The Fire Witch
A Zvi Jayden Novel Book 1
by Sasha Marshall
Genre: Paranormal Romance
A brutal murder by a reserved vampire brings a new case to Zvi Jayden. Perplexed as to why her friend met such a tragic end, she will stop at nothing to find the rogue vampire. An array of supernatural beings converge at The Bar to find the killer and other hidden truths. Killian Kavanaugh, king of the vampires is after the killer and Zvi's heart. Zvi will not only have to battle a killer vampire but fight her feelings and Killian's advances. Will Zvi catch the killer before it's too late?
DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME AND winter combine to make nights longer, a blessing for a vampire—one I have cursed more than graciously accepted for over 600 years. As I reach up and push on the coffin's lid, the hinges squeak as it opens. I crawl out into the evening, refresh myself with a shower, and then I wander onto the front porch with a book in my hand, a collection of essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson. As I take a seat in my favorite antique, white rocking chair, I reach out into the distance, casting my senses beyond me like a net, searching for potential danger. The crickets chirp, the cicadas sing, and the smell of honeysuckle sweetens the humid, Georgia air. I sense another vampire eight houses down, another creature of the night assimilating into human culture.
The night is peaceful, just as I like it, and makes for the perfect evening to bury my nose in Emerson's Self Reliance and let the world around disappear. When the grandfather clock inside chimes through the screen door at the eight o’clock hour, I decide to move to the kitchen for my nightly cup of coffee, a habit I picked up in 1914, on the eve of the war. Coffee is the closest thing to sunshine a vampire can withstand.
As the beans brew, I take the time to appreciate the rich aroma, allowing the smell to waft over me. It brings back memories of days gone by when I was very much in love with Maribel. The love of my life has been gone for over fifty years now. I can’t seem to move past her, recreating the smell of our long nights together each evening with a simple cup of joe. If I listen hard enough, I can still hear her laugh as she guzzled caffeine to stay awake with me.
Lost in thought, I move back to the rocking chair and cast my net again, always on the lookout for danger. This time there are two vampires–one of the two ancient and powerful–and a witch. The hair on my neck stands on end as I wait for them to reveal themselves. Anticipation makes me anxious to discover their identities. It’s the witch that shows her face–a beautiful face, framed with mousy brown hair that would’ve deceived me if I’d not already smelled her dark magic.
“Mr. Ekman,” she greets as she climbs the porch steps, wearing a long, black, lacy dress that drags the ground.
“What do you want, witch?” I ask, in no mood to be bothered by a stranger in the middle of the night.
“They say you loved a human woman,” she says.
Most vampires would be ashamed of the fact, but not me. The thirty years I spent with my Maribel were the best years of my immortal existence. “I still do.”
She smiles at me, lifts one hand in the air, and unleashes a black cloud of dark magic with one target in mind. The small cyclone picks me off the porch for a few moments before it sets me back on my feet and crawls inside my lungs. I sink to my knees as I cough and sputter, choking on the thickness. It consumes me, painfully twisting my bones, contracting my muscles, and invading my mind.
The witch walks over to me with dark black shining eyes. She touches my forehead, and whispers an unknown language into my ear, with snarled, black words. A mental picture of a male human and his dog filters into my brain, and there’s one command along with it.
I stand from the porch, feeling stronger than ever before. I begin my journey from my suburban home to downtown Atlanta, zipping through woods and streets at vampiric speed. I reach a parking garage off Decatur Street where my victim and canine have made a temporary home for the night. I’d been homeless many times in my mortal years, living on the streets of Granada. I try not to prey on those in the same position. But tonight, there’s bloodlust running through my veins. With each beat of the human’s heart comes a fresh wave of the copper scent that causes my fangs to protract in anticipation of tasting the sweet life force on my tongue.
In the back, dark corner of the garage, the sleeping dog wakes and lifts his head. A deep growl emanates from his throat, a warning not to venture closer to the human. Animals can always sense when they’re in the presence of a stronger predator. The man rouses from his sleep.
A vampire never has to take a life. It keeps our existence from being discovered. Once we make it past the first year of barely controlled hunger, we can make the experience quite pleasurable, even sexual, for both parties. Depending on the age of the vampire, most need little more than a sip of blood. But tonight, there’s no pleasure to be had. The magic coursing through me will ensure that I’ll devour the man’s soul down to the last metallic drop.
“I was here first,” the man says, clearly of the mind that a well-dressed vampire is here to impose on his makeshift bed.
I don’t want to kill the man. It’s a senseless loss of life. I’d rather go home and finish my java while reading Emerson, but the urge to fully consume the man outweighs all humanity left in my vampire soul.
I don’t respond to the man. Instead, I opt for an attempt at fighting the black cloud in my head. I tell myself to walk away, to leave the fragile human being, and allow him to live another day.
“Find your own spot,” the man says, his voice dripping with annoyance over being roused from sleep.
I try to turn around and walk out the way I came, but the hungry urge is too strong. I close my eyes and force images of Maribel into existence. If anyone can remind me of the man and vampire I am, it’s her.
I step into a small circle of light, illuminating myself.
“What the fuck are you?” the human asks.
I can barely manage words, but I have to give the man a real shot at escaping. “Run!” I growl.
The man quickly slides from his sleeping bag, crab crawls backward and jumps up into a standing position before he sprints across the garage. I fight like hell against the magic’s hold. The quick retreating footsteps slap the pavement in perfect timing with the human’s heart. The beat grows stronger, harder, and faster as the man overexerts himself as he runs for his life. If I can wait until the man is behind a locked door, maybe I can find some control. A lock won’t stop me, but a required invitation to come inside by a human will.
Maribel dances across my vision, a dark-haired beauty with high cheekbones, full lips, and sparkling blue eyes. I concentrate on her scent–a heady combination of jasmine and vanilla. It’s a scent that normally calms me quickly. I focus on the silkiness of her long locks, the way her long lashes touch her cheeks, and the smile made to bring man and beast to their knees. But the bloodlust, the sound of my victim’s quick breaths, and the stench of the street fill me instead of the beautiful spirit I hope against all hope will save me.
“Maribel,” I call out, hoping she’ll spare me from this terrible act.
Thought becomes more difficult with each passing moment. My soul fades, buckling under the witch’s power. I know what will happen if I give into the darkness–it will take over and I’ll rip the man to pieces.
“Maribel,” I plead one last time, my voice full of desperation. “Save me, my love.”
But her memory slips away, replaced with my only mission.
I casually amble out of the parking structure, my senses locked onto my prey, and stalk down a dark alley on the trail of the scent. In the distance, the human bellows as he frantically knocks on alley doors for entry and safety. When I am but five feet away, I stop and wait for the man to turn around to see what awaits him. The moment before the kill is the sweetest moment of the hunt when the lamb finally realizes the blade is about to drop. There’s nowhere to turn and no one to cry out for.
As the man turns to face his death, I notice the dog tags around his neck–Patrick Russell. The fog of the magic lifts just enough to realize that the man is a veteran. “You served?”
Patrick puffs his chest out, pride overcoming the fear on his face. “Yeah. You?”
“In another life, being a soldier was the only option for an orphan.”
“That’s fucking great, man. Are you going to chill now?” Patrick asks warily.
A blackness fills me again, and a cloud settles over us. I reach out with my sixth sense for my Maribel, hoping she’s nearby and can help me overcome the forceful magic. It begins to choke me, filling my lungs with needles as I fight against it. My bones begin to buckle underneath the weight as I nearly collapse to the ground. My eyes fill with tears as I realize I’m seconds away from completely losing control. There’s nothing anyone can do for Patrick or myself at this point.
With supernatural speed, I close the distance between us. I wrap my hand around Patrick’s throat and squeeze as I lift him into the air. Patrick claws at my hands with wide eyes that beg for mercy, but there’s no mercy to be had. The human kicks his legs in an attempt to break free, but his fragile, mortal body is too weak to fight against the hold. There’s fear in his eyes until right before life leaves him, and then there’s the resignation of a soldier—a man who knows death is coming and decides to meet the end with dignity and bravery.
I lower him enough to connect my lips to the carotid artery. I hover above it for a moment, enjoying the vibration of the rapid pulse against my mouth. I possess no restraint as I tear into the neck. A blood-curdling scream escapes Patrick, which only invites me to drink harder and faster. Rivers of the crimson flow down our bodies, soaking the skin and clothing in the sweet elixir. I haven’t felt this kind of hunger since the night I first rose as a vampire. Patrick’s heart gives out, and as soon as I release the dead weight, the body crumples to the ground. I find myself unsteady on my feet, drunk from overindulging way past my fill. I lean over and vomit most of the blood back up, feeling sick from a combination of gluttony and putrid, dark magic. I purge the spell from my body, and when I’m finished, I look up to find Maribel’s ghost beside Patrick’s body. Tears stain her porcelain face. I squat over the man’s body and reach out to touch her face, but she vanishes into thin air.
I fall to my knees as I pull at the strands of my hair. Tears cascade down my face, and utter shame courses through me. The guilt threatens to pull me under. “I’m sorry, my love,” I whisper to her ghost.
Award-winning author Sasha Marshall, a concert photographer, toured with legendary bands such as The Allman Brothers Band. A self-proclaimed free spirit, she’s most often found outdoors, or painting a canvas, capturing a photograph, people watching, reading a book, or writing a new book. Sasha makes her home in the beautiful state of Georgia and loves to hear from readers.
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