Blood For Sale is a short story now available for Patrons on my Patreon. Here's a sneak peak though, if you want to get a taste before you commit.
Audry is a post-college-grad with a problem: Debt. What to do about it? Well, the vampires are offering to erase the debt of all those they deem worthy of conversion.
Yeah, she'll try that.
The fabric against my neck itched. It was stiff with starch, black as night, and the ruffles scraped against my jaw. I wanted to tear it off. I felt exposed without sleeves, but the top buttoned up the back. I hadn’t picked it. I hadn’t picked anything I was wearing.
My legs itched too. I never wore stockings. These were black too. The heels pinched my feet and I wobbled, so walking with the support of the nearby wall was my only option if I didn’t want to faceplant in the middle of the hall.
I tugged at my skirt, but the scrap of lilac plaid refused to go past my thighs. I was exposed and covered and—wrong. I hated showing my arms. I hated wearing contacts. I hated the feeling of scratchy chiffon. This was such a terrible idea.
Perhaps this wouldn’t have been so bad, but now I was lost. I wasn’t part of the “club” as it were, not yet. I was just a baby bat. A freshly chosen mortal convert to the vampire cause. That’s what the pamphlets said, anyhow. The more important part of the pamphlet was the bit about the vamps paying off all your debts if you met their requirements.
I hadn’t expected them to say yes. I was pretty, I guess. People would say it was a shame I was overweight, I had such a pretty face after all. Yeah, so I had padding. I had hips and breasts and a stomach. I didn’t care. I was fine with it. What I wasn’t fine with was being dressed up like a doll in clothes I hated.
I wanted my clothes. My armor.
The skirt was okay.
“There you are!”
I looked up from the beige carpet I’d been watching as I walked. Shit. “Mistress.” She genuinely insisted I call her that. My sponsor, the glamorous Lady Braxton. Sponsor. Tormentor. Whatever. She made me leave my cats behind.
If I thought about that too much I’d start crying again, which I couldn’t afford to do with all the eye make-up I was wearing.
“You have the worst sense of direction,” she tsked. “Come along, we don’t have all night.”
I nodded and hurried after her. This conference was for all the soon to be vampires and their sponsors. Because everyone likes a good Powerpoint presentation I suppose.
“You must be more careful,” she continued. “There’s another group here and I’d prefer you not mingle with them.”
“Werewolves.” The disgust in her voice was evident.
“Do try to be more eloquent, Audry.”
“Yes, Mistress.” Huh. Maybe werewolves would be more fun. Maybe they liked Powerpoints too. I would never escape Powerpoints. I was going to spend my long, long, undead life looking at Powerpoints, wasn’t I? Well, at least I’d do it debt free.
The things we do to pay off our student loans.
I want my cats.
Four presentations and an okay buffet dinner later, we were all shuffled off to the airport to fly out to our new homes, living with our sponsors for the next century or so. Fun times. Fun. Times.
Five minutes into the airport and I was lost again. Okay, it was more than five minutes. We’d gotten through security, I’d gotten some weird looks from the other soon-to-be vampires. Maybe they too thought my outfit was ridiculous. Though I don’t know that they could judge. We all looked like Goths gone Vogue.
Okay, so I was fat and most of them were decidedly not, but that was their own problem. I couldn’t care less if they wanted to act like this was a high school clique. I hadn’t been interested in high school cliques when I was in high school, sure as hell wasn’t going to be interested in them now either.
So after security, there was a bit of a shuffle, I was shunned and then I was lost.
And of course, Lady Braxton had my ticket and I didn’t remember the gate number.
I was tempted to take a seat and wait to be found. Specifically on the floor. Like a lost child. I sort of felt like one right now. I wanted my mom. I wanted my cats. I wanted to wrap my arms around myself and sob.
Yeah, this was totally going well. I was so brilliant.
“Um, are you okay?” The soothing baritone voice shook me out of my contemplation
Shit, was I crying? “Sure.” I turned toward the voice—damn. He was tall, but the thing I noticed first was the giant fluffy fur coat he was wearing. It looked like he was wearing a bear skin as a coat. Sans head, mind you. It was a golden color. It made him look bigger, I was sure, but he was already broad. His neck muscled enough for me to guess at the rest of his physique.
“You don’t look okay.” His brow furrowed, focusing my attention on his face properly.
I’d always thought it was weird to describe someone’s features as stone hewn, but this man made me rethink that. Every single line of his face was sharp and defined like cut stone. His eyes were stone blue and his thick mane of hair was near the same color as the coat.
“It’s been a long day. Powerpoints. Shoes. Getting lost.” I sighed. “I’ll be fine.”
“You one of the baby bats?” He eyed me up and down, a little curl to his lips I thought was appreciative.
“Yeah.” I laughed. I hadn’t meant to laugh, but it was a laugh that nearly turned into a sob.
“I’m Killian,” he said softly.
“Audry.” The way he said my name was almost grounding. “Do you want to be a vampire, Audry?”
I bit my lip, forcing myself not to move. Not to shake my head or start crying. We were in such a public place. I didn’t want to break down in public.
“How about we go someplace quieter?” He held a hand out to me. The light caught his perfectly manicured nails, painted with a golden tint.
I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t the type of person who made snap decisions. I’d agonized over my application for vampire conversion. I’d agonized over my college applications.
Decisions were always weighty.
But I made a choice in that airport. I took his hand.
Killian smiled at me and gently led me to a little alcove off the thoroughfare.
“It’s all right if you don’t want it.”
“They wouldn’t let me keep my cats,” I blurted out. “I had to say goodbye to them.” A tear dripped down my cheek. “That wasn’t in the pamphlet.”
I thought he would laugh, but instead, he frowned.
“I’m sorry, that’s incredibly unfair.”
I nodded, more tears dripping. I could feel my nose starting to stuff up too. Yeah, this was an attractive look.
“So, do you want to be a vampire?”
I swallowed the heat building in the back of my throat and shook my head. “No,” I croaked. “But—I have to. I need the money. They’ll pay off my student loans. I’ll be able to help my family. My friends.” I swallowed again.
He was still holding my hand, and for some reason that made me feel safe.
“That’s a lot to put on your shoulders.”
“What if I gave you another option?”
I blinked and met his eyes. “What other option?”
It suddenly occurred to me. The coat. The strength in his build. The strength in his hand.
“You’re a werewolf.” But I didn’t try to pull my hand away. I didn’t want to.
He smiled, flashing teeth. “I am.”
“You guys don’t have pamphlets.”
Killian laughed. “No, we don’t. We select our candidates differently.”
“How much money do you need?”
I snorted. “To pay off my debts? My friends? My family? Like, half a million dollars. Private college, not cheap.”
“What did you get a degree in?”
“Art history.” I made a face. “I know, not useful.”
“I wouldn’t say that. You learn to look at the world differently. See people differently. I would guess that’s one of the reasons the vampires chose you. They like intelligence—so do I.” He fixed me with that stare again. “Come with me, I’ll give you six months to decide if you want to be a part of the pack. Whether you do or not, I’ll pay the debts you’ve shouldered.”
A chill rolled over my skin, sinking into my muscles. “Wha?” I couldn’t form the whole word. “Are you—you can’t be serious.”
“I am, very serious.” He squeezed my hand and released it. “When you get off that plane, it’ll be too late, Audry.”
“Why are you doing this? Why do you want to help me?”
He shrugged. “Because I can.” He held his hand out again. “It’s your choice. I won’t force you to come with me.”
I took a deep breath. “Would you buy me a t-shirt from the gift shop? Would I get to keep my cats?”
“Sure.” He blinked. “I can do that. And, yes. I like cats. We have quite a few at the manor.”
“Cool.” I took his hand. “Because I want my cats. Also, this shirt is really itchy.”
Killian snorted. “You have the most interesting priorities.”
“You sure you want me in your pack?”
“Oh, yes.” He nodded, smiling. “I’m sure.”