“I’ve never—” she began. For some reason, she wanted to confess. She had only been as far as almost “doing the deed” with Ethan Walker, the boy she had dated for two years in high school. She hated to seem so dreadfully young and inexperienced with this man.
“Don’t worry. I know,” Devin said, as if he had read her thoughts. He stroked her cheek, and her face grew warm where he touched her. She could drown in his dark eyes. He leaned forward, his lips just brushing hers and then becoming more insistent.
“I’ve imagined this moment since the first time I saw you. I will make you mine.”
Fear uncoiled in the pit of Susan’s stomach. She now hoped Peter would indeed remember their pact. She glanced at the Felix the Cat clock that hung beside the refrigerator. Felix grinned widely and rolled his eyes. Peter was five minutes late.
Devin unbuttoned her ragged costume dress and pushed it off her shoulders; it fell to the floor in a soft, gray heap. He then unhooked her bra and carelessly flung it to one corner. Kneeling in front of her, he mouthed her navel, sending tremors of excitement through her belly and groin. Leisurely, he rolled down one leg of her tattered fishnet stockings, then the other.She stepped out of her panties and kicked them away.
Devin tugged his shirt over his head. Then, taking Susan’s hand, he kissed her fingertips and pressed her palm to his chest. “Touch me, Susan. Feel how quickly my heart beats for you?”
Susan wet her lips and ran her hands over the lean muscles of his chest and stomach. She pulled the sparse blond hair, and then moved closer to draw her tongue around first one nipple, then the other. He shuddered and pulled her into his body; his cock, still trapped inside the confines of his clothes, pressed into the soft flesh of her stomach.
They sank onto the bed together, with her lying beneath him. The night became a wicked, electric swirl of ecstasy as Devin’s hand slipped between her thighs, and his warm fingers kneaded the damp folds there. The muscles in her stomach tensed, and she felt as if she might explode.
“I promise I will not hurt you,” Devin murmured against her ear. He opened his trousers, and her hands found his feverish, hard flesh. She stroked him until he trembled, and then he pushed into her.
But something did hurt; something she was not expecting—something not down low, but higher. It was as though the tender flesh of her neck had ripped. She cried out as hot tears burned her eyes. She crushed her face against Devin’s shoulder, smelling soap on his skin. He cradled her against him, his movements slow and delicious. Shortly, that wondrous, slow-building tension settled in her middle once again, and this time, she did explode. Driving deeply into her, he groaned and then shuddered.
Afterward, lying in his warm embrace, Susan hovered at the threshold of sleep. Above her, incense smoke swirled and danced in the purple pinpoints of Halloween lights Peter had strung around the apartment. Smeared and out of focus, Devin’s face floated above hers. He kissed her eyelids and then her mouth. She thought she tasted blood.
The stereo played very low, something quite old, Jesus and Mary Chain, or maybe it was Echo and the Bunnymen. Some time later, Devin whispered to Susan a bedtime story.
“There once was a city built upon a bay. Now, this city was filled with ghosts; they lingered there because this city was built on history. Of all the American cities, this city held Europe in its breasts.
“Inside the walls of this city lived a princess with auburn hair and alabaster skin. Lips like the petals of a rose and thighs like silken pillows in which a rogue placed his sleeping head.”
Susan tried to respond, but she was not sure if the words poured from her lips or circled inside the haze of her brain. “. . . but we loved with a love that was more than love . . . in a kingdom by the sea.”
Darklands: a vampire’s tale, by Donna Burgess