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When the blood fever rises, it is the Enforcer who names the time, the place, and the prey.
(Kneeling in the alley, surrounded by dead bodies. Blood everywhere.) Stares at Sam:
Nothing you're going to remember.
Valentine snorted at the irony of what she'd said and hit the delete key in disgust. She was very good at irony. Her dialogue usually fairly dripped with it. Right now, this script didn't drip with anything, not even the fresh blood she was hoping to inject into her take on a vampire story. Everybody in town was looking to make Scream-alikes; even she was in on it. Teen horror with a cynical twist was staying hot. She could do cynical.
"What I don't do is horror," Valentine told her agent when he first suggested the production package. "Especially not vampires." But it was a sweet, sweet deal. After she thought about it for awhile, Valentine decided, Oh, what the hell. There couldn't be any harm in it.
"And it's so? ironic," she muttered and went to get herself a cup of coffee.
The kitched wasn't far away. Valentine was never far away from a cup of coffee. Her condo was expensive, but it wasn't big. Just a bedroom, kitchen, and a living room that doubled as an office.
There was a basketball game on the large-screen television in her living room. She glanced at it, saw the Lakers were down by eight points, and decdied it was best to work and continue to keep the game on as background noise. Problem was, she didn't want to work. The night was flying by, and she hadn't yet put down a word that was worth keeping. "Discipline," she told herself. "You can do this."
There was a terror inside her that told her she couldn't, that she was empty at last.
She noticed the blinking light on the answering machine as she returned to her desk. She had three phone lines, but only one person had the number to the phone hooked up to the machine. She didn't want to talk to him. She didn't even want to listen to his messages. There had been a time? She almost reachd for the Play button. No. It would just be recorded pleas and demands. "Reruns," she grumbled. "And I'm talking to myself again."
"Came from being alone too much, she supposed. But everyone knew she was eccentric and reclusive. It added to the mystique to make people come to her. To make them want something that was hard to get. You had to use every trick you could to survive in this town.
"Get's boring, though, doesn't it?" she complained and marched right past her desk and onto the balcony. She could feel the accusing glow of the empty computer screen at her back. "I can't help it," she complained to it. "The words just won't come." She'd always been a storyteller. But lately?
The balcony was full of flowering plants and was surrounded by a high, stucco wall. She leaned her elbows on the familiar rough surface and looked at the view beyond the walled garden that surrounded the building. The air smelled of jasmine and car exhaust, just as it walwyas did. It was beautiful here, peaceful at this late hour. For all of its location near what passed for a heart in this splayed-out city, the building where Valentine lived conjured the charm and luxury of a different era. The Bunker Hill neighborhood was an old one; urban renewal had simply caught up with it and forced it to redecorate. She had preferred it before it became trendy but supposed the newfound popularity would pass, too. She'd still be here.
"I'm not bored," she told herself. "I'm not lonely. I'm not desperate."
She was all those things and knew it. It was time for a change. There was something going on, it was pervasive as the smog around her. This restlessness was not her way. If there was one thing she hated, it was change.
She sipped coffee and listened to the song of a night bird for awhile, hoping for inspiration. Behind her, the game was getting noisy. The Lakers were making baskets. She had to get back to work. She had to put something resembling a story on disk soon, even if it was shit. She wandered to stand in front of the television, coffee cup clutched tightly in her hands. Shaq was on a rampage. Cool.
After a few seconds, Valentine sat down on the couch, attention riveted on the screen. She sat back. She relaxed. A camera panned across the crowd near the floor for reaction shots after a particularly beautiful pick and roll. Valentine sat up at the speed of light. The coffee cap dropped from her hands to crash into shards at her feet. Hot liquid splashed her legs.
"What? Show him again!"
But the camera had moved on to a close-up of a whooping Tom Cruise. Valentine snorted derisively. She'd actually liked the boy in Interview, but it wasn't pretend vampires that interested her just now. She desperately wanted the camera to move left again, to give her another chance at viewing someone she hadn't seen in years.
"Had to be him," she muttered. "What's he doing in town? Can't be. And who was that pretty little red-haired thing with him? How long's he been in L.A.?" She pounded a fist on the arm of the couch. "And why don't I ever keep up with what's going on around here?"
Valentine smiled and rose slowly to her feet. She kicked aside broken china and ran to her desk. And what difference did any of her questions make when an idea was finally tapping on the back of her brain?
"I can do this," she muttered, then laughed wickedly as her fingers moved over the keyboard. "Can and will. Let's try this again, shall we, gentleman? Davy and? what do I call him? How about??"
What I just did was against the Law.
(Kneeling in the alley, surrounded by dead bodies, blood everywhere):
Kill a half dozen people? I'd say that's pretty illegal.
That's not the Law I'm talking about.
Stares at something in Suleiman's hand? is that?
Suleiman holds up a short dagger. It glitters in the glow from a streetlamp.
Doesn't hold an edge worth a damn.
Moves forward, teeth bared to show fangs.
But I don't use the dagger on mortals?
Valntine had to take her hands away from the keyboard because they were suddenly shaking too much to type. She barely stopped herself from looking over her shoulder. There were no accusing eyes in the night behind her, but she could feel them anyway.
"This is wrong. I can't do this."
Then again? She sat back in her chaird and watched the words on the screen as if she waited for them to scramble, change, fly away, or catch on fire. The cursor just kept blinking, but the words didn't change. She didn't like the words particularly. They still weren't right, but that was because she was trying to tell the wrong story, wasn't it?
"But I don't have a story."
You know where to get one, an insidious voice in her head told her.
Valentine shook her head. "I haven't been there or done that for a long time." She hugged herself and wished for a cup of coffee. Somehow, even the short distance to the kitched seemed like a dangerous journey. She wanted to hide here in her quiet corner, unseen and unnoticed, while she quietly contemplated treason, betaryal, death, and destruction.
"The box office could be enormous."
That is, if she found the right Dream to ride. She knew where to go to do her Dreaming, now, didn't she? There was a reason she'd seen him sitting in the audience of the basketball game. There was always a reason when their paths crossed. Right now, she needed a savior. Maybe it was his turn to get her butt out of trouble. It was just a story. A movie. Her job. Her life. Of no importance to anyone but her.
Valentine noticed the clock on the bottom of the computer screen. It was hours until dawn. Too bad. For the first time in ages she was anxious to get a good day's sleep.
Reprinted from Laws of the Blood #1 by Susan Sizemorer by permission of Ace Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright ©1999 by Susan Sizemore. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.