Authors: Christine Rains
Table of Contents
1305 & 1306 – THE ORACLE AND THE VAMPIRE
By Christine Rains
1305 & 1306 – THE ORACLE AND THE VAMPIRE
By Christine Rains
Cover design by Christine Rains Copyright 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes. If you are reading this book and you have not purchased it or won it in an author/publisher contest, this book has been pirated. Please delete and support the author by purchasing the ebook from one of our many distributors.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
OTHER BOOKS BY CHRISTINE RAINS
L’il Gal Al and the Zombies of Amarillo
1301 – The Marquis
1302 – The Alpha
1303 – The Dragonslayer
1304 – The Harbinger
whom both her cats and I
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Harriet had been running around half the night screaming about the death of a popular politician. Such was her curse as a banshee. She wobbled and held tighter to the handrail. Only two more steps. Why had she walked up the stairs again? It wasn’t as if she needed to work out her calf muscles.
Taking her time, Harriet stepped up. She breathed out and took that last stair. No tumbles. She’d made it, and she was home a few hours before sunrise. That made it a good night. A nap was in order before she had to go to work. She only had one client to visit, and it was happy Ms. Bates. That woman made being a nurse a pleasure.
The door to the thirteenth floor swung open. Harriet patted the doorframe and said a hoarse “thank you” as she shuffled inside. It was warm and the lights were dim, making it easier on her tired eyes.
Using the wall as support, she shambled toward the end of the hall. It was mostly quiet except for the heavy footsteps in apartment 1302. Stefanie was pacing again. The wolf must be feeling particularly antsy trapped inside tonight. Harriet could relate since she was stuck inside her old crone’s body.
Passing Xan’s door, Harriet was almost home when she stumbled. She grunted as she fell to one knee, and her hair spilled into her face like a white curtain. A head toss would work during the day if her hair became untamed, but now her neck muscles were too tight and exhaustion demanded she conserve her energy for making it to her bed.
The door at the far end of the hall opened.
Oh no. Not now.
Her whimper brought Kiral fast to her side.
“I’ve got you, Grandmother.” The vampire’s sensual voice made her shiver.
Color rose to her cheeks. There was nothing more embarrassing than being in love with someone who called her Grandmother. She was cursed in more ways than one.
Kiral slipped his left arm around her middle and took her nearest hand. “Let me help you inside.”
Harriet brushed her hair from her face as he helped her stand. Trying not to stare, she peeked at him out of the corner of her eye. He was the most gorgeous being she’d ever seen. Even looking a little rough tonight, he still had those succulent lips and bedroom eyes. His dark hair was mussed and the scent of sandalwood incense clung to him. Incense she’d made for him.
“Thank you.” Her voice cracked as if trying to imitate a nervous teenager’s, but sounding more like a toad instead.
He opened the door to 1305, and Elli hissed from the foyer when she saw him. Kiral smiled as if the cat had welcomed him. “Your familiars don’t like me so much.”
“Elanore doesn’t like anyone.” Harriet shooed the orange tabby cat. She spotted Kerr, her gray tom, perched on the couch’s arm. He was bigger than the other cat, but it was Elli who ruled the roost.
Elli spit once more and then strode into the living room with her tail held high.
At least Harriet had had a chance to tidy up before sunset when she turned from a young woman into a hag. The hardwood floor was swept and no cat hair layered her cozy furniture. One of the cats had knocked the paperback she was reading from the couch, but everything else was in its place.
As they got closer to the nearest chair, Harriet squeezed his hand tighter. Once he set her down, he’d leave. She’d often tried to coax him to stay with an offer of tea, but he never did. Kiral was always kind to her, but he didn’t want to spend his night with an old woman. He’d only ever seen her in her banshee form and didn’t know she was a young woman in the day.
Not that she believed she was worthy of a hot guy like him. Her face was too long, and she always had dark circles under her eyes. When it was humid or rainy, her long hair frizzed out. She was a hag when it wasn’t night too.
“Sit down, Grandmother. I see you’ve had a long night.” Kiral spoke softly. “Would you like me to fetch you something to drink?”
Once seated, Harriet reluctantly let go of him and shook her head. “No, I’m fine. Thank you.”
Elli circled around the other side of the chair and growled.
“Hush now, Elli.”
Kiral ran his hands through his hair. It might’ve been sexy if he wasn’t trembling so. “All right then. I’ll leave you to get some rest.”
“Are you all right? I could help if you need—”
“No.” He replied too quickly. He wet his lips and shook his head slowly. “There’s nothing you can help me with. I just need some fresh air. A walk will do me some good.”
He backed toward the door.
His movements were jerky. Harriet recognized them as springing from desperation. No, there was nothing she could help him with. No potion would ease his mind tonight.
“Be careful out there. Carmine’s streets grow darker each year.”
“I don’t think I’ll have anything to worry about.” Kiral flashed her a smile, showing a bit of fang. He then slipped out of her apartment without waiting for a good-bye and shut the door behind him.
Harriet’s body heaved with her sigh. She was in love with her neighbor who was a vampire with a narcotics addiction. Why was life never simple?
She’d watched him the past couple of years. A lot of the time through the peephole in her door. Kiral suffered, but he was so strong in abstaining. She fantasized she would save him from himself, make him well again with her healing skills, and he’d sweep her off her feet murmuring how much he loved her in his breathy, exotic accent.
True, Harriet didn’t know much about him beyond his name, addiction, and the small kindnesses he’d done for her, but his aura showed her he was good. Tormented by his craving and guilt, but there was light beneath the layers of tarnish. Besides, the mystery of the man made him all the more alluring.
Elli glanced at the door and meowed proudly as if she’d been the one to chase Kiral out. She then pranced to Harriet and pawed at her leg.
“Yes, yes. I know. You’re hungry. Just give me a minute to rest.”
Meowing more loudly, Elli swatted at Harriet’s ankle.
Harriet opened her mouth to tell her cat to be patient, but the vision swallowed the words as it slammed into her.
On a rooftop overlooking a blackened city center. Hideous gremlin-like monsters danced around someone in bloodied chains. Kiral. Kiral in chains. He lifted his head to the rising sun and screamed as his flesh burned. Screaming, pain, fire, screaming, charred flesh, death, screaming.
It was Harriet’s shrieks that filled the apartment. In her mind, they mingled with Kiral’s.
Kiral. No, not Kiral.
She sprang from the chair and flung open the apartment door. Her screeches echoed down the hall, somehow increasing in volume rather than diminishing. Harriet couldn’t stop herself from running back and forth along the corridor as she cried over the fate of the man she loved.
A man who would never know she loved him.
Chains, monsters, and burning.
Harriet screamed as much for herself as she did for him.
Kiral had almost bitten the old woman. He tore down the stairs, burst through the doors, and threw himself into the night as if he might launch himself into the blackness of space. Not even eternal darkness could erase the disgust and guilt marring his soul.
Smashing a fist against the nearest brick wall, Kiral ran through the streets. Everything blurred, and he could almost pretend nothing else existed. There was nothing to tempt him. He was free.
Perhaps he fooled everyone else, but he’d never overcome his addiction. Some nights it caressed his flesh, gentle and alluring. Other nights, it was an unrelenting throb that thumped under every thought. And nights like these, they were the worst. It took a hold of him, smothering him with powerful urgency.
Even the crone with her tainted blood smelled delicious. If he ever hurt her, he’d never be able to forgive himself. The kindness she’d shown him was far more than anyone had given him in all his unnaturally long life.
Kiral slowed to a walk near the downtown area. Even at this hour of night, there were still people about. Working, partying, up to no good. He could find a criminal and drink from him. It might take the edge off and allow him to sleep through the day.
He didn’t want just a drink, though. It was the high. He needed the mind-numbing narcotic rush.
Needed. No, he didn’t
it. He’d been clean for almost three years now.
Three very long years.
A little hit wouldn’t hurt, right? Something to soothe the insistent craving before it clawed its way out of his flesh.
Stopping, Kiral placed his hands on the edge of a garbage can and leaned forward. A couple walking by gave him a wide berth. The woman crinkled her nose and snuggled more into her companion.
She might’ve thought he was drunk and going to throw up. Her repulsion teased up Kiral’s anger. Little did the bitch know that he could rip off her man’s head and drink her dry before she could catch the breath to scream. Maybe he should do so. She had no right to look down her nose at him.
Bending so his forehead nearly touched the can, Kiral cursed himself. Such a miserable wretch he was. He had great physical strength and supernatural senses. His good looks mesmerized people as much as his gaze. Yet he couldn’t conquer his addiction.
“You doing all right, friend?”
Kiral jerked up, eyes wide and nostrils flaring. He hadn’t heard or smelt anyone approaching.
A man stood at the dark mouth of the nearby alley. When Kiral’s gaze fell upon him, he smiled. Friendly yet with a wicked quirk to the one side. He was dressed for clubbing in an evocative leather jacket and tight ripped jeans. His hair was mussed in much the same way as Kiral’s. The pair of them could’ve been in a band together.
“Looks like you’re having a rough night.” The stranger removed a cigarette pack from his jacket and knocked out two, walking forward and offering one to Kiral. “Go ahead. No filters on these, though.”
“Like it matters.” Kiral sighed and closed the distance between them, taking the cigarette. “Thanks.”
Something smelled off about the guy. The faint odor of burnt meat clung to him. Not like the flavorful scent from a steakhouse, though.
Taking out a lighter, the man lit his smoke and then handed the lighter to Kiral. “No problem. Looked like you could use it. Or maybe something a little more.”
Lighting his cigarette, Kiral peered at him over the flame. Ah, now he had the bastard pegged. Expensive clothes yet hanging out in an alley. Not a bad part of town, but not the best either. He bet there were a roll of cash in one jacket pocket and a bag of pills in the other.