Dr. Gabriella Evans’ boyfriend, Damon Drake, is a monster–only she doesn’t know it…yet…and the knowledge will shatter her normally ordered life.
When Damon is brutally attacked by both a vampire and a zombie, he awakens as a zompire–more than an evil vampire, and much more than a mindless zombie. As he discovers his newly acquired abilities, he wonders if he and Gabby have any future together. Can their two species even coexist, much less have love expressed between members? Gabby worries—how much has Damon’s conversion changed the man she once loved? Can she love him in his new form?
It is only through mutual trust and cooperation that they can succeed in hunting down the offending vampire, discover the motive behind his attack, destroy him and defeat his zombie army. Can they rediscover their love along the way, or will their differences lead to their mutual destruction?
I intend to donate 10% of my royalties from this Romance Horror novel to charity. The first chapter follows:
But your dead shall live,
Your corpses shall rise;
Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light,
And the land of shades gives birth.
SAINT JUDE CHURCH
The priest’s normally serene eyes jolted open. His jaw fell. His attempt at a scream caught in the back of his throat. Before him, one of his parishioners, Damon Drake, had leapt into the air, morphing in an instant into a black bat with a gigantic wingspan. The squall from its wings blasted the priest’s normally tidy hair into a disheveled mess, and forced him to shield his eyes with one hand. Bracing against the wind, he clutched the crucifix hanging from a cord around his neck.
With only three flaps of its wings, the bat flew to the peak of the church, circling the pendant lights several times, and then sailed silently above the choir loft at the back of the church. Through bright red eyes, it stared at the priest far below, now mumbling prayers through trembling lips, and repeatedly blessing himself with the Sign of the Cross, his still wide-open eyes transfixed on the apparition before him.
Is that a bat? Where did Damon go? What’s happening? It can’t be a vampire bat! This is a church of God. It’s supposed to be free of demons.
The bat circled the church twice more, and then swooped to a landing on the main aisle at the back of the church, both wings and feet striking the floor at the same time in a soft, pinpoint landing. It skidded for a few feet before coming to a stop facing the rear of the church with its wings folded against its body. It then flapped its wings, lifted off the floor a few inches, and rotated until it once again faced the priest.
Father Coulter couldn’t believe his eyes. He tried to speak, but couldn’t find his voice, couldn’t even lift his still-dropped jaw. The hairs on his arms bristled. His trembling hands gripped his Crucifix, clutching the sacred object as if it were a life preserver that would save him from drowning in the Evil before him, and would mercifully return him to reality. Is that God-forsaken creature really Damon? Did the Devil take over his body? For the first time in my life I feel impotent in the face of Evil. God help me.
Father Coulter finally forced his jaw to move, as he tried to say something comforting to the floored bat, to what must be…Damon. He found he couldn’t. He stepped warily down the aisle, terrified that the bat would again take flight.
Suddenly, the bat’s body began to change. The priest skidded to a halt, having reached the middle of the church. He stared in disbelief at the exhibition unfolding before him.
Damon felt his arms and legs begin to lengthen as if he were on a medieval torture rack. He experienced no pain, but could feel his bones stretch, and his muscles elongate. His nails lengthened and thickened. His wings disappeared into his arms. His body grew. He felt his cold blood expanding to fill his newly formed arteries and veins. He sucked air into his enlarging chest. His head stretched as if made of rubber. His jaw grew forward, as long teeth replaced the infinitesimal bat teeth. A thick coat of fur grew over his entire body, replacing his leathery skin. The entire change took place in less than thirty seconds.
Damon shook involuntarily like a dog shaking off water, and then looked back at his long, brilliant gray fur. He sniffed the air, and caught the scent of a wolf…his own scent he realized. His tail wagged like a dog anticipating the appearance of his master, except he held his low, close to the ground in a menacing manner. The claws on his massive paws grated across the tile floor. The harsh sound echoed through the large cathedral, reverberating off the walls and ceiling until Father Coulter thought his ears would explode.
Damon growled through gritted teeth. Oh, God! I’ve morphed into a large wolf. What’s next? He closed his black eyes for a few seconds, and felt a burning that streamed from the tip of his tail to his eyes. When he again opened them, they glowed a fiery red.
When the penetrating stare of the wolf fell upon Father Coulter, the priest’s body shuddered. He began to back toward the altar, tripping slightly when he hit the stair at its base. Regaining his balance, he stared at Damon’s new appearance in total horror. Father Coulter suddenly found he couldn’t move. His muscles felt petrified, his throat tightening further, making breathing almost impossible. His knees shook beneath him, robbing him of the strength needed to climb the step.
Damon roared once at the unmoving priest. The echo, mixing with the grating already filling the church, made it sound as if there were a dozen mad wolves prowling about. Drool dripped off the wolf’s large teeth and tongue, and dribbled onto the floor, each drop burning a tiny hole in the tile. Damon bounded toward the priest, whose eyes were again opened in terror, taking in, but not believing, the horrific scene before him.
“Oh, my God…” Father Coulter screamed. His throat constricted, choking him further, and severing his voice mid shriek. His heart pounded. His hands and knees continued to shake uncontrollably. His legs refused to obey his command to flee.
Finally, regaining some control of his lower limbs, he turned, his eyes searching for a place to hide, any place of safety to escape the beast. He spotted the Sacristy door that lead to his dressing room behind the altar. With all his will, he forced his foot to mount the step, and ran on faltering legs toward its promise of safety. His feet seemed to move in slow motion, refusing to grip the marble floor, slipping like a cartoon character running in place before the threatening monster. He risked a peek over his shoulder, only to see the ferocious wolf bearing down on him, mouth open, lips drawn back to expose razor-sharp teeth. The wolf bounded higher into the air with each stride as it approached.
Damon could smell the sweat forming on Father Coulter’s brow, could hear the priest’s heart beating frantically. He could almost taste his flesh, his blood. Damon felt his own muscles contracting, responding to his need to go faster, to vault higher. He had never experienced an adrenalin rush this immense. Faster and faster he ran, higher and higher he leapt. His instinct drove him to topple the priest, and kill him with his massive jaws, ripping his body like tissue paper beneath his massive weight. He charged down the aisle, changing his direction slightly to the left to adjust for the priest’s veer in that direction. You won’t escape me that easily!
As Damon drew to within striking distance of the priest, he leapt high into the air in preparation for pouncing on his fleeing prey…
FIFTEEN HOURS EARLIER
The pitch black of night took its own sweet time eclipsing the deadly daylight. For Master Vampire, Quentin DeVoie, the change couldn’t arrive fast enough. He huddled behind the steel door, waiting for the first hint of the totality of nightfall, his long, thin face plastered against the metal. “Damn you, sunlight of God.” He scratched at the door with his elongated fingernails as if that would speed the process. His scratches, some as deep as a quarter of an inch, formed both ‘X’s and parallel lines in the metal, however, instinct and fear ensured that no lines crossed in the shape of the dreaded Cross. The grating reminded him of the warning calls of his fellow vampires, but none were in earshot. No, he would have no help with his attack. “Come on, darkness. Hurry up! I don’t have all night.”
After searching for decades, he finally had hopes of ending his quest. He had been given this mission of honor by the worldwide vampire council, and he would not fail them. But first, he had to get out into the night. He had a trap to spring. He hissed at the defiant sun through the door. It didn’t help. “This delay is unacceptable!”
When the sun finally dipped below the horizon, his zombie guard pounded on the door. “The sun is gone, Master DeVoie. Safe to come out.”
DeVoie threw the door open, growling as loud as he could, and tore onto the warehouse roof, shoving the zombie out of his way. The zombie skidded across the tarred roof, and plummeted to the concrete parking lot with arms and legs flailing, but without uttering a sound. DeVoie heard the bone-crunching thud as he reached the edge of the roof, having covered the distance in three giant bounds. He leapt into the air, converting in an instant to a small, black bat. He had no time to circle his hideout, or to gain height. Instead, he raced directly toward the alleyway where he knew he would find his prey. Along the way, he sniffed the sweet-scented blood of several other potential dinner victims, making their way home after a long day’s work. However, he couldn’t afford the time to satisfy his blood-hunger. That would have to wait until his anticipated confrontation with his victim, and his success.
Landing on the roof adjacent to the alleyway, he converted to his human form. He checked the alley for surveillance cameras. There were none, but several stood watch in the adjacent parking lot. He would avoid these. He watched a few people transit the alley on their journey to their cars. As the warm calm of day dissipated, and a wintry wind ripped through the area, they rushed toward the warmth of their cars, leaving the alley empty, exactly what DeVoie wanted.
Seeing Damon Drake pause at the building’s exit, DeVoie smiled. Viscous drool began dripping from his mouth, as his incisors grew. “My wait has finally ended. Victory is now within easy reach, only moments away. Praise and glory to the vampire council.”
Damon took his first tenuous step from the building, and froze. The air contained a smell he couldn’t readily identify. He sniffed again. The foul odor turned his stomach. Decaying flesh? He snarled. Yes, that’s it. It smells like the morgue when the police first bring in a decaying body. Yuck! I remember covering a case with that smell as a rookie reporter ages ago. I had hoped to never smell such a disgusting thing again.
Damon fought the urge to pinch his nose. A cold wind blasted his face. He shivered. He had been raised in Buffalo, New York, and had grown accustomed to the blustery weather of the Great Lakes. Such weather had never bothered him before. The cold this night, however, seemed even icier and meaner than that associated with those howling lake effect storms that marched across Lake Erie.
He shivered again as the frigid wind slammed into his face. Something’s wrong, but what, the smell, the cold? Closing his eyes, he listened for any strange sounds. He heard only the howling wind. Even the ‘goodnight’ from the guard sounded hollow and distant. For the first time, he didn’t bother answering.
Damon’s dark, now wide-open eyes darted up and down the alleyway, searching for any hidden monsters poised to attack. None were evident, but that didn’t comfort him. An intense man with nerves of steel that pursued every angle of a story, he normally would dismiss any thought of monsters as totally implausible, but he couldn’t shake the feeling someone, or something, watched his every move. He shivered from the sensation more than the cold. His heart raced. The air caught in his throat. Had he been alone, he would have yielded to his impulse to flee, would have returned to the safety of his office. But he had company, and numbers brought safety, or so he thought, as he marched headlong down the alley with his companion, Dick Orlando.
Damon took several deep breaths, blowing the air out slowly, his warm breath freezing into a mist that blew back onto his face, further freezing his nose and ears, and forcing him to once again close his eyes. He imagined himself walking through a foggy cemetery on a Halloween night rather than the well-lit alleyway behind the Courtland TV News building in Cantersville, Connecticut where he worked as an award-winning TV newscaster. He had enjoyed the state’s temperate autumn weather for the last fifteen years, but tonight’s air didn’t strike him as an autumn wind in New England. Rather, it felt like late January at the North Pole. The bitter cold and foul smell not only made him shiver, but also made him feel alone, and without shelter, or hope.
Moisture in the air transformed into sharp icicles that blasted Damon, cutting deep into his face, and bringing tears to his eyes. Goose bumps covered his body even though he wore a heavy parka. The stink of the frozen air filled his nostrils to the point he could taste it. His ice-covered lips stung. His freezing core sent a chill up his spine, causing him to shudder once more, and his teeth to chatter. This isn’t Connecticut, it’s definitely the arctic, and there must be a dead polar bear nearby. There isn’t even supposed to be a wind chill factor this evening. Oh, yeah, Mister Weatherman, tell that to my frozen body.
“Awfully early for such cold weather,” Dick said, as he bundled his coat around his neck, and fastened its top button. “I wish I had grabbed a hat this morning. Whatever happened to global warming anyway?”
“Didn’t you hear my morning report? Global warming is happening everywhere but here in Cantersville. All the women in town have gotten together, and decided to give you the cold shoulder.” He looked sidelong at Dick, lowering his head against the wind that tore at his face. “The result is this Canadian cold front blasting our studios.”
“That may be true in your case. You’ve got a steady girlfriend to keep you warm. I don’t. So, if any women are causing this cold, it’s directed at you. The women in this town are all warm and bubbly over me. Makes me sweat just to think of it.”
“Right, Mister Lady Killer, but remember I saw your technique with women at that last party, and I seem to remember you striking out all night long.”
Dick shook his head behind an expansive smile. “I was off my game that night. You watch me tonight at the bar. I’ll have one of those cute women eating out of my hand in no time.”
Damon returned the smile. “Only if your hand is full of twenty dollar bills.”
Dick shook his head while feigning a large frown, “You’ll see, but don’t stay too close to me tonight. That negative aura and frigid attitude that hangs around you will scare them away quicker than a mouse from an angry house cat. There’s only so much that my charisma can handle.”
“Charisma? You don’t even know the definition of the word.”
“My women do, and that’s all that matters. They come first in my life, and they’re going to flock to me tonight. So, unless your girlfriend shows up, I’m afraid you’re destined to come in a far second in the love category.” He threw Damon another broad smile, as he shrugged his shoulders. “I guess you’ll have to find your own way to get warm tonight. A cup of hot chocolate may be the only thing you’ll be caressing by night’s end.”
“Ha! That’ll be the day. I’m glad I’ve got my cell phone camera with me. I’ve got to get photos of you making a fool of yourself again for my next news report. The headline streaming across the screen in large letters will read: ‘CBT Reporter, Dick Orlando, crashes in latest attempt to secure female companionship. Award winning photos courtesy of news anchor Damon Drake.’”
Another biting wind gusted up the alley, causing both men to cover their faces with their arms, their eyes tightly closed against their jackets. When the wind finally subsided, they lowered their arms, risking a peek, ready in a moment to slam their eyes shut if the stinging wind returned.
A slender man, clad in a black sport coat, stood before them, blocking their way. He had his collar upturned behind his neck, as if protecting it from the following wind. His pale face shown like lightning, his eyes glowed an eerie red that penetrated deep into both men, freezing them in their tracks. The man said nothing, but opened his mouth, exposing elongated canine teeth that dripped clear, thick drool from their tips. He growled like an angry tiger about to burst upon its prey as he grabbed both men by the lapels, lifting them off the ground. With an ear-piercing screech, and a swift movement of his arm, he tossed Dick high into the air across the alley as if he were a child’s flimsy stuffed animal. Dick smashed headfirst into the brick building with a loud thud. He then crumpled to the pavement, unmoving, a stream of blood trickling from both his nose and the left side of his head.
The picture of Dick sailing through the air and slamming into the wall stirred Damon from his stupor. He opened his mouth to object to the vampire’s brutal attack, and began striking him with his fists. The blows had no effect. Before Damon could utter one word, the vampire grabbed him by his throat, effectively silencing him. Damon continued pummeling the tall man, accomplishing nothing more than injuring his hands as they beat on a body and arms seemingly made of steel. For a fleeting moment he pictured the wonderful July day he and his girlfriend had spent at the beach. The sun had been so warm, felt great against his skin, and had warmed his inside almost as much as his girlfriend’s company. Oh, how he wished for a return of that day, and of that reality.
Pulling his struggling victim toward him so their eyes met, DeVoie said, “Welcome home, Lord Drake.”
The cold breath, striking his face, and the iciness stemming from the hand that held Damon snapped him back to reality. Damon’s wide-opened eyes stared into eyes that were now pitch black and empty, convincing Damon that no soul existed there, or, worse, that Almighty God had damned that soul already. The wind returned, slamming into Damon’s face, but, despite the stinging, he couldn’t close his eyes. The vampire smelled of putrefying flesh. Damon could actually taste the odor, nauseating him; however, he couldn’t vomit. He couldn’t move. His paralysis had become complete. He stared at the demon’s elongating teeth. Those weren’t human teeth. They were elephant tusks about to pierce him.
Smelling the fear streaming from Damon, the vampire smiled, his mission almost over, success only seconds away. He cherished the moment as he watched the color totally drain from Damon’s face. The council would be proud. He then cocked his head, opening his mouth wider than ever before. His canines grew even longer, spewing thick, virus filled pus. He grabbed Damon by the back of his head, stretching his neck to improve the angle of attack. He had won, his wait over. Damon would be his. With a guttural, animal growl, he leaned forward, and sunk his teeth into the side of Damon’s neck.
The centuries-old, practiced bite, led by razor sharp incisors, punctured the jugular vein as if it were a needle being inserted by a skilled surgeon. The blood tasted sweet, sweeter than he had even imagined. He wanted to drink his full, and suck all of the life-giving blood from Damon, however, his plan called for Damon to survive. So, he breathed out instead, forcing some of his anemic blood and vampire-virus-infected drool through his hollow teeth and into Damon. As he withdrew his teeth, the drool sealed the vein, the underlying tissues and, finally, the skin itself, leaving only the remnants of two small, barely noticeable puncture marks in their wake. Damon blacked out before the teeth were fully withdrawn from his neck.
The vampire then turned his attention to what remained of Dick, his neck at a strange angle to his body, blood coagulating at his wounds. He allowed Damon to slide down onto the ground, and then soared to Dick’s side, stirring the debris he passed at almost supersonic speed.
“Now for my dinner.” DeVoie savored the smell of the blood. It wouldn’t taste as sweet as Damon’s, but it would be nourishing and satisfying. He knelt next to the body and, after caressing its neck once, he chomped down onto the awaiting flesh, again finding the vein with no problem. This time, however, he sucked until he had emptied the corpse.
Satiated, he abandoned the carcass, wiping the excess blood from his mouth, and sucking the sweet, intoxicating liquid off his hand. He inhaled deeply, blew it out slowly. The meal would hold him for the rest of the night. He then soared toward Damon as quickly as he had toward his dinner. Using one hand, he picked Damon up in one fluid motion, and tossed him onto one shoulder. “Come, Lord Drake. The resting place for your final conversion awaits you. After that, we have much to do together.”
The wind that had persecuted Dick and Damon only minutes before now blew through Oakland Cemetery, stirring the leaves and twigs covering the graves into a violent torrent of flying debris. Two deformed zombies, leaning to one side with one shoulder held much higher than the other, awaited their master. Their arms lay limp and motionless at their sides. Their clothes, consisting of dark slacks and flannel shirts, were tattered and covered with dirt from their struggle to break free from their graves the night before. They stood in front of a large oak tree at the edge of the cemetery, oblivious to the temperature or flying projectiles. Through partially opened, unblinking eyes, devoid of any signs of life, the zombies glanced at each other, then at the leaves encircling them. Their facial expression reflected their blank minds. Only the growl of their stomachs interested them. Unable to satisfy their hunger, they turned their eyes to the horizon. Their master had ordered them to stand there, and they would not disobey, knowing he would soon appear, but the urge to eat had grown so strong.
One zombie bent at the waist, tilted his head to the side, and sniffed the air. He detected the earthy scent of their master. “Uh, Uh. The master comes,” the zombie said though drool-covered lips, his voice raspy and low. He made no attempt to clear it.
“Uh, Uh,” the other responded, struggling to maintain his stance against the wind, his eyes still fixed on the horizon.
Both then moved back a few yards as the vampire, carrying his precious load, zipped into the graveyard, stopping abruptly in front of the tree. Leaves and debris followed DeVoie, adding to the debris pummeling the dead duo.
DeVoie placed Damon carefully onto the ground, and turned to the zombies. He pointed to a spot a few feet from the oak’s trunk that appeared devoid of any sign of the tree’s thick surface roots. “Bury him in a shallow grave right there, away from the others, and then cover the area with leaves and twigs. I don’t want anyone disturbing his grave. We’ll come back tomorrow night for his awakening.”
The two zombies examined the unconscious man. They drooled on the body as they scrutinized it, as if it were their next meal. Moving with surprising alacrity for recently awakened zombies, they then picked up the shovels they had procured from the maintenance shed earlier, and began digging a shallow grave next to the body.
“Uh. But he is still warm, Master DeVoie,” the second zombie said in a voice indistinguishable from the first. “Can’t we simply eat him for our dinner? Uh, Uh.”
“No, you may not.” His eyes squinted in threat. His voice became deeper, louder and more vicious. “He is to be my apprentice, and you will obey him when he awakens just as you obey me. Now, keep digging. I want to be out of here as soon as possible.” I hate these flesh and brain-eating zombies, but they do serve my purpose. At least they aren’t like the zombies of old, mindless and slow. The new virus I developed at least allows them to move semi-normally, and gives them a basic survival instinct. They can even breathe like normal humans when they’re not in their graves, although I see no useful purpose for that. He smiled widely. They even have limited communication skills, and, most importantly, they obey my orders without question, or at least they had better. “Be careful with him when you place him in the grave. I have need of him, and I don’t want him injured by you two klutzes.”
The zombies stuck their shovels into the hard soil, taking small bites that they piled to one side while they continued to stare at the tasty looking body.
The whole process took longer than the DeVoie thought necessary. “Take bigger bites with those shovels. I have to be back in my coffin before sunrise. Dig faster.”
“Uh, uh.” The zombies increased both their speed and volume by a small but appreciable amount.
DeVoie shook his head. “That’s the kind of help you get nowadays.” He grunted his disapproval. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they can’t work efficiently. After all, they are zombies.”
When the zombies finally finished, they stood in the shallow grave, looking up at DeVoie.
“What are you waiting for? Put him into the grave, but do it carefully.”
The zombies grabbed Damon by his head and feet, and placed the body into the grave, careful not to bang him against the sides. Quickly covering his body, they patted the area with their shovels. They then spread leaves over the grave as they had been ordered. In minutes, the area resembled any other under the broad tree.
“Now, return the shovels to the shed. Then, I want both of you to return to your graves. I don’t want you, or anyone else disturbing my apprentice until tomorrow night. Meet me here after sunset. Understood?”
“Yes, Master,” both replied.
The zombies skulked toward the maintenance shed, as if stalking some invisible prey. “Uh, Uh,” they mumbled in unison as they walked, each dragging one leg behind him. As they approached the shed, they turned to see the vampire kneeling over the newly dug grave, caressing it as if it enshrined a beloved family member. He then covered the grave with another layer of multicolored leaves, arranging them in a haphazard pattern. He stood over the grave, staring at the makeshift camouflage. “That should do fine until tomorrow night. Sleep well, Damon Drake, my apprentice vampire. You have much to learn, and we have many enemies to confront. I’ll be back soon to fetch you. Until then, rest in un-peace, my newfound friend.”
Stretching out his arms to the side, the vampire leapt high into the air, transformed in an instant into a bat, and flew toward the storage shed. Seeing their master’s approach, the zombies hurried into the shed, replacing the shovels, and then watched the black figure fly high overhead. The bat circled the shed twice, and then zoomed out of sight over the horizon.
Both zombies then stared at the site of the grave they had dug, vaguely remembering the moist fresh body they had buried. “Uh, uh, uh,” they both muttered. Their drool rolled down their chins, and dripped onto the ground. Their eyes and mouths opened wider with the thought of fresh food so close. Their stomachs groaned louder. “Uh, uh, uh,” they repeated. The amount of drool they produced suddenly increased, and so did their appetites.
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