The Lost Vampire Prince (Evil Rising Book 1), page 1
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Copyright © 2019 by Melody Raven
Melody Raven (2019-1-03). The Lost Vampire Prince (Evil Rising Book 1)
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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VAMPIRE VILLAIN SNEAK PEEK!
Though badly named, the Stakes was the most serious vampire club Anna had found. When she had first moved to New York City, she’d continued with her research into the supernatural. In that time, she’d met some of the strangest people.
People thought they were vampires, werewolves, nymphs, succubi, and just about any other non-human entity a person could imagine. If they didn’t think they were one of these creatures, then they were on a mission to become one.
It seemed bizarre that the fear was really gone. Instead of trying to find a way to become the undead, shouldn’t everyone be pulling out the pitchforks?
This particular vampire hunting meeting was held at a generic coffeehouse near the campus Anna worked at. The owner of the shop catered to its mainly student clientele, so there were a few private study rooms where the Stakes could meet without customers overhearing their strange conversations.
The Stakes consisted of five members, including Anna. The oldest was Dennis. He was a businessman in his fifties. He was a bit heavyset with balding black hair he tried to hide with a comb-over. His suits were always a bit wrinkled, and he was consistently late for all of their meetings.
One of the other men in the group was Brad. Though he and Dennis were both businessmen, that was the end of their similarities.
Brad was tall and striking. His suits were always tailored to perfection and complemented his features. His blonde hair was always impeccably styled, and Anna strongly suspected his hands saw a manicurist on a regular basis. His age was hard to determine. Anna figured he could be anywhere between thirty and fifty.
The third man in the group was more blue-collar. Terrence worked as a janitor for one of the office buildings not too far from the campus.
He was in his late forties but still had a nice build. He was about the same height as Anna’s own five seven, though he had a lot more muscle behind his height. He mentioned a military background once or twice in past meetings, but he didn’t elaborate on what branch he’d been involved in.
Laura, the last member of the group, and Anna would sometimes bet between themselves what Terrence had done in the military. At this point, they were torn between Marines and Navy SEALs.
Laura was older than Anna by around ten years. Her husband owned a small restaurant right off campus. He did all the cooking while Laura managed all finances. Her hair was a short sandy brown, and her eyes were such a bright green that Anna suspected contacts.
As the only two women in the group, Laura and Anna had connected, but because of the rules of the group, they never got too close.
Vampire hunting is risky business. On one hand, if the vampires ever learned of their group, they could very well try to put an end to it. On the other, if coworkers or family found out about this hobby, there would be a lot of issues for the individual members to deal with.
The academic career was a particular one. If any of the faculty discovered Anna searched for the undead in her spare time, there would be consequences to pay. Namely, she would have a hell of a time gaining her doctorate or getting a job at any respectable university.
Everyone had arrived on time at the coffeehouse except for Dennis, who was his usual ten minutes late. After everyone finished with pleasantries, they got down to business.
No one had any interesting finds from internet and newspaper searches though Dennis had some news. “Someone contacted me last week,” he said.
“What about?” asked Brad.
“He requested to join the group.” Dennis’s tone was calm, but his face betrayed his concern.
Anna asked, “When you say contacted you, you mean...?”
“He called my cell phone.” Everyone in the room went still. No one had given out their cell phone numbers to one another. It was against the rules. No real names required and no contact information besides email. No one knew her full name was Annabelle, and Roberts was a common enough last name. She knew if someone really wanted to know who she was, no fake name would keep them from that.
The rule they all had the most respect for was the rule stating that no one could know why they wanted to find vampires. Some wanted to kill them while others wanted to become them. They were connected by a common goal of finding the undead. After that, it was each member for themselves.
As for vampires finding out about their little group, that didn’t concern Anna much either. To date, they'd found exactly zero vampires.
“Did he say how he got your number?” Laura asked.
“Unfortunately, no. It was a rather short conversation.” Dennis took off his glasses and cleaned them as he talked. Anna suspected he was uncomfortable with the four of them staring so intently at him.
He continued, “He said only that his name was Mr. X.”
Anna snorted at that. “A bit melodramatic,” she murmured.
“He said he would love to contribute to our monthly meetings. That he felt with his help we could see a world we had only dreamed of previously. Then he said he would be in contact and hung up.”
No one said anything. What if he did have all of the answers they were seeking? “I don’t like this,” said Anna. “If he really had only good intentions, why not give you contact information? Why didn’t he email you?”
Brad shook his head. “We've been meeting in this shitty little room for almost a year now. We find someone who might actually know something and you’re worried about his intentions? We’re looking for vampires, not kittens. There are bound to be some unsavory characters.”
Anna narrowed her eyes at him but said nothing.
Laura grabbed Anna’s hand under the table. “Even if we do meet with him, how could we keep ourselves safe?”
Terrence said, “Even if this seems suspicious, why would some guy want to join us just to kill us? We aren’t actually getting anywhere on our own.”
Brad jumped on the support. “Exactly. He has no motive to hurt us. He wants to help.”
Anna looked to Dennis. “What do you think?” He was the leader and was obviously disturbed by this man as much as she was. Hopefully he would see reason.
Anna rolled her eyes while Brad smiled at his victory. “The next time this Mr. X contacts you, tell him we all want to meet him. Don’t arrange it to be here, though. We’ll have to find someplace with lots of windows and is very public to meet.” He stopped for a second and appeared to be thinking of more orders to give Dennis. “Make sure the meeting is during the day.”
Laura laughed at that obvious statement. A shrill noise sounded behind her laughter. Dennis pulled out his cell phone.
Brad leaned close to him and looked at the phone. “Is that him?”
Dennis, a bit distracted by the phone, muttered, “Huh? Oh, him. No. This is my wife.”
Laura and Anna exchanged a look at each other. They had assumed Dennis was single considering he didn’t wear a ring. Anna would have suspected him of hiding the fact he was married, but if he were, why would he so freely admit who was calling him?
The phone stopped ringing. Dennis broke the silence. “Well, I really need to head home. This has been a very informative meeting, everyone.”
There were collective good-byes all around, though they sounded more hopeful than normal. Now they had Mr. X. They might actually make progress with this stranger, albeit a melodramatic stranger.
No matter his intentions, this was something to move the group forward. They had caught someone’s attention. That meant they were getting somewhere.
As Anna stepped into the chilly evening air, she headed toward the nearest subway station. She glanced at the sun that was just beginning to lower itself behind a skyscraper and thought of that last sunset she and Evie had seen together.
Maybe by next year, she might actually have an idea of what happened to her best friend. At that thought, she felt the familiar unease take over her body. She looked over her shoulder.
There was no Charles looking back at her. She laughed a bit at her own nerves. She smiled as something else occurred to her. By next year, she might not have to look over her shoulder in fear.
When Anna got back to her apartment around six thirty, she couldn’t stop thinking about her meeting with the Stakes. She thought of the few murders they'd gone over, trying to determine if the deaths were supernatural in any way.
One in particular stood out. The daughter of a congressman. Her father was probably the only reason the poor thing had gotten any space in the newspaper at all. There'd been no photo of her in the article. Just one life, full of potential, wiped out way too soon. Just like Evie...
It made Anna sick. The image of empty, black eyes came back to her mind. She shook her head to get rid of the vision and then looked out the window to clear her mind. The sun still gave light to the city, though most of the streets were now in shadow.
She quickly changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt, tossing her cell phone and identification into a light shoulder bag. From the nightstand drawer, she pulled out a .45 caliber pistol. She didn’t have anything fancy like silver bullets, though she hoped anything that came at her from the shadows would at least pause when shot with normal bullets.
With everything securely in her bag, she put on her running shoes and grabbed her MP3 player. She set it on a soundtrack from an older action sci-fi movie. Fast songs to keep her pumped up.
She started to run in the cool air, swerving between people while she moved her feet to the pounding song in her ears. Her lungs started to work for oxygen while her heart pounded faster.
As she ran, she imagined a pair of black eyes following her every move. Thought of Mr. X sitting somewhere with Dennis’s personal information in front of him.
What kind of intel did he have on her? Did he have the file from the Westpoint Police Department? The one mentioning the crazy child who had seen monsters? She ran faster to try to clear her head, trying to focus on the book assignment her students were working on now. Trying to think about what she could do to make the students falling behind do better in class.
She turned a city corner about two miles from her apartment. She’d been on such a grueling pace she thought she could feel her body vibrating. Suddenly she realized it was her cell phone that caused the vibrations and not her body.
She shook her head at herself and stopped next to a bus stop. She pulled off her headphones and twisted her bag from her back to her front. By the time she had her phone, it had stopped ringing.
She flipped open the older model cell phone to see whose call she’d missed. Before she could see the missed call, her phone rang in her hand. The unexpectedness of it caused Anna to jump. She looked at the screen. All it said was unknown number.
Usually she wouldn’t take calls while running, but on this particular night, she could use a distraction from her dark thoughts. Hoping it was a student asking for help, she pressed on the green Answer button.
“Anna Roberts speaking,” she said in her professional teaching voice while she made sure her heavier breathing couldn’t be heard on the other end of the line.
“Hello, Ms. Roberts. I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time.” The caller was male but didn’t have much of an accent. A deep voice that resonated of upper class. It irked Anna that he didn’t announce his identity immediately.
“Your timing is fine. May I ask who is calling?” Anna tried to sound as pleasant as possible.
“I apologize. I believe you may have heard of me. You may call me Mr. X.”
Anna stood up straighter at the ridiculous, yet ominous name.
“What do you want?” All pleasantness had left her tone.
“I didn’t mean to upset you, Ms. Roberts. I only called to offer you a gift.”
Anna didn’t want any gifts from this stranger. “I think Dennis would prefer your gifts. You should call him.”
She should have hung up the phone, but he spoke again. “This is specifically for you.”
“I’m not meeting you anywhere. Now I really have to—”
“You don’t have to go anywhere,” he interrupted her. “Your gift is right behind you.”
Anna immediately turned around, while her free hand went to the butt of her pistol in her bag. There was no one behind her. Just the empty bench next to the bus stop. She turned in a full circle to search for a man on a cell phone looking at her.
No one. There were men on phones, but they all walked past, paying no attention to the resting jogger.
“There's no one here,” she said into her phone, still looking to see whether anyone’s mouth moved when he started to talk again.
“Look all you want, Ms. Roberts. You will not see me.”
Anger boiled up inside her. “You have three seconds until I hang up the phone.” She didn't bother to hide the annoyance.
“Look under the bench. Your gift is there.” Though he just told her she wouldn’t see him, she couldn’t help but look around again. There were so many buildings around, and he could be in any of the windows.
She cautiously approached the bench. She didn’t want to get on her hands and knees in the middle of a public street, but she sure as hell wasn’t sticking her hand under that bench without looking first.
She got onto her knees and set her phone down on the ground, leaving one hand still firmly planted on her gun. She leaned down and looked at the underside of the bench.
Sure enough, a business-sized envelope was taped to the bottom. She grabbed it and pulled it free before she picked up her phone and sat on the bench. “What's in the envelope?”
“No. You have to open it first.”
“Jackass,” she whispered under her breath as she put her phone down. Unfortunately, she needed two hands to open a sealed envelope. She let go of the comforting metal of the gun in her bag and made quick work of the envelope.
There was a single scrap of paper inside. She pulled it out and stared at it.
Looking up, she also realized the building number right across the street from her was the same as the one that stared up from the paper at her. She picked up the phone again. “What the hell is this?” she demanded.
“This is what you have been looking for, Ms. Roberts.”
“Why don’t you tell me what exactly you think I’m looking for?” Anna debated hanging up the phone right then and there. Damn it, she was curious though.
“You’re looking for a vampire. I’m giving you one.” He sounded haughty, and Anna wished again he would give her this attitude to her face.
“Giving me one? So is this Nicolas Zolkin supposed to be a vam—” Anna broke off before she said the word in the middle of a crowded street. “Is he supposed to be one of them?” she asked instead.
Instead of answering her question, he continued. “His schedule is not exact, but he tends to leave his apartment most nights around eleven.” There was a pause. “At night, of course.” He chuckled at his own joke.
“What is this supposed to mean to me?” she asked.
“I really must go, Ms. Roberts. I wish you good luck on your search.”
“Wait!” she shouted, but he’d already disconnected. “Son of a bitch,” she said to no one in particular.
She hung up the phone and looked up at the building across the street. A vampire lived there, apparently. Two miles away from her. Anna had been looking for one for years. However, she’d never given much thought to what she would do when she found one.
How was she supposed to know whether he really was one of the damned? She couldn’t walk up and ask him. She couldn’t run up to him with a crucifix to see whether it burned his skin. If he was a vampire, he would kill her right then and there.
She could go back to her apartment and let the Stakes know about her latest contact with Mr. X. That wasn’t the best idea because she still didn’t know what any of their motives were.