Kissing Corpses, by Amy Strickland
Available at Amazon
Description: Kissing Corpses starts as a vampire romance, but quickly spirals into a suspense horror novel. Kendall Harker thinks she’s met Mr. Perfect when a stranger, Rawdon Hale, rescues her from a possibly deadly mugging. Her new beau looks good on paper, but soon Kendall discovers that he is hiding a terrible secret: he’s a vampire. When Rawdon decides that he wants to turn Kendall into a creature of the night, Kendall isn’t given much choice. She must reach out for help from a rude and callous vampire hunter who only cares about his catch and has no interest in Kendall’s well-being.
At his core his body trembled; the minute shaking motion magnified as it traveled down the length of his arm until the gun in his hands was convulsing wildly, unable to be aimed. Every shudder, every twitch, took place in slow motion. Guns are powerful. They can end lives with the squeeze of a trigger and, if one is pointed at you, they can slow down time. The man pointing the gun at me was a stranger. He had the gaunt face and yellow teeth of a meth user. The tremor of his withdrawal was only compounded by the cold. My purse was the ticket to his next fix.
I held my hands in the air, thinking very quickly about what I needed to do. His aim might have been terrible, but I knew that if he got spooked and pulled the trigger, I didn’t want to bet against his marksmanship.
“Okay,” I breathed, watching the heat roll out from my lips, “You can have everything. Just… take it.” I held out my purse. He edged towards me, one hand reaching for the purple and black damask tote, the other trying to reign in the quaking pistol.
He changed his mind. “Open the car,” he said.
Fuck. This was turning into a car jacking. I could cancel my credit cards and buy a new iPhone. It was insured. I could stand to lose the twenty dollars and the pack of Big Red in my purse. The car was a whole new level of problems.
“Please,” I begged.
“Give me the goddamn keys!” he barked. I winced, but nodded and opened the purse to follow orders. My only hope was that someone had heard him shout.
I felt my hands curl around my braided leather key chain. Then something vibrated. My phone. In that half second between the vibrate and the ring tone, I had all the time in the world to realize how much trouble this could be, but no time at all to react.
“STOP CALLIN’, STOP CALLIN’, I DON’T WANNA THINK ANYMORE!”
The sudden blaring of Lady GaGa at top volume cut through the cold night air like a siren. He panicked. I can’t say that I didn’t panic, too. I felt the barrel of the gun strike my cheek just below my eye. My head whipped back and my body followed. I fell hard against my car, catching the rear-view mirror across my lower back.
“I LEFT MY HEAD AND MY HEART ON THE DANCE FLOOR.”
“It’s my phone,” I bawled, clutching my throbbing face. An injury like this would normally have me on the ground, unable to speak. Adrenaline is a wondrous hormone.
“Open the car,” he ordered.
“Or you could put the gun down,” another voice said. It seemed to carry a proper British accent.
During my undergrad survey of Psychology, we learned that strangers didn’t normally stop to intervene in public cases of assault. The instinct for the average human being, no matter how altruistic you’d like to think you you are, is to label it “not my problem” and keep walking. The uncommon individual who had come to my aid, stood at the corner of the street with his hands shoved into the pockets of a navy blue, wool top coat.
My cheek was swelling up, making it difficult to keep my eye open and I’m pretty sure the contact had been knocked out by the blow. I covered the offending eye and tried to focus on the stranger. He was young with fair skin, blonde hair, and thick black glasses. The shadow cast by the sport’s bar seemed to absorb him. “Put the gun down,” he said.
“Who the fuck are you?”
My rescuer didn’t answer. He walked towards the mugger with a calm that would make a Buddhist monk envious. The mugger lowered his weapon and stared back at the stranger. His hands steadied.
“Have you looked in a mirror recently?” the stranger asked. “Have you seen what you look like? More of that junk in your veins isn’t going to help anything.”
I would have expected a backlash from the mugger, but he just stared at the stranger, waiting for what he would say next.
“I’m giving you a chance,” he continued. “If you take her automobile, the police will pull you over in three blocks and you’ll go to jail. You’ll go through withdrawal in there, alone, with a metal toilet and a swastika tattooed bunkmate who’s looking to trade you for a pack of cigarettes.”
The adrenaline was wearing off and I was getting dizzy. The scene before me was beginning to feel like a dream. Was he really keeping the mugger’s attention captive for as long as it felt?
“Or you can give me the gun, take this dollar I’m about to give you, and get on a bus.”
The mugger nodded. “To where?”
“I’m sure the Emergency Room staff at the hospital can refer you to a decent rehabilitation center.”
There was a long pause. I leaned back against my car to steady myself.
“Give me the gun,” the stranger repeated. The mugger stepped forward and placed the gun in his outstretched hand. The stranger opened the clip, dumped the ammo down the storm drain, and threw the gun in a nearby public trash can. He reached into his pocket and handed a silver dollar to the mugger. “Go. Before the police arrive.”
The moment the stranger turned his attention from the mugger, the mugger came to his senses. He started to shake again and then he ran. Where he went, I don’t know. The important part was that he was gone.
“Are you alright?” the stranger asked, turning his gaze on me. He approached and pulled off his leather gloves. His face was still a bit fuzzy, but I could make out the basic shape now. He had sharp, angular features and cold blue eyes. He had to be my age; I was six months out of college at the time.
“I feel sick,” I said. There was no way I was going to drive. “Should we call the police?”
“He won’t be trying that again,” the stranger said. He touched my cheek and pulled back with bright blood on the end of his finger. “You’ll keep until I can bandage you up. Is this your car?”
I don’t remember telling him my address, or much of the ride home. I have some memory of sitting on the toilet in my bathroom while he carefully placed butterfly bandages on my cheek and checked my pupils. After two Tylenol and a tall glass of water, he propped me up on my couch with a bag of frozen peas to watch a Lord of the Rings all-night marathon on some cable station. He asked me questions to keep me awake, but what they were or how I answered, I couldn’t say.
When the sun and the sound of a braking bus outside stirred me from my sleep, I was laying on my sofa in the living-room of the house I shared with my best friend. There was no sign of the bespectacled stranger with the British accent.
The front door slammed. The bowl on the table next to the door rattled with the impact. My head throbbed. I sat on the sofa with a bowl of cherry-chocolate granola cereal in my hands and a mug of steaming black coffee on the table at my feet. Geneva tossed her Coach bag over the back of the sofa. It landed next to me.
“What, not even going to ask where I’ve been?”
I turned to look at her. She was wearing the same outfit that she had left the house in the night before, tight blue jeans and a red top that squeezed her extra pounds in and put her cleavage out on display.
“Holy crap! What happened to your face?” she asked.
“Pistol-whipped,” I grumbled. “Mugged.”
“After I left? Outside the bar?”
“Oh my God. I am so sorry! Who the hell mugs someone in Cheyenne?”
“A meth head. I’ll be fine. Some guy came along and scared him off. Or… well… talked him down. Didn’t really scare him.”
Geneva and I had been out the night before at a sports bar, but she had gone off to hang out with some hunky co-ed and I had gone home alone. Or tried to. Geneva had always had much better luck with men than I did. She had a friendly round face and brown eyes. She was always complaining (to me) that she was twenty pounds overweight, but she was bubbly and flirty and available. She said I scared men away by being too smart.
“How was your date?” I asked, trying to sound happy for her.
“It was great. I kicked his butt at Nazi Zombies mode on Call of Duty and had him wrapped around my finger like that.” Geneva snapped her fingers. I forced a smile.
“But your face– did you drive home like that? Are you sure you don’t have a concussion?”
“I’m fine,” I assured her. “Like I said, some British guy came and the mugger took off. He drove my car home and made sure I didn’t slip into a coma.”
Geneva looked around the house and strained her neck to peek into the hall. “Who? Is he still here?”
“He was gone when I woke up. I didn’t even get his name. Don’t worry, he didn’t steal anything. I checked.”
“British? Was he cute? Oh, wait, how old was he? He wasn’t an old guy, was he? Or at least, was he a sexy old guy?”
I rolled my eyes. I was not going to have this conversation with the pounding in my head. “He was our age. He was alright. Honestly, everything’s a bit fuzzy.”
“Kendall!” she moaned, “What good are you as a damsel in distress if you can’t remember if he was cute!”
“I was mugged, Geneva,” I snapped. “I didn’t plan it to pick up cute guys.”
“Sorry.” She sat down on the arm of the couch. “Should you, like, go to the hospital or something?”
“I didn’t die from brain swelling in the last 8 hours. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
“No, you know what? You need a Doctor’s note. If you’re going to be a grump with a migraine for a while, you at least deserve some time off of work. Do you have sick time yet?”
I nodded. “I think I’ve accrued one day.”
“Good, use it for this. You got pistol-whipped for God’s sake. That’s hardcore. You have street cred now.”
“For all of those rap battles I participate in,” I said, my tone flat.
“At least it’s a story to tell at parties, right?”
“Geneva,” I groaned. “Could I have some quiet?”
“Right. I’ll go take a shower. Let me know if there’s anything you need when I get out, okay?” Geneva leaned down and hugged me. I nodded.
There was a shrill beep and Geneva shot up. She pulled her phone out of her purse and grinned. “Text from Jeremy. He’s hooked.”
I picked up my cup of coffee, hoping she’d leave so that I could stop talking and have some peace. “Oh, last night, I called you. Did you get my voicemail?”
I laughed, in spite of my killer migraine. “Yeah. Your ring tone scared him,” I said, gesturing to my split cheek. “Thanks.”
Geneva winced. “Sorry,” she said. “It’s not really important now. I was just letting you know that I’d be in late, if at all.”
“Oh. Well… that shower?”
“Right! Sorry.” Geneva hopped off the couch and ran down the hall with a bounce. I chugged half the mug of coffee in front of me and then laid down on the couch to wallow in misery for a while.
Kissing Corpses, by Amy Strickland
Available at Amazon