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I lay on the beach in my red and black polka dot bikini. The sun above beams, warming my skin. Running my hands through the grains of the toasty sand, I relax. It's days like these that I'm happy vampires' can go out into the sunlight. Well, I'm happy I can go into the sunlight. I don't know what I would do if I had to live my life only in the night. Only to come out when the sun is away. I would probably be miserable.
I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am a vampire and that there is nothing I can do to change that. There is no undo button to make me human again and there is no way to rewind time. I will forever and always be a vampire. The past is in the past and as for my future this is what it will be. Everything will be okay. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
I stretch out on my beach towel, trying to take up more of the sun's heat while listening to the gentle motion of the waves. The whoosh of the water is strangely calming, soothing the monster underneath. The vampire. Me. I don't come from one of the good vampire bloodlines. Ha ... as if vampires can be considered 'good,' even though I try to be. Try being the operative word. I'm a Sadune and the Sadunes are a ruthless and vicious type of vampire. Violence, anger, and aggression run through my veins like a second nature and with it comes an insatiable thirst for human blood. All of it is pure instinct, like it was programed in my brain. We are the strongest vampires, or so I've been told, and I'm the only one I know. I fight, it seems, every day against my nature. I fight to abstain from feeding on humans although it's hard. I can cave at any moment. For now, at least, I am on a vegan diet. You would think it is easier to feed on animals rather than humans, you know, because I was a human ... but it's not. Feed on animals, I tell myself every day, feed only on animals.
A woman walks toward me. She stops at my feet blocking my sunlight. Her raven hair blows rapidly in the wind, its color contrasts greatly against her cream skin. I can't help but think of Snow White when I look at her. Her brown eyes find mine. "It's time to go home, Nichole," she says with a sigh. I stare up at my friend through my sunglasses debating on how to respond. After a moment of silence, Casey shakes her head in frustration.
Casey Neal, my best friend, knows everything about me. We have been friends since elementary school. She knows my favorite color, my likes, my dislikes, and my secrets. She also knows that my previous boyfriend Nathaniel, or Nate for short, tried to kill me and ended up turning me into a vampire by accident. I lost my family, my friends, and my life. I did get one friend back though, but the only reason Casey is here now is because she is also a vampire. In an effort to lure me to my death, for a second time I might add, Nate kidnapped Casey. He used her as bait to trap me. Casey is like my sister and I wasn't going to abandon her. After all, it was my fault. One mistake can cost you everything. One wrong decision can change your entire life. After that, all you can do is pick up the pieces ... if there are any to pick up. Nate failed in his second attempt to kill me. I'm not surprised since he couldn't kill me the first time. He and his so called 'friends' John and Tyler failed to kill me. I ripped Nate's head from his body and burned his remains. I gave John the same treatment. Tyler, on the other hand, got away. The little coward. He ran like the wind once his associates were no more. I wouldn't be shocked if he's somewhere sitting on a beach, too. My fist clenches. If I ever see him again, I won't hesitate in snapping his neck so he can join his friends. We might have won the battle on that fateful night but we didn't get away without some causality. Casey was injured and near death. She was turned into a vampire in an effort to save her life.
I breathe in deeply and exhale audibly. "Nichole," I hear Casey say, although I've zoned out. The scent of blood invades my nostrils. We aren't alone on this beach. There are lots of humans around. Tempting me ...
A family not too far from where we are--a mother, father, their little girl, and their little boy-- are all playing on the beach and building sand castles. For some reason, and I don't know why, the boy is constantly staring our way. He looks as if he knows my secret. I smile at the boy and then let my fangs slowly creep downward. I wink. The boy gasps and turns toward his mother.
"Nichole," Casey yells before she laughs. I retract my fangs and smile. Funny ...
"Mommy! Mommy! There's a vampire over there!" The boy's mom looks back at us but we act as if we aren't paying attention. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the mother shake her head.
"No baby, it was your imagination. Vampires aren't real." The boy tries to argue but this mother cuts him off. They continue building their sand castle.
Casey sighs and shakes her head. "Nichole, why did you do that?"
"It was funny!" I shrug. I lay flat on my towel. He was staring. Now he has something to really stare at.
"Don't you think it's time to go home? We have been out here all summer." Casey crosses her arms and waits for me to answer. I am about to speak when Jade pipes in.
"I think we can stay out here FOREVER!" My friend Jade dramatically screams. She is spinning in the beach water with her arms open wide.
I smile at Casey. "See," I gesture my hand towards Jade. "Jade wants to stay." Casey shakes her head and her eyes roll.
Jade is my other best friend. I met her as soon as I woke up after transitioning into a vampire. She helped me adjust into my new vampire life. Jade is my 'mother vampire' so to speak. She also helped me take down Nate and his friends when the time came, and she also turned Casey. I was afraid that if I tried to turn Casey, I would lose control and kill her, so I begged Jade to do it. Thankfully, Casey wasn't mad that she was turned. She'd rather be alive than dead. Even though being a vampire technically means we're dead.
The difference between Casey and Jade and me is that I am a descendent of the Sadune bloodline, while they are descendants of the Altrune bloodline. Jade, Casey, and I did some research on vampires and surprisingly found some stuff on different vampire lines. Google is very helpful. The Altrunes are not as strong as the Sadunes, but that doesn't mean they aren't strong. They are also the most humane of the vampire lines. I honestly think that means that they don't have as strong of a thirst for human blood as Sadunes. Or maybe that means they find themselves caring for humans more than any other bloodline. Which explains Jade. That doesn't mean they aren't vicious though. Anyone has the capability to be dangerous. Another bloodline calls themselves the Poltrunes. They are essentially the weakest bloodline in strength and in character, sometimes depending on stronger vampires for strength and protection. Apparently, you can tell the difference between vampires by their eyes or fangs. Sadune eyes change to black and red depending on aggression. As far as I know, all other vampire lines just turn black. The fangs, however, are all different. I have two pairs of fangs--a top set and a bottom set. My top pair is slightly longer than Altrune fangs and significantly longer than Poltrune fangs. It's all a little overwhelming. Maybe some of the information we got off the web was incorrect; maybe we know nothing about who and what we are. A human could have published all those articles and let's face it, humans don't really believe vampires are real and the ones that do are just considered crazy.
"First of all," Casey begins breaking me from my train of thought, "Jade wants to stay because she is avoiding Richard after the breakup. Second of all, you want to stay because you're avoiding Aiden and your feelings for him."
My phone beeps. I reach over into our beach bag to grab it. As I read the sender's name I sigh. Aiden has sent me yet another text. It's as if he knows we are talking about him.
Aiden: When are you coming home?
I don't text back. I don't always ignore his texts, but I don't want to talk to him today. I will talk to him in person soon enough. I put my phone down and direct my attention towards Casey.
"Ah, but you forget," I point my finger at Casey. "I'm not just avoiding Aiden. I'm also avoiding everything that reminds me of home." Casey unfolds her arms and plops down on her towel beside me.
After Casey transitioned into a vampire, Jade and I stayed in Rosenburg, Colorado. It's where Casey and I grew up. We stayed because Casey wanted to finish school, something I wasn't able to do thanks to Nate, and to help Casey with her urges to feed. Jade didn't like it, of course. She felt Casey needed to disappear from life like I had to, but Casey was determined. She went back home to her mom and gave her an excuse about why she was gone for so long. Her mom punished her, of course, but she was happy that Casey was home. Her mom probably thought she had gone missing like I had.
Nate is gone, John is gone, and Tyler is irrelevant. Nothing is keeping Casey from home. She'll visit her mother and brothers from now on, but she won't live there anymore now that she has graduated from High School. I'm a little envious because I wasn't able to go home to my family. Nate was a threat at the time that I was turned and I couldn't go home. I also don't have anywhere close to the control of my urges like Casey does. The perks of being an Altrune, I guess. Since I have been away for so long, I'm not sure it is a good idea to return home. I should just let my family heal.
Staying in Rosenburg was the reason Jade and Richard, her human boyfriend, broke up. He wanted her to come home, and she needed to stay. He got mad and stupidly broke up with her over it, and she ignored any plea to get back together. She's just pissed. The whole situation is really funny, but I know they will rekindle their relationship as soon as we return.
Me--on the other hand, I am avoiding Aiden. We have become really close friends through our constant text messaging relationship but I know he has feelings for me. He is using our friendship to get closer to me in order to create a romantic relationship. What he doesn't know is that our 'friendship' is the only relationship I am willing to have. He has been texting me every day since we've been gone, and we've been gone since January. After Casey graduated, we left Rosenburg and went straight to Mexico. Let's just say, I needed a vacation after everything I had been through. Jade and Casey needed one, too. We have been gone from Denver a full seven months. It is almost August.
"Nichole, I start school in August. We have to go back ... and you two can't avoid the men in your lives forever. Jade, will you give Richard another chance?" Casey questions. Jade runs at inhuman speeds out of the water and materializes in front of us, not caring a bit if anyone sees her.
"Mommy look! Did you see that? She was in the water and then she's over there!" The boy stands up this time and starts pointing. His mother's face flushes red with embarrassment. She takes the boy by the hand, quite forcefully, and drags him off to play in the water. Jade and the boy make eye contact and he quickly turns away from her.
"Maybe ... maybe not," Jade states, turning her attention to us. Her long black hair is dripping with water. Reaching up, she squeezes it out.
"Jade." Casey groans exasperated.
Jade smiles. "Ok, I might. He has been texting me every day, about a trillion times a day." She is exaggerating of course but as if on cue, her phone beeps. Jade grabs her phone. "Look this is him now." She shows us the message. The text reads 'baby forgive me.' Jade has been getting a lot of those texts lately, along with 'take me back please' and 'I was stupid to let you go.'
"Jade just take the man back already," I say. She glances down at me with a smirk. She's so going to take him back.
"I will as soon as we get home," Jade replies. I groan. So we are going home. "Oh, don't groan, Nichole! You know you want to see Aiden!" Casey giggles and I frown. Do I want to see Aiden?" ... And Case, we can find you a man if you want."
Casey looks wide-eyed at Jade and I laugh. "No, no man for me. You know how I feel about men. You can't trust them," Casey tells Jade, "any of them." Jade rolls her eyes and we all lay back on our towels.
It is quiet for a few minutes. We all just relax. I can hear their steady breaths along with the soothing ocean. I know we will be leaving tomorrow. There is just this feeling that this is our last day here. Our last day in paradise ... We will go back to Denver, Colorado. Back to our lives, back to our futures. We have run away from our past for far too long. It is time to go home.
I sit up, and take off my sunglasses. I glance at Jade then Casey and brace myself for a run.
"Last one in the water is a rotten egg," I say, as I bolt at a normal human speed. I can hear their giggles as I reach the cool water first. Jade tackles me and we both fall into the water, arms flailing. Casey starts splashing us, so Jade and I jump Casey, knocking her in the water.
We play in the water like a bunch of little children. We have no worries and no cares. All three of us stay at the beach until the sun goes down. The future is uncertain, but at the end of the day we have each other. That will never change.CHAPTER 2
I close my eyes and listen to the rhythm of a frantic heart. It sounds strangely like drums. The sound gets louder as I focus on it. It increases in rhythm. I open my eyes and begin to feel an undeniable pull. Everything ceases to exist but that sound. A force beckons me towards the origin of that sound, that beating heart. Then there's the smell. It's warm and mouthwatering, like the memory of mom's home cooked meals during the holiday. I get the feeling as if I'm starving just because of the smell. Short, slow, and shallow breaths are taken as if trying to be deadly silent but I hear everything. I hear the crunch of gravel due to slight movement, the scrape of dry skin against metal, but most importantly the beating heart. It is as clear as day. I take confidant steps towards the man. There is nowhere to hide.
"Come out, come out, where ever you are," I say in a singsong voice. His heartbeat quickens at the sound. I cock my head to the side and smile, enjoying myself. A laugh nearly breaches my lips.
I can hear him moving slowly, quietly, bracing for a run. His heart is like a countdown telling me when he will try to escape. I continue walking down the dark alley. My hands twitch at my sides and my tongue darts out tasting the blood of his friends.
He hides beside a large blue dumpster located a few steps down. As if on cue, the man takes off running. He doesn't even look back at me.
I narrow my eyes. "Where do you think you are going?"
In an instant, I'm standing directly in front of him. Startled, he stumbles backwards and falls. His right hand smashes against the concrete scraping his skin. I smell his blood instantly. He's breathing hard now, his eyes wide. Holding up the injured hand he begins scooting backwards trying to get away. I stare at him.
"Please," he begs. I continue to stare.
I take a step forward. "Please what," I respond, my voice devoid of emotion.
"Please don't hurt me. What did I ever do to you?"
It isn't what he did to me that caused him to end up in this situation. He's a monster just like me but in his own way. I just happened upon him and all his little friends and decided that I wanted to stop for a drink. Begging isn't going to help.
I lean down, grab him by his shirt, and lift him off the ground in an instant. He struggles against my grasp. One hand goes around his neck while the other restrains his hands.
"Begging gets you nowhere," I say. "I'm sure your victims begged, didn't they?" I open my mouth and my fangs slowing grow down giving him a full show. The man's eyes bulge. His body jerks as he tries to break free of my grasp. The hand I have around his neck tightens. I bring my mouth by his right ear. "I asked you a question."
"Fuck you," he answers as he struggles in vain against my hold.
I stare blankly into the man's eyes. He stares back, more frightened than ever at the empty look I'm sure I have. He starts breathing fast again and his heart doubles in speed.
"Please! Please don't hurt me," he cries.
I tilt my head to the side feeling a sort of emptiness inside myself. Like I'm no longer me. "Why shouldn't I," I mutter with no feeling at all. I sink my fangs into his throat.
* * *
"Nichole." Someone is calling my name. "Nichole, wake up!"
My eyes fly open and find Casey sitting on the couch. There is a book in her hand and she's fiddling with the rips in her blue jean shorts. With a guilty look she smiles at me knowing she interrupted my nap. I glance quickly at our surroundings and I close my eyes.
Jade, Casey, and I moved into our new condo as soon as we returned to Denver. Since there are three of us now, the old Condo didn't have enough space. More people, more space.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Awakened"
Copyright © 2019 Paige Walker.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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