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Vamps and the City
By Kerrelyn Sparks
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright ©2006 Kerrelyn Sparks
All right reserved.
"Eight-twenty p.m., male Caucasian, five-foot-ten, 180 pounds, mid-twenties, leaving a white Honda Civic," Austin Erickson murmured into his mini-recorder. He adjusted the telescopic night lens on his binoculars and zoomed in on the subject across the parking lot. The guy didn't appear to be armed. More importantly, he was carrying a king-sized cup of gourmet coffee and a bag of doughnuts. Lucky bastard. Normally, that would be considered . . . well, normal. But this was the parking lot of the Digital Vampire Network. Nothing was normal here. Especially after sunset.
Austin exchanged his binoculars for a 35-mm camera and took another look at the guy. "Subject is human. He's going in."
The guy was taking breakfast inside DVN? Didn't he realize he could be breakfast? A shaft of light cut across the parking lot, then slowly disappeared as the door swung shut. It was dark once more. Austin had parked his black Acura in the shadowed corner of this lot in Brooklyn. The large warehouse that contained DVN was dark, all the windows blackened out. Only three letters, DVN, glowed in fluorescent red lights over the black-lacquered front door.
With a sigh, he dropped his camera on the passenger seat. He supposed the guy would be safe. Austin hadbeen watching the vampire-owned television station for four nights now, and every night, several humans ventured inside. His conclusion -- DVN actually employed a handful of mortals. Did the poor saps know they were working for demonic creatures? Were their minds being controlled? Maybe the vampires offered a great dental plan. Whatever their reasons for being there, as far as Austin could tell, all the humans left about five in the morning still alive and apparently in good health. It was strange, but then, there were a lot of strange things about the vampire world.
He had learned of their existence about six weeks ago when CIA operations officer Sean Whelan had transferred him to the Stake-Out team. Sean had explained what vicious killers these vampires were, so Austin was eager to protect the innocent. He had expected action, lots of action, ramming wooden stakes into nasty green creatures with rotting flesh and bumpy foreheads. Instead, he'd found himself staking out a television network where the vampires looked and acted too much like humans.
In fact, the only way Austin could tell a human from a vampire was to look through the 35-mm camera. Both the living and the undead showed up in a digital camera, but vampires could never appear in a 35-mm for the same reason they never showed up in a mirror. Their image could not be reflected.
He moved the 35-mm to the floor in front of the passenger seat. The rest of his equipment was there -- night-vision goggles, digital camera with night lens, Glock with silver bullets, laptop, and his new favorite, his CV-3 video viewer. God, he loved working for the CIA. He had the coolest stuff.
He'd also been issued a box of wooden stakes. Made in China by a company that specialized in chopsticks. The box was sitting on the back seat of his car, open and ready for emergencies.
He opened his laptop on the passenger seat and typed in the secret frequency for receiving transmissions from DVN. The screen came into focus. Good, the vampire news was still on. And free for the taking. They naturally assumed no one could figure out their secret transmissions, and they didn't post guards around their facility. It was all indicative of what Austin considered their most obvious weakness. Their arrogance. He slipped in his ten-gigabyte thumb drive and began recording.
This was his mission -- stake out DVN, acquire information, and most importantly, learn the whereabouts of Sean's daughter, who was being held prisoner. The last time they'd seen Shanna was eight days ago in Central Park. She'd been surrounded by an army of Scottish vampires. To Austin, she'd looked like a willing captive, but Sean insisted she was brainwashed. Terribly outnumbered, the Stake-Out team had been forced to retreat, leaving Shanna Whelan behind.
Sean was furious. He was staking out Roman Draganesti's townhouse every night, but so far, there was no sign of his daughter. He'd ordered Garrett to watch the Russian coven in Brooklyn. Alyssa was watching Romatech Industries. The new girl, Emma, was manning the office in Midtown and scouring police reports for anything that indicated vampire involvement. And Austin was watching DVN -- the facility and the transmissions.
He slipped on his CV-3 video viewer. The special eyeglasses gave him a heads-up display that freed him from having to watch his computer screen. He could continue to scan the parking lot while DVN played on a virtual screen in front of his eyes.
According to the DVN newscaster, the Russian coven was in turmoil. Some of the male coven members were refusing to accept two females as masters. A civil war could erupt. Austin smiled to himself. Let the slimy vampires kill each other off.
He poured a cup of coffee from his thermos. Holy caffeine fix, he wished this was gourmet. And a few snacks would be nice. He should have confiscated that guy's doughnuts for evidence. While he drank, a commercial started. A sexy female claimed her yummy drink was low in cholesterol and blood sugar. Blood Lite.
Austin choked, spraying coffee all over his steering wheel before he managed to swallow. Sheesh, demon diet food? He grabbed an old napkin to wipe up the mess. Next was the vampire celebrity talk show, starring Corky Courrant. He eyed the hostess's chest. Those had to be implants.
His attention was diverted when a photo flashed on the screen next to Corky's head. A photo of Draganesti.
"You'll never believe it!" Corky exclaimed with a grin. "The most eligible bachelor in America is getting married! Yes, Roman Draganesti, coven master of East Coast vampires, billionaire inventor of synthetic blood and Fusion Cuisine, and CEO of Romatech Industries has announced his engagement. And you'll never believe who the lucky bride is! Stay tuned!"
Excerpted from Vamps and the City by Kerrelyn Sparks Copyright ©2006 by Kerrelyn Sparks. Excerpted by permission.
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