The End of the Beginning

This evening, I typed the final words on the follow-up story to A Single Heartbeat, called (at least for the time being… it’s a working title and may change) A Kiss of Brimstone.

Well, okay, not the FINAL words.

Just the final words of the first draft. It clocks in at about 24,000 words, and it definitely meets the ‘rough’ criteria for a rough draft. But that’s okay. What’s on paper now is the major beats of the story I wanted to tell.

I know there are going to be several revisions. It’s in the hands of my incredibly talented beta team now. (I call them Beta Team Voltron, because separately they’re great, but together they’re super powerful.)

When I start a story, there’s this sense of excitement. It’s all sparklers and tingles. The middle is usually a slog. It’s sitting down to write even when I feel about as inspired as a piece of cardboard (and the words coming out reflect it).

But the end is such a crazy mix of emotions.

There’s some of that joy and elation I start with. The “YAY I’M DONE WOOHOO I FINISHED A THING!!” There’s some of the slog, too. The “Oh thank god that’s done with.”

Also, there’s this sense of… let down. Or, sadness maybe. All the time I’ve spent working on it, and it’s finished. Even though there are other things I can work on next, and I know I’ll be coming back to this story even, in rewrites, I’m still a little bummed not to be writing it for the first time. I will miss this story, at this stage. I don’t know if that makes any sense to anyone else, but it’s the way I feel.

To celebrate finishing the (very) rough draft, and to hold on to that feeling of working on A Kiss of Brimstone a little longer, I thought I would share a short excerpt with you here. I hope you enjoy it!

(I want to stress, again, that this is the rough draft. I have done literally ZERO editing, so there may be typos and everything you’re about to read is subject to change.)

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The modern age has become a surprising haven for the creatures of superstition. For humans, they exist only between the pages of a book or on a screen. Even the evidence of their eyes and ears is often discounted as trickery, either of the mind, or some new technological marvel.

Across the globe in busy city streets, beings of legend find it easy to get lost in a teeming crowd. To be one more unquestioned oddity, worth hardly more than a few strange looks.

Their world lives alongside the world of humans, in its shadowed places. It is populated by myth and magic. Vampires, werewolves, witches… And more.

Everything humans whisper about while huddled in their homes on stormy nights. Beasts seen so rarely they are often believed by even the eldest vampires alive to have been conjured purely from the tangle of the human psyche.

But they, too, thrive in the city’s vibrant dark.

***

Andras crouched on the building’s ledge, the tips of his black talons digging into the crumbling grey concrete. He kept his wings flared for balance, the gleaming raven feathers blending into the night sky above him. The muscles of his shoulders and thighs burned from holding still for so long, but he didn’t so much as twitch.

Music drifted up to him from the street below, the thundering bass line vibrating in his bones. Cars, buses, and taxis whizzed by, horns honking, brakes screeching. A Yemeni man yelled for someone to “look out!” Someone cursed back in Italian. A woman’s high pitched laughter cut through the warm evening air. Andras found the near-constant noise of the city refreshing after the piercing silence in Kimah.

He tilted his face up to the sky, the ends of his hair brushing the bare skin of his back, and inhaled. He could scent fried food, exhaust, refuse, and dye from a textile factory on the cross street with each breath.

The acrid, burnt hair stench of his quarry’s soul was easily discernible, even mixed in with the city’s myriad scents.

A grim smile teased the corner of Andras’ mouth. It had been an age since he’d hunted on his own. He had underlings now to ferry the souls of the newly departed, and no one had escaped the Silent City in a century.

Until Richard Boone.

At first, Andras had sent his third best legion, unconcerned with one rogue soul. But the narcissistic CEO had led them on a merry chase. They’d lost him in Shanghai when he hijacked the body of a financier and disappeared.

He sent his best men next. His first and oldest legion, made up of his most loyal comrades. They had fought through the Dark Ages together.

But Boone had somehow eluded them as well, leaving a trail of destruction and death in his wake.

Andras would not allow him to evade capture for another day.

In the packed club below, Richard Boone’s soul squatted within a blond-haired, blue-eyed young man with a bright smile and a mind full of blood-soaked thoughts. Unlike the other humans he’d possessed since his escape, whose souls had fought the presence of an interloper, Boone had found a kindred spirit in Dan Spencer. Left unchecked, the pair could wreak untold havoc.

It was too bad for Boone that his vessel’s name was already on Andras’ list.

He flicked out his long tongue, tasting the late spring air. Lust, greed, passion, desperation, sorrow, and love all flavored the breeze, firing Andras’ blood and filling his mouth with saliva. He flexed his fingers and shifted on the ledge, the muscles of his thighs bunching. Excitement crackled along his spine as he waited for Dan Spencer and his wayward passenger to emerge into the night.

Despite the fact that he rarely left Kimah anymore, Andras was familiar with the club in his sights. Several of the demons in his First Legion frequented Sang in their humanoid forms. He had contemplated doing the same, following Spencer into the vampire-owned venue. But there were too many humans present. He couldn’t risk it.

Instead, he perched on the roof of the building across the street, watching the entrance. The line in front was long, snaking around the corner. Spencer had strolled inside over half an hour ago. Andras suspected he too was hunting. Boone’s vile presence inside him had pushed him to action.

Andras didn’t think he would have to wait much longer. But he had been born millennia ago and battle tested in the fires of civilization’s creation. In Kimah, he had risen to the rank of Marquis. He was no stranger to patience. Especially in service of a goal.

Tonight, he would harvest souls.

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