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By Angel Musk, Alisha Marie Carnes, Michael Musk
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Angel Musk
All rights reserved.
Grant Biltmore tossed and turned in his exquisite four-pillared bed as horrific images interfered his sleep. Feeling the piercing needles that prodded his neck, seeing the large amount of blood and the metallic smell trapped in the air felt very real to him. Eyes tightly closed and sweat cascading from his forehead, he leaned over the side of his bed and vomited. After purging last night's chili dinner, he lay flat on his back and watched the blades on the ceiling fan turn slowly until the spasms in his stomach retreated. He had never been a dreamer or, if he was, never remembered them, but the human monsters he saw in his sleep rattled him to the core.
The way their bodies moved at lightning speed was off the charts of any scientific measurement that he knew of and those purple eyes were so captivating they could make anyone do anything. This dream was getting the best of him. Realizing it was Tuesday and he needed to get to the hospital, he pushed the silver button on his bedroom wall that automatically opened the window blinds to assess the weather. He showered, then dressed himself using the elongated mirror to perfect his tie. His work schedule that afternoon was filled with back to back meetings and he also had power point slides to review before hand, but his mind was preoccupied by unrealistic characters. Adjusting his tie, he noticed how healthy he looked. The dark circles that had been under his eyes for months were gone and his boney sunken in cheeks were once again rosy and vibrant. His hair looked fuller just as it did when he was younger. He couldn't believe the man he saw staring back at him. The experimental treatment must have worked!
* * *
... the day before
Grant was the chief operating officer of the XL Auto Company located in his hometown of Adora Valley, Colorado. His business partner, Ethan, thought using abbreviations made the company more "hip" to advertise. Xtreme Luxury vehicles was formed fifteen years ago when they were fresh out of college and were lucky enough to find an investor interested in their business plan. They had worked hard and tripled their profits by the ten-year mark by making average vehicles into a lavish and safe transportation option. Some clients wanted comfort and other clients needed vehicles with advanced safety measures, depending on their social status. Very reputable and wealthy clients helped it flourish into a multi-million dollar company.
Finished for the day, and the last to leave the office, he turned off the building lights and waited patiently for the elevator to take him to his red Ferrari in the parking garage. As he loosened up his tie he pushed a button on the key fob which popped open the door and placed his briefcase securely behind the passenger seat. Climbing in the driver seat, he pushed a button which started the ignition and then took a quick assessment at himself in the rear view mirror. Another day down and none of his employees noticed the weight loss, melancholy, or general weakness. His secret of having cancer was safe for now.
Four months ago he had been diagnosed with cancer, and it was progressing at an alarming rate. Researchers in Sweden were in the last phases of developing a treatment drug that would increase the survival rate in patients with his type of terminal illness by twenty percent. Grant agreed to participate in a clinical trial as long as it was confidential. A local doctor approved by the drug sponsor monitored his progress and obtained weekly blood samples at the local hospital. He was identified as study participant 0986 so reports did not state his full name and information.
After work on Mondays, he always frequented his favorite restaurant, Sky Chili. It killed his acid reflux, but he had grown up on the famous local chili so his body always craved it. As Grant steered his car toward the exit of the work parking garage, he noticed a large van behind him, which seemed odd that anyone else would be on the premises after eight o'clock. Reaching his destination twenty minutes later, he parked, then pressed the button on his dash to stop the engine. He had a passion for cars since high school and loved the modern technology placed in vehicles these days. The perks of his job gave him opportunities to try out the latest gadgets before they were available on the market. Activating the alarm on his car, he realized the same van from the parking garage was parked right next to him. Surely he wasn't being followed?
Inside the restaurant, watching the Wildcats basketball game on the flat screen TV and three coney dogs later he went to the men's room to clean up a stain on his brand new tie. As Grant stood at the sink meticulously scrubbing away at his tie, two men dressed in black leather coats entered the room and stood right behind Grant with their arms folded.
"Sorry fellas, I'll be just a minute. Seems my tie is a magnet for chili," Grant said, oblivious to their surly demeanor. After that encounter Grant Biltmore would never be the same again.CHAPTER 2
Before work every Tuesday morning, Grant went to the hospital diligently for vital sign and blood level checks. He knew the phlebotomists by name and jokingly called them blood suckers. The four tubes of blood collected would be analyzed and the results sent to his research doctor for review. By one o'clock, he would get the routine phone call reporting any progression from last week. Usually, the outcome was the same as last week.
It was after lunch when Grant was finalizing his power point slide on ergonomics of interior design in automobiles when he received the call of his lab results. This time the news was definitely not what he expected to hear.
"Mr. Biltmore, your blood test results came back with something I've never seen before in my thirty-eight years of medicine," Dr. Rowland announced with his gravelly voice.
Grant rose from his desk and quickly shut his office door for privacy then took the phone off of speaker.
"Go on please," Grant said curiously.
"Your coagulation results came back erroneous so I had them rechecked ... twice. The prothrombin time reported extremely low," Dr. Rowland stated with concern.
Grant was in no way medically knowledgeable and had no idea what those words even remotely meant. He heard his employees' voices in the faint distance and realized they must be returning from lunch and anticipated the two o'clock operations meeting would soon begin.
"Doctor, what exactly are you trying to say? I'm sorry for my boldness but I have a meeting starting in fifteen minutes," Grant said anxiously.
He didn't mean to sound rude but he believed that personal life should be separated from business and did not want his employees to overhear his medical information. His eyes darted from cubicle to cubicle outside his windows to ensure nobody was approaching his door. Mona, his secretary had a habit of entering without knocking even though he repeatedly told her to announce herself before entering.
"Grant, the level was a 0.0, which is impossible. That would mean all of the blood in your veins has clotted and there is no pass through for oxygen or nutrients to your main organs. That is not the only reason why I am baffled. Your vital sign record in your chart from this morning's visit was ... immeasurable. I even spoke to the CNA personally on the phone to get the accurate reading. She explained that she used several devices to get a reading and none of them worked. She admitted they had been bombarded with stat blood draw requests so she did not press the issue as you were clearly functional," he explained.
Grant's stomach began to flip flop, his hands shook and nearly dropped the receiver. He was more confused with every word the doctor spoke. To make matters worse, Mona appeared at his window, motioning that she wanted to come in. He immediately shook his head no and held up his index finger as a sign for her to wait. Luckily, she nodded and returned to her desk without any further interruption. Holding the receiver in his left hand, he lowered his forehead on his right palm balancing his upper body with his elbow resting on the polished mahogany desk.
"Your pulse rate was zero. Your blood pressure was zero over zero and your oxygen level was ... zero. Grant, to put it in simple terms, it appears you are clinically dead according to the standards of general medicine. Now I've contacted the medical monitor of the case study you are participating in and ..."
Grant dropped the phone after he heard the man say, "dead" and began to shake uncontrollably. Visions of his dream the night before flashed in his mind like a thirty-second horror film. Those men in the bathroom at Sky Chili must have done something to him. The dream was real. As if his brain finally allowed him to remember, he remembered cleaning the stain from his tie as the two strangers stood behind him staring at him intently. Before Grant could turn the water off they were on top of him restraining his arms to the ground. Grant's strength was no match for theirs so he had no choice but to let them mug him. Faded images of being carried out into a black vehicle with tinted windows validated his reasoning. He remembered that the inside of the vehicle was custom made and disguised into a mobile ambulance. The interior paneling was impressively elegant with top quality materials only available from Italy so he was sure that his company did not build that vehicle. He must have blacked out after his capture because his next memory was waking up in his bed at home as if nothing even happened.
"Hello? Grant, are you still there?" Dr. Rowland asked repeatedly.
Grant raised the receiver back up to his ear to answer the doctor when someone pressed the hook on the phone causing a dial tone to sound. Someone just hung up his call! Damn it, Mona. He was about to reprimand his secretary for her rudeness when he looked up and saw a man dressed in black wearing a red cape, with a sleek yet muscular build, brown wavy hair, and purple eyes. Standing next to the mysterious visitor was a tall, skinny, attractive woman with choppy blonde hair spiked in every direction. She also had purple eyes.
"You need to come with us, Mr. Biltmore," the brawny man said. Grant suddenly realized the strange people had returned for him and attempted a rushed exit toward his private side door. "Elise, now!" the man commanded.
Grant had almost reached the doorknob when suddenly he no longer had control of his body. As if in an imaginary bubble, he felt his body turn around facing his guests and was stunned to see the woman's eyes glowing. She was extremely focused on Grant as if they were the only people in the room. His legs began to walk on their own toward her, and he realized she was controlling his mind and body. This cannot be happening. Creatures like this only exist in the Marvel Comics.
The man spoke in a deep authoritative voice, "Take him, and I will meet you at the estate."
Following his orders, she silently commanded Grant's body to get inside the waiting vehicle and surprisingly she fastened his seat belt. Surely if they were going to kill me, she wouldn't have thought about safety.
Once they were on the road, the locks automatically bolted on the inside of each car door to trap him in, the woman released her hold of Grant's mind so she could keep her eyes on the road. Grasping the steering wheel with both hands she listened to his erratic thoughts and waited for his brazened moment of anger. She kind of felt sorry for him and thought he was very attractive. He was definitely tugging at her heart strings. She then giggled to herself and thought, if I had a beating heart.
"Who in the hell are you people and where are you taking me?" Grant shouted in disbelief.
"Mr. Biltmore, I know you have a lot of questions but unfortunately I am not the one who should answer them. The place we are going holds the answer to every question you may produce. I can assure you we wish you no harm. Please accept my apologies as we had no time for introductions back there. My name is Elise Cantonelli," she said soothingly to her handsome assignment.
Since when are kidnappers respectful? Try respectful and gorgeous. He studied her while she drove trying to think how he could escape but he did not feel she would hurt him. Strangely, he wanted to know more about her. Grant decided he was not saying another word until he spoke to the person in charge of this heist. After all he was a rich executive and knew how to facilitate "persistent" people.
Elise felt Grant's thoughts overwhelming her, and the goose bumps on her temples were proof. She had never gotten used to the feeling of hearing a person's thoughts and soon she would have to silence Mr. Biltmore. The gift of mind control was a luxury most vampires had, however it only worked on the opposite sex. That was why immortals always worked in pairs, one man and one woman. Despite extensive research, nobody could ever figure out why vampires could not control people of the same sex. The feeling of being in love could never be forced upon a person. Many vampires have tried in the past but love was a power too strong to be controlled. Socially and romantically, this was a blessing in disguise.
Elise heard him think of her as gorgeous and it made her smile but then sighed loudly at the annoying twinge at her temples and needed silence. It was time to shut Mr. Biltmore down for a while. She abruptly turned the wheel to the right and pulled the vehicle over to the shoulder. Her erratic move made Grant wonder if his captor was psychotic. Hearing his assumption of her, she angrily turned to face Grant's direction. Oh, crap. Elise conjured her energy and he watched her eyes transition to a luminous color of purple. His honey-colored eyes grew wide as quarters and opened his mouth to yell for help as fear took over his body. Something bad was going to happen. She stared at him as she parted her lips and released an iridescent fog that encircled his face as she whispered, "Sleep."
His body immediately slumped forward and his arms fell limp. Ah ... peace at last. She turned her attention back on the road. Flipping her turn signal on, she steered the vehicle into the appropriate lane and then her cell phone began to ring. Her caller identification read, Santiago.
"Hello? Yes, I've got him and everything is fine. No, I do not need your assistance. I will call you if I do," Elise said angrily as she ended the phone call.
Gripping the steering wheel tighter in frustration as she drove, she decided to turn the radio on for distraction. Music always soothed her soul when she was in the worst of moods. The radio station was in the middle of playing Bad Suns song, "Cardiac Arrest" and she rolled her eyes at the irony of the situation making her wonder what true love would feel like. After a few minutes she rolled her eyes and changed the channel and Katy Perry's new song, "Dark Horse" had just come on. The beat of that song was an instant mood enhancer. Singing the verses like the pro she was, she scanned her rear-view mirrors to make sure nobody from Grant's office was following her. They had made sure they exited swiftly without any of his employees noticing anything, but you never knew for sure until a gawker caught up with you and tried to cut your head off. Now that had been a scary experience to go through after just being turned. She was not letting that happen again.
She turned around to check on her handsome guest in the back seat. Turning immortal definitely worked in his favor. As she suspected, he was sleeping like a baby. The sleep charm as immortals called it only lasted for thirty minutes or so. Upon awakening, the individual remained in an amnesia state, so they did not recall any events that occurred during their slumber. It was very helpful when dealing with uncooperative mortals and immortals. It had been the easiest charm to learn when she became a vampire and since then she had conquered the most complicated of charms.
Remembering her last phone call from her uncle's enforcers caused her to feel guilty about her rudeness toward them. After all, Santiago and Lucas were just making sure their assignment was near completion. They had initiated the first contact with Grant and were responsible for a successful turn. Sighing, she realized she would need to apologize later to them. She understood their concern, considering she was just returning to work after the "almost becoming headless" ordeal, which had caused her to lose a lot of blood. If the enforcer's hadn't been in the area that night and sought help for her right away after she was attacked, she would have been dust in the wind.
Excerpted from Cantonelli's Crest by Angel Musk, Alisha Marie Carnes, Michael Musk. Copyright © 2016 Angel Musk. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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