Darkness fell over the city as thick and black as smoke, bringing a wet chill as though an evil presence had descended with the night.
Gabrielle Langston drew her coat tighter at the collar. Her low-heeled boots made light taps across Market Street’s wide cement sidewalk. The bustling city
had turned eerily silent, and she wished she hadn’t come here alone. Who would have thought the frantic excitement of San Francisco’s financial district
would vanish with the sun?
Widely spaced streetlamps did little to penetrate the concentrated darkness. Vagrants huddled along the closed storefronts, dismal silhouettes crouched or
lying in the corner where sidewalk met wall, seeking the solid protection of concrete on two sides against unseen dangers lurking in the shadows.
Gabrielle looked around, but the sound seemed to emanate from all directions. It echoed crisply, like the snap of a great canvas sheet on a sailboat, the
only interruption in otherwise heavy silence. A lone car turned onto Market several blocks up but veered off again before reaching her.
Gabrielle gasped, her step halted by the menacing voice.
“Give me some money.”
A man sat against the low wall beneath the window of the Gap, creating a harsh banner of reality next to a poster of a too-pretty young man leaping through
a sunny meadow in designer jeans.
She hurried on.
“You don’t got a dollar?” the vagrant called as she passed. “A dollar!” His tone increased, yet he didn’t expend the energy to rise.
She nearly broke into a run. The next street, Grant, would lead her toward Chinatown and back to her small apartment. She should have sought out the
mysterious Goth rave, where she hoped to find her missing sister, during the day.
“A dollar, bitch. You can’t spare a dollar? That ain’t nothin’ to a fancy glurg-ick—”
She turned. Shadows reached for her like grasping hands, cutting off the last shreds of ambient light. The vagrant was gone. A scrap of paper fluttered to
the ground where he’d been.
Gabrielle whirled, primed to run. She screamed and jerked to a stop before taking a single step.
She’d searched the city for weeks without a sign of her sister, and suddenly here she was, having materialized out of thin air.
Only this didn’t look like the Linna she remembered. The figure before her was a pale, gaunt shadow of the vivacious sister she once knew. Hollow, empty
eyes stared back at her.
“You shouldn’t be here, Gabrielle.”
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you. God, Linna, you look…” She took a step toward her sister, wanting to embrace her, or at least touch her, but
something made her hesitate. Her sister’s expression was dull, emotionless. Lifeless.
The weight of it all barreled over Gabrielle; this terrifying night, her desperate search, the overwhelming rush at finally finding Linna. Tears stung her
eyes. “What’s happened to you?”
It was drugs, it had to be.
Linna had written three half-lucid letters before she disappeared, ranting about vampires. While Gabrielle didn’t believe in Dracula creatures or their Van
Helsing counterparts, she had traveled to San Francisco expecting to find crazed cultists who engaged in blood rituals.
She knew there were dentists who would cosmetically alter canine teeth into fangs. She knew it was easy to purchase costume contact lenses. Her sister had
been a Goth since she was fifteen; Gabrielle knew more than she’d ever wanted to about the Goth community. She even believed there were fools who drank
blood, risking countless diseases for their fad.
But she did not believe in bloodsucking demons that transformed into bats or burst into flames if sunlight touched their skin.
Before her was a much more logical, though no less horrifying explanation. Her sister was an addict.
“Come home with me. I can get you help. It’ll be hard, but wouldn’t it be better than this?”
“You can’t help me,” Linna said, devoid of emotion. “Go home, Gabrielle. It isn’t safe for you here.”
“This is home, Linna. I took an apartment here. I’m not going back to Seattle without you.”
“You can’t help me,” she repeated. “I’m lost.”
Two fat tears spilled down Gabrielle’s cheeks. She swiped them away. “Linna, don’t say that. I know it feels that way now, but nothing is that bad.”
“I’ll never turn my back on you. Linna, I love you.”
Linna’s gaze jerked over Gabrielle’s shoulder. Her eyes widened with raw terror, the first emotion she’d shown, and her mouth opened in a silent gasp.
Gabrielle whirled around.
A young man had appeared soundlessly behind her. He made a startling sight with his long, white hair and eerily light blue eyes.
“Elaine, don’t be so inhospitable.” He spoke to Linna without taking his eyes off Gabrielle. “Your sister has traveled a great distance to see you. Invite
He was just as pale as Linna, only he didn’t seem unhealthy like she did. His watery eyes were nearly as blank as Linna’s, but the smile that slithered
into his face seemed oddly sincere. Almost…beguiling.
In the back of her mind, Gabrielle registered the muffled thump of music from a club. Why hadn’t she heard it before?
“She can’t stay,” Linna said. “She was just leaving.”
“Nonsense.” He stepped forward and placed his arm around Gabrielle’s shoulders. The instant he touched her, a strange electric current connected them.
Above her uneasiness came an irrational desire to oblige him. She felt pulled into those weird eyes, almost like she was falling.
“Gabrielle, I’m Evan. It’s such a pleasure to meet you.” He took her hand and brought it to his lips. The light kiss he placed at her knuckles felt cold.
“Your sister’s tales didn’t do you justice. You’re much prettier than she said.”
A black door burst open. It hadn’t been there a second ago…had it? Gabrielle glimpsed a glowing red symbol flash on the door so fast it was just a blink.
Blue light from inside spilled over them, making Evan look demonic, and music flooded onto the street. A ferocious hulk of a man in biker leathers exploded
past. He glanced down at Gabrielle and gave a grunt of approval, trailing a cloud of smoke, liquor vapors, and a heady mixture of unearthly scents behind
Evan grabbed the door and held it. Gabrielle turned and looked at her sister.
“Elaine, don’t be rude,” Evan said behind her. “Come along.”
As though bespelled, Gabrielle’s feet took her inside.
Shrill, abrasive music speared into her brain. Wildly gyrating dancers jostled her as Evan took her under his arm and led the way to the bar. He held up
three fingers to the bartender, who nodded in return. Linna crowded close on the other side.
“So, you’re from Seattle. What’s that like?”
“A lot like this, only flat.” She turned to her sister. “Mom’s really worried.”
“As you can see, she’s fine,” Evan said.
Glancing over her sister’s gaunt face, Gabrielle’s anger flared. Even while the pull of an unexplainable magnetism clawed at her resistance, the energy at
finally finding Linna was stronger.
“No, she isn’t.”
Linna’s dull gaze, now with a hint of wariness, flicked from Gabrielle to Evan and back again.
The bartender placed three identical drinks on the bar, each in a clear shot glass that bore the blood-red symbol Gabrielle had seen on the door.
The liquid was blue at the top, bleeding to milky white. Linna picked hers up and gulped it down in one mouthful.
“You have an apartment here.”
Gabrielle turned to Evan.
“I heard you tell Linna.” He picked up his drink and held it aloft. Feeling compelled, Gabrielle picked up hers. The glass seemed to vibrate beneath her
“Stay here a while. You’ll see for yourself she’s just fine. Better than fine. I think you’ll come to love San Francisco more than Seattle, as well.”
He smiled and tipped his glass. Excitement gleamed in his eyes as she took a sip from hers. It tasted sweet, and that small mouthful was oddly
“San Francisco is an exciting city,” Evan went on. “It has many hidden secrets I’d love to show you.”
He wasn’t exactly handsome, or physically impressive. She didn’t even like long hair on men, and his was downright weird. But he possessed some
strange, mesmerizing power that made her feel quivery and uncertain. She took another sip, transfixed by the graceful movement of Evan’s mouth as he spoke.
“How do you like the drink?”
“It’s all right.” She looked down, surprised to see the glass was nearly empty.
“Would you like another?” Evan motioned to the bartender. Within seconds, another shot glass slid in front of her.
Linna bumped her thigh. Gabrielle glanced into the mirror over the bar.
Don’t drink it.
Linna’s voice echoed in her head, yet her sister’s lips were tightly set in a grim line.
Gabrielle’s body suddenly tightened with a surge of erotic excitement. Her insides swooped as if someone had pulled the ground out from beneath her feet.
Her vision twisted, creating a blurred kaleidoscope of her hand when she set the glass down.
“I have to use the restroom.”
“I’ll show you where it is.” Linna took her by the wrist and dragged her through the mash of dancers. The music intensified, pounding inside her head.
Grotesque flashes that couldn’t be real blinked into her vision. Flaring, animal-like nostrils. Glowing red eyes. Leering grins with elongated fangs.
Oh shit…he dosed me.
Linna shoved through the outer door. Gabrielle drew a deep breath, thankful for San Francisco’s clean, ocean breeze.
Her sister stopped only long enough to turn on her, vicious. “You have to leave. Please, just go home.”
“Linna, what’s going on?”
The world tilted sideways. Gabrielle blinked, fighting to right her vision.
With a furious grumble, Linna spun around and dragged her up the street, her strong grip cutting painfully into Gabrielle’s wrist.
She tripped, but somehow managed to stay on her feet. Linna dragged her into an alley, grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard enough to loosen
Gabrielle’s vision wheeled away.
“You can’t help me. I’m not some heroin addict. It’s much worse than that. There’s no curing me, but you can be saved. Go home, Gabrielle. If you don’t
leave, I won’t be responsible for what happens to you.”
Gabrielle swallowed. She was going to throw up.
“Listen to me!” Linna shook her again, forcing Gabrielle to look at her. “I’m trying to help you!”
When Gabrielle’s vision cleared, she found herself staring into the snarling face of a monster with glowing golden eyes and deadly fangs.
She yelped and stumbled backward.
What the hell was in that drink?
Linna’s mouth widened. Two lethally sharp canines glinted from an ambient light source. She hissed like an angry cat. The inhuman sound sliced into
Gabrielle, turning her blood to ice.
This was a waking nightmare.
“Linna.” Evan’s voice came from behind Gabrielle.
“No!” Linna growled in an inhuman voice.
As though detached from her body, Gabrielle felt Evan grab her wrist and yank her away from her sister.
“Spike wants her. You know better than to interfere.”
The pavement spun. Gabrielle looked down at Linna’s upturned face, her sister’s mouth wide open, those vicious teeth still extended. She hissed again, but
the sound was far away now.
Above her, Evan laughed wickedly. “She doesn’t have her wings yet.”
The ground surged away. They were flying!
She twisted to look up. The horrific sight that greeted her sent reality spinning away. Against a black sky, Evan’s leathery wings flapped like a great,
evil bat’s. Tiny glints of ivory marked sharp barbs at the tips of the skeletal structure supporting the webbing.
For a frozen in time moment, she could only stare in absolute horror. She sucked in a breath that seemed to go on forever and finally let it out in a
Gabrielle thrashed and flailed, sickened by the nightmarish vision her brain refused to accept.
In the shadows of her mind, she fought to convince herself this was all a hideous dream, but the cold air rushing through her clothes and the painful grip
on her wrist were two irrefutable signs this was utterly, horribly real.
A swooping feeling rolled through her stomach with the recognition of sheer and absolute horror.
She fought wildly, terrified by Evan’s wicked transformation while at the same time, appallingly entranced by his monstrous appearance. Through it all,
Gabrielle realized a shameful eagerness to succumb to whatever he wanted from her.
His eyes blazed red and when he looked down at her, she saw his fangs were elongated just like Linna’s. “Your sweet screams make my cock hard, little one.
Yours will be a delicious initiation!”
Higher and higher, each flap of his colossal wings carried them deeper into the starless sky. Gabrielle looked down, saw the lights of the city and the
black void of its surrounding water, two ribbons of light where the bridges crossed the bay. The astronomical height made her scream again and again,
twisting and clawing to grasp an unreachable foundation of reality.
Her throat burned, and her vision spun. This couldn’t possibly be real! Whatever strange drug was in that drink must be causing these horrifying
“I want you to scream like this when I plunge my fangs into your tender throat. Save your breath because I won’t be the first or the last, little
sacrifice. Spike likes it when you scream, too. We’re going to fuck you and feed from you until we’re satisfied, and then we’re going to do it all over
It was real! Horribly, dreadfully real!
“No!” Even as black fingers of oblivion clawed at the edges of her consciousness, she knew she had one escape.
She twisted and kicked, flailing with her free hand until she managed to jam it inside her coat pocket. Her fingers closed around her pepper spray, still
safely locked. The small steel cylinder felt solid beneath her fingers, a last sliver of reality. She brought it to her lips and pulled the safety pin free
with her teeth, then spit it out.
“Ooh, I love it when you beg!” He glanced down, his eyes flashing red with malicious glee.
She sprayed him.
The vampire cried out and released her, bringing both hands to his eyes. “You fucking bitch!”
She careened toward earth, her descent smooth compared to the battering, jerking flight into the sky. Her final scream was one of relief and acceptance. A
soft blanket of darkness wrapped around her.
Something impacted Gabrielle hard enough to rattle her bones.
“Easy there. I’ve got you.” The deep voice spoke just at her ear, a rumbling resonance that tingled across every nerve ending.
Strong arms cradled her, pulling her against a rock-solid chest. The musky scent of virile male filled her senses. At once, she recognized the stark,
refreshing difference from Evan’s sour odor.
It was the sound she’d heard on the street. Massive wings rose and fell, surging them upward and plunging them downward. Flying, again, but this time
gently, smoothly, her body cradled beneath him like someone might hold a baby as they set it down in its crib.
“Can you hold on to me?”
Who are you? she wanted to ask, but all that came out was an “ah.” Her limbs had gone numb; her body too weak to try and hold on.
Whatever it was that Evan had given her, she couldn’t fight it. She no longer wanted to, she realized calmly. Take me.