Up until now, the only way you can read an excerpt from Blood Toy was to download a sample or use the”Look Inside” feature on Amazon. I have considered posting a teaser scene since I started this blog, but found myself torn between providing insight into the novel and spoiling the surprise. What surprise? Pick one. If a scene doesn’t reveal something new or end on a cliffhanger that will compel the reader to ask ‘What happens next?’, it doesn’t belong in my book. In this particular scene, the surprise is a way to kill vampires that I think has never been done before. Oh…and a first glimpse of Blood Toy’s antagonist:) Enjoy!
I heard he had a foot fetish. That’s why I was standing barefoot in the elevator, a pair of nine-hundred-dollar stilettos with vamp red soles in one hand, a purse too small to hold any weapon deadlier than my dagger in the other. As the car made its slow ascent, I tapped my fingers on the handrail and wished I had taken the stairs. Two men and a woman shared the space with me, all of us observing prevailing elevator etiquette, which meant we stared straight ahead and minded our own business. One of the men checked out my unpainted toes while the other frowned at my hand like he hoped the weight of his gaze would hold it still, but nobody asked, and I didn’t oblige.
The men got off five stories before my stop, muttering “Have a good one” to the woman, whose employee badge read: Cindy. I wondered what it would be like to work there, to ride the elevator every day to and from some mundane office job and make small talk with strangers between floors, to tip my head at the security guard every morning and drink too much spiked punch at lame company parties.
Cindy made eye contact with me for a split second and smiled before looking at the floor again. After a pause, she said, “Excuse me, but the price tag is still on your pants. Do you want me to get it for you?”
I tugged my blouse out of the way and arched my spine in search of it, but ended up just nodding. “If you don’t mind.”
She grasped the tag and hesitated. “I’m afraid I’ll rip the seam.”
“Don’t worry about it.” I was only going to wear them once anyway.
“Are those Louboutins?”
I wedged my feet into the heels, scowling. “Whatever they are, they’re evil.”
“I’ve always wanted a pair.”
“Well, you can have them when I’m done.”
She tittered behind her hand and nodded goodbye when the doors opened again, one floor below my stop. I wondered what it might be like to have a friend like Cindy, to borrow each other’s clothes and grab coffee together after work.
Twenty minutes earlier I had walked into the upscale boutique next door wearing off-the-shelf jeans and combat boots. I feared the sales associate might pass a kidney stone just looking at them. I was also pretty sure she burned them as soon as I left.
Now, along with my usual slim white button-up and camisole, I wore black skinny pants that showed off pale ankles, and five-inch heels that made my legs look seven feet tall. I had coiled my coffee-brown braid into a low bun and donned lipstick as red as the soles of my shoes. My neck and collar bones were bare. That’s what I hated most.
The doors opened on a stark white lobby and reception desk. Do or die time. I reminded myself to make noise when I crossed the room. The receptionist smiled, so I matched her expression. “Harlin is expecting me.”
“Sure. Your name please?”
“Stacy,” I lied.
“Just a sec.” She picked up the receiver and dialed an extension. “Mr. Barnes, your 11:00 is here.” To me, she said, “He’ll be right out if you want to have a seat.”
I didn’t, but it was the expected social protocol, so I sat. Five minutes later, a dark-haired man in a beige two-button suit appeared. He reminded me of a politician when he smiled. “Stacy, so sorry to keep you waiting.”
I wagged my leg at him before uncrossing it to stand. In those heels, I was six-foot-two, Amazonian compared to Harlin. “No trouble.”
He led the way to an office with windows that framed an oppressive view of the city, jagged spires of concrete and steel lacerating the sky. I sat down again, this time in a low-backed chair upholstered in stiff, green leather. I expected him to put his feet up on the desk, but apparently that only happens in movies. “Tell me about your portfolio. I understand you are looking to diversify.”
Whatever that meant. I gave him the same smile I’d given his receptionist and peeked at him from beneath a heavy fringe of lashes. “I have a confession to make.”
“I didn’t come here for investment advice.”
He ran a well manicured finger over his lips. “I do hope you aren’t a process server. You are far too pretty to turn over to security.”
Imitating Cindy’s giggle, I asked, “You think I’m pretty?”
“Good.” I tried for a seductive grin as I stood, an expression at odds with my reeling insides. Taking slow, deliberate steps to his side of the desk, I contemplated his receding hairline. He had been on the bad side of middle age when he got brought over, but was still handsome in a Lands’ End catalog-model kind of way. I perched myself on the edge of his desk, crossing my legs and my nine-hundred-dollar shoes toward him. “I hoped you wouldn’t think I was a stalker.”
“Why would I think that?” He draped a hand across my knee. I resisted the urge to slap it away.
“You know, Harlin, you are a hard man to get alone.”
“I didn’t realize you’d been trying.”
“I’ve seen you in the building, and I thought we could be friends.”
“Buddies,” I clarified.
“We can be buddies.”
He stood, invading my space to show he caught my meaning. After coaxing my legs apart, he drew an ankle up to his waist. His thumb traced the veins that ran along the inside of it. I wanted to ask him if the action was intentional. Instead, I dug my spiked heel into his side, possibly with more force than necessary, though Harlin didn’t seem to mind. He unbuttoned my pants while I opened my purse.
“I’m clean. Trust me,” he said.
I withdrew a tin of mints, popped one in my mouth and offered another to him. “Humor me.”
He did. Then he kissed me. It was wet and sloppy, but it worked. I pushed my own mint into his mouth and kept my lips pressed to his until he swallowed that too. As soon as he did, he pulled away, his eyes turning the color of cherry Kool-Aid. He was a young one.
“What was that?”
“That was candy-coated amethyst.” From between my breasts, I withdrew a syringe and thrust the needle into his jugular. “This is saltwater.”
I didn’t quite make it out of spitting distance before he started to die. While he puked blood, I locked the door, stripped off my blouse and slacks, and changed into the thin jersey skirt and ballerina flats I had rolled up in my purse. My backup syringe fell out with my clothing and cracked on the corner of Harlin’s desk. Good thing I don’t need it now.
After wiping off all traces of lipstick, I took down my braid and finger-combed my hair into ripples that fell to my waist. I wiped off my prints and stuffed everything but the Louboutins in Harlin’s trash can. Those I would leave at the security desk for Cindy. It was really just a courtesy cleanup. When people like Harlin die, cops are seldom involved.
I remembered the emergency exit was located next to the elevator, so I would have to go out the way I came in. The receptionist was gone when I entered and the lobby almost vacant, except for the dark-haired man seated in the very same chair where I had waited to meet Harlin. He claimed a wide territory, arms spanning the backs of two chairs, legs spread, keys and cell phone arranged on the coffee table on top of aging copies of GQ and Money magazine. He leaned forward when I entered and fixed me with a hard stare that made the room feel too small for both of us.
He stood when I passed him and cornered me at the elevator. I considered the stairs, but decided against them. What if he followed? I didn’t have a backup syringe, not to mention I was underdressed. I made a mental note to be better prepared in the future. Always carry two syringes and never, ever wear a skirt.
“Going down?” he asked.
I didn’t trust myself to speak, so I just nodded. He reached over me and pressed the button to call the car up, brushing his bicep against my shoulder and pressing his chest against mine. My ass hit the wall before I realized I was backing away. My head screamed at the invasion of space, and I held my breath to contain it.
He extended his hand. “Christopher Desollador. A pleasure meeting you, Miss…?”
I never took my eyes off his. They were the color of aged Merlot. Damn. “Stacy,” I said.
The elevator doors opened. He leaned inside, punched the Lobby button for me, then held the door until I entered. I resisted the urge to press my back into the corner farthest from him. His mouth curled with mild humor. “Next time, you’ll have to tell me your real name.”
I hoped there would never be a next time. Barring that, I hoped if there was a next time, I would have another syringe between my breasts and a much bigger knife.
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