Amber Fang enjoys life's simple pleasures. A perfect evening for her includes a good book, a glass of wine and, of course, a great meal, preferably straight from the jugular.
Raised to eat ethically, Amber dines only on delicious cold-blooded killers. But confirming that her chosen victims deserve to die takes time. And patience. So it's a good thing Amber is studying to be a librarian. Her extraordinary research skills help her hunt down her prey, seek out other vampires and stay on the trail of her mother, who has been missing for over two years now.
But one day while Amber is stalking a rather tasty-looking murderer, things go horribly wrong. Amber has walked into a trap. The hunter becomes the hunted.
Now on the run, Amber receives the perfect job offer out of the blue. Someone wants to pay her to kill (and eat) the world's worst criminals.
It sounds too good to be true.
Amber Fang: Hunted is the first book in this exciting new vampire series.
About the Author
Arthur Slade is a Governor General's Award-winning author of many novels for young readers, including the Amber Fang series and Modo: Ember's End, a graphic novel based on the characters from The Hunchback Assignments trilogy. Raised on a ranch in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan, Arthur now makes his home in Saskatoon.
Read an Excerpt
MY MOTHER ALWAYS TOLD ME never to fall in love with my food.
There was no chance of that today. Jordan Rex was not someone I — nor anyone with half an iq point — would ever fall in love with. He was food though. I could smell his blood from fifty feet away, the scent mingling with the alley's stink of dried urine and curdled milk.
I padded along on bare feet, the Bachelorette-style high heels I'd worn to the bar stuffed into my backpack purse. Stilettos are helpful in a waitress interview or on the dance floor, but hunting shoes they're not. I scanned for security cameras. The blurred images of me feeding in Boston had forced the move to Seattle. I was already deathly sick of the constant drizzle.
Mr. Rex was wobble-weaving a path farther and farther down the alley into sketchy territory — buildings with broken windows, a few rusted fire escapes hanging loosely on the walls, no lights in any of the windows. He stood at least six-feet four, so he had a good eight inches on me, and he boasted enormous arms. For a forty-five-year-old, he was carrying very little flab. Still, easy pickings. As long as I did everything right, that is.
Slow and steady. Mom had drilled that command into me ad infinitum. Your prey must never suspect your presence. Become the wind.
She actually would say that. Every time. Then she'd giggle and touch the tip of her petite nose to show she was joking. I'd inherited that same nose, but not the nose-tapping habit. She was an odd bird. And I loved her to bits.
In most vampire movies, the prey suffer long minutes of terror. They scream. They beg. They die. Not so in the real world — my world, that is. It's not efficient hunting. The best kills are silent and over before the food knows it's dead, before their fight-or-flight response kicks in. An overtaxed heart makes the blood spurt with too much force. I'd wrecked a perfectly good white dress that way a few months back.
Something whirred in the air far above me, but I couldn't see exactly what might be making that sound and was too hungry to care.
My gray eyes provided handy night vision. Rex was a red outline in the alley. Soon he'd be outlined in chalk, and some poor cop would be trying to write up his case. Those suckers didn't get paid enough.
Choose your food carefully, Mom had taught me. My moral imperative was not to kill innocents. This was the hunting criterion Mom had drilled into my dna. The food must be a murderer.
Rex hadn't been my first choice this month. At the start of this feeding cycle, I'd been tracking a man named Timothy Huxton and had fully intended to dine on him the previous Thursday. But the day before feeding day, he'd made the ninety-ninth call to KISW and won a two-week vacation to Mazatlán. My mouth watered as I thought of how much better he'd taste with a tan.
So I'd rushed to uncover Jordan Rex's lethal back-story, flipping through archived newspapers in the glass monstrosity known as the Seattle Public Library (my library-science classes were coming in handy). I discovered him in the transcripts of a ten-year-old murder trial. Two wives dead in less than two years. Both judged as death by misadventure. I knew better.
We were getting closer to the docks. Waves crashed, and the occasional mournful foghorn moaned. Rex came to a dead end. He ambled right up to the wire fence blocking the alley — some sort of storage space. He stumbled against it, and the chain links rattled.
I took my first step into the open, and he turned and looked directly at me. "It's about time you showed up," he said. He didn't slur a single word.
I hesitated in midcrouch. He knew I was following him? I could question him, but Mom's voice came into my head: Never play with your food. I leaped forward with more speed than any human was capable of and reached out to grab Rex's shoulder and dip him down for feeding. At that exact microsecond, a puff puff pop came from above. I felt as if I'd been rabbit punched twice in the back and kicked in the leg.
I turned. Darts stuck out of my right shoulder and my lower back. Darts! Who used darts in this day and age? Another quivered in my thigh. The whirring in the sky grew slightly louder.
I fell forward. Rex opened his arms like a lecherous uncle. I gathered enough strength to throw myself toward the fence. I bounced off. My leg collapsed, and I skidded across the ground. My vision blurred. I pushed myself up, tried to run and stumbled right into an inhospitable brick wall. I lay on my back, blinking.
One of those little four-bladed drones was peeking over the roof of the building. Someone with an iPhone and a night-vision app was probably lining me up in its crosshairs.
"Hit her again," Rex commanded. The drone exhaled another puff puff pop. Two darts zipped down, ricocheting off the pavement. The third one stung my left shoulder.
I shrugged it off and climbed to my feet. "Who. Are. You?"
"I'm a party who's very interested in your activities." He walked slowly toward me, pulling at something inside his coat. I'm a party, I'm a party, echoed inside my head. What was in those darts?
I lurched ahead and shoved him to the ground, briefly catching a lemony-antiseptic scent. Then I latched on to the fence and pulled myself up about three feet. Rex grabbed my ankle, but I managed a feeble kick and through blind luck connected with his head. He let out a satisfying groan (well, satisfying to me) and stepped back. I climbed higher, my fingers now icicles, and fell over the other side, thudding unceremoniously to the ground. On a normal day, with normal reflexes, I could have leapt right over that six feet of wire. Instead I crawled away.
"Oh, I'll do it myself," Rex huffed behind me. He had drawn a gun.
I dug my nails into a slimy brick wall and pulled myself up. By the sounds of footsteps and metallic clinking behind me, big ol' Rex was climbing the fence.
I pushed aside a pile of crates and discovered a boarded-up window. Luck was with me! I launched myself through the rotten wood and ran down a hall through the semidarkness. Trash. Broken chairs. A multitude of blurry, red, rat-shaped outlines fled from me.
I brushed by a mannequin with a dozen bullet holes in it. Then I stumbled into a larger room. My left eye was beginning to fail, blinking with blinding tears. The eyelid cemented shut. I kept banging into things I thought were several feet away. But I ran at full speed, ignoring the pain.
By the crashing and swearing behind me, it was clear Rex was in the building. Humans were such loud, bashing creatures — I'd never got how they survived the hunter-gatherer phase. At least the drone wouldn't be able to operate in such close quarters. I stumble-ran through a gaping hole in the wall into another building, then another. More rats scattered before my feet.
I kept pushing ahead as quietly as possible. My brain had slowed, and my right eye was drooping now. Soon I'd be blind.
Half the cells in my body were shouting Sleep! and the other half were screaming Need blood, feed now! The sleep cells were winning the battle, so when I spotted a pile of stained, dusty sheets that may have been used for wiping up vomit after a meth party, I jittered toward them. I saw my mother ahead of me, wagging her finger and saying, Now, Amber, how many times do I have to tell you not to be overconfident?
Shut it, Mom. You're not helping.
That's no way to talk to the vampire who gave birth to you.
I wouldn't be in this situation if you hadn't left.
That shut her up. I pulled the sheets over me. By this time my right eye had fused shut, and I didn't know if I was lying there half exposed. I promptly fell into a deep, dark pit of unconsciousness.
WHEN I CAME TO, there was a light grayness to my vision, and I wondered if I'd developed cataracts. A sight-impaired vampire having to beg food to come just a little bit closer is the saddest thing under the sun.
I remembered I was lying under a sheet. I pulled a corner away, and the sun glared through a broken window, stabbing into my eyes. I had to blink. Despite that, a smile came to half of my face. The other half was frozen. I hoped the darts hadn't given me a stroke.
My skin didn't burn with the sun's rays. It wouldn't. That is an old wives' tale. Or an old-guy-with-too-much-time-on-his-hands tale. I'd burn if I was out in the sun too long, but most things with skin do. That's why I wore sunblock.
The people who'd attacked me obviously didn't have dogs. Not that canines would've been able to track my mostly negligible scent. But some dogs, well, they just didn't know when to quit.
I listened. Nothing but ship sounds coming through the window. It may have opened directly onto the docks. Seagulls cried out for food. I sniffed. Old paint, old piss and several other smells, but not a human pheromone that wasn't already a few weeks old. My pursuers hadn't even entered this room.
How had I become the hunted?
Rex had known I was tracking him and had obviously set up a trap. And they'd used a drone. Not a sniper. I would've seen the heat outline of a man. So they had guessed how my vision worked. And they'd fired darts. Darts! Like I was some sort of tiger to be knocked out and trussed up for a zoo. But any tranquilizers that would work on humans wouldn't necessarily work on me, though Scotch does, oddly enough. I have a different metabolism. In fact, sometimes tranquilizers are like a massive hit of adrenaline to my body. Yet these people had nearly captured me. So they most likely knew I wasn't human.
It is embarrassing when your food outsmarts you. I should've known that Rex was too easy to dig out of the archives.
But the fact they were able to set this up was rather frightening. They had either planted evidence or taken over the life of this Rex character. Was it a coincidence that my first meal had won a trip to Mexico? I shuddered at the thought, because if they had rigged the contest, it meant that whoever they were, they had money and a bigger team than Rex and the drone boy. The commanding tone of the man's voice suggested they had connections to the police or to a military organization. The drone had been whisper quiet — sophisticated high tech. And you don't just find tranquilizer darts at the local grocer. To hunt me down while I hunted them, to know my practices, that all reeked of researchers. An organization.
Hunger was still rattling my nerves. I'd need to eat in the next twenty-four hours. I did not want to collapse. Or go on a frenzied blood drive. A packet from the hospital would never work. It had to be fresh blood drawn from the jugular — at least, that's what tasted the best.
I heard my mother's loving voice. Always have a backup meal.CHAPTER 2
THE BACKUP MEAL
THE WASHINGTON STATE PENITENTIARY in Walla Walla, Washington, is not an easy place to break into when you've had time to plan, but it's especially hard when you're in a rush for blood. I took the train from Seattle to Portland, then east, tapping my fingers all the way to the Amtrak station in Pasco. Eleven hours of travel. I tried not to stare at the jugulars in my fellow passengers' necks.
The hunger jangled my nerves, sharpened my incisors and slowly turned my thoughts crimson. Do not ever go thirty days without eating — this was Mom's biggest rule — or you'll become mad as a hatter. When I was a kid, I imagined that meant dancing crazily with a floppy top hat on. In reality, it meant I'd go on a frantic killing spree, gorging indiscriminately on humans — deserving and undeserving — and most likely be shot full of lead by a swat team. Vampires are averse to seeing their own blood.
It was extremely hard to sit still in a moving pen of food. But turning this into a dining car would be too messy, far too public and bad for my figure. I could hold on.
My backpack had my favorite things in it: a few dark shirts, three pairs of stretchy pants, one nice set of clothes and a picture of my mother and me. Nothing electronic so I could avoid being tracked by some invisible app.
Taking the train always reminded me of Mom. We had taken a lot of trains together. And buses. And cabs. And airplanes.
We'd run — that was our habit. We'd changed homes every year or so. Sometimes there would be something in the press about one of our hunts. But other times my mom would just get spooked. She'd pull me from school (I did sixth grade in five states) and throw me into our station wagon stuffed with all our clothes and books, and we'd race several states away. I sometimes got the feeling it wasn't just humans we were running away from.
One day I'd come home from school and she was gone. Out on a feed, her note said. Be back after lunch. She'd used a raspberry magnet to stick it to the refrigerator door. When she was three hours late, I knew something had happened. I'd watched the internet and listened to our police scanner for any mention of her fate. Not a word. I'd waited in our apartment, even though the protocol was to run if there had been several hours without contact.
I'd tapped my fingers for three days. Then I grabbed my passport and my backpack and tracked down her intended meal — a man who had murdered his cousin for a sandwich. He was still alive, which meant she hadn't fed. I questioned him, but he had no knowledge of Mom.
I ate him and moved to Chicago. I've been moving ever since.
I WAS FIRST out the door of the train and first into a cab. Somewhere close to midnight, I found myself standing outside the concrete walls of the Washington State Penitentiary.
It was surrounded by fields. It had towers. Barbed wire. And the latest in motion detectors. And, of course, stereotypical straight-jawed men with high-powered rifles stationed at all four corners of the prison, who had perfect sight lines to the lovely interior. I swallowed, then licked my lips. I was in a black yoga outfit that made it easier to hide.
I climbed the conning tower, swung over the wall and crossed the yard in the shadows. Prison staff don't normally look for people who are breaking in.
I followed a guard into the building. He had enough neck and ear hair to keep a team of waxers in business for a lifetime. With every beat of my heart, my body called for blood. His blood was not out of the question. I memorized the back of his neck. I also slipped a set of keys from his belt.
It became very hard to concentrate the moment I entered the building and smelled the sweaty pheromones of all the living blood producers trapped in prison cells. Soon any transgressor would fit my criteria. You're in here for an ounce of weed? Sorry, dude, a gal's gotta eat.
I moved more slowly than usual. I blamed it on the aftereffects of the tranquilizer. It must be a murderer, my mother had repeated right up until the day she vanished from my life. Never the innocent. That's our moral code. Blood for blood. Life for life. And the murderer must not have remorse.
That last little caveat was a doozy. It was devilishly hard to sort out who felt remorse and who faked it. Humans were experts at faking a whole rainbow of emotions.
It took me an hour to work my way to death row. I salivated the whole time. Several times I had to climb the walls and turn cameras away from me. I can crawl into holes most humans would never imagine as crawlable spaces. Bones that compress and bend are so handy.
Eventually I came to cell block six and found the massive metal door that led to Percival Horpon's cell. He'd bludgeoned three old ladies to death over the course of an evening ten years earlier. He had no motive, not even theft, though he had kept their hearing aids and false teeth as trophies. He'd been officially classified a serial killer, and, well, we all know the amount of remorse a serial killer feels. I had kept his records in my mental back pocket in case I ever needed a quick feed. I generally don't like breaking into prisons to do this sort of thing, because the incarcerated will likely never be a public threat.
None of the keys I'd stolen worked. Why was nothing easy? I'm strong, but even I can't tear off a reinforced door.
So I went back to the guard station. It was empty — perhaps it was union break time. There I found an ancient computer and, after changing the screen from a game of Pong, I found the program for the electromechanical locks and opened Percival's cell. Nearly every prison system uses the same computer program, and it is quite hackable. These are the sorts of things librarians learn.
When I went back, the door was partly open. Percival was still snoring. I crept in and identified a distinguishing tattoo on his lovely, thick neck — a black widow spider.
I must have been overtired, because when I went to turn his head for a better angle, he shot straight up and said, "Whodafuk?" I grabbed his mohawk with one hand and his shoulder with the other and bit somewhere in between. But I didn't get good suction, so blood went spurting into my eye, onto the white sheets and halfway across the cell.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Amber Fang: Hunted"
Copyright © 2019 Arthur Slade.
Excerpted by permission of ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ONE: FEEDING DAY,
TWO: THE BACKUP MEAL,
THREE: SETTLING IN,
FOUR: FINDING MY MEAL,
FIVE: A NEW SLAB OF FOOD,
SIX: THE PURSUIT,
SEVEN: DESERT SANDS,
EIGHT: A KISS BEFORE THE KILLING,
NINE: OLD SCHOOL,
TEN: TURNS OUT, I BLEED,
ELEVEN: ROSES HAVE THORNS,
TWELVE: A CHEAP ENVELOPE,
THIRTEEN: A FAMILIAR SCENT,
FOURTEEN: STAND DOWN,
FIFTEEN: THE WHITE HOUSE,
SIXTEEN: THE BIG B,
SEVENTEEN: THE DANCE FLOOR,
EIGHTEEN: COMPROMISING THE COMPROMISED,
NINETEEN: THE HIT BEGINS,
TWENTY: THE HIT CONTINUES,
TWENTY-ONE: A SECOND HELPING,
TWENTY-TWO: THE CAVERN OF SURPRISES,
TWENTY-THREE: I ASK AGAIN: WHO THE HELL?,
TWENTY-FOUR: FAMILY TREES AND OTHER PROBLEMS,
TWENTY-FIVE: FIRST-CLASS TICKET HOME,
TWENTY-SIX: THE WHITE HOUSE REDUX,
TWENTY-SEVEN: ALL IS NOT SUNNY IN THE SUNSHINE ROOM,
TWENTY-EIGHT: THE INTERMINABLE JOY OF WAITING,
TWENTY-NINE: BLOOD RED BLOOD,
THIRTY: SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DREAM,