With Carmilla’s Ghost launching in less than a month, I thought it would be fun to offer a brief excerpt from the novel for everyone to read. I’m giving no context other than this selection takes place in the village of Karnsburg, Austria.
A young woman with a copper-highlighted, auburn side-swept pixie cut approached the bar and ordered her drink. Her bright clothing, though appropriate for a discotheque, would leave her cold as she left the club. She bobbed her head along with the music as the bartender, a thirty-something man with buzzed blond hair and grayish blue eyes, handed her a fuchsia concoction in a martini glass from which dry ice smoke bubbled over like fog rising from the sea. When the smoke dissipated, she sipped the cocktail and reveled in the bubbling, cold rush the dry ice imparted to a spiced apple martini. She looked back at the dance floor with a searching gaze. She checked her cell phone and saw its battery had died. Stomping the floor, she cursed under her breath and returned to her drink.
As she sipped, sweat beading on her forehead and her chest rising with her rapid breathing, a well-dressed man with blond curls that fell to the bottom of his shoulder blades approached and stood next to her. She glanced in his direction and found him attractive enough, if nondescript in any feature other than his hair. He smiled and winked before ordering a coffee-colored beer. He turned and surveyed the dance floor, drinking his beer in silence.
Without taking his eyes off the dance floor, he leaned toward her and said in a tipsy British accent, “Having a good night?”
She nodded, her drink in her mouth, and replied, “Yes.”
He extended his right hand to her, saying, “I’m George Ruthwen.”
“Sofia,” she replied as she shook his leathery hand, rolling her eyes at the clichéd approach.
“I haven’t seen you here before,” he said, “but it’s always crowded these days. Are you from here?”
She shook her head and said, “I’m here on holiday with a friend. Can’t seem to find her.”
“She’s probably still here,” George said as he downed half his beer before adding, “The bar is a good place to stay and wait. Easy to find you.”
Sofia nodded and continued searching for her friend. She hated conversing with strangers in discotheques because the loud music made hearing challenging and because they always had an awkward hollowness to them. She pretended to send a text message on her cell phone as she neared the end of her drink.
“You seem worried,” George noted. “Do you think your friend is in danger?”
“No,” Sofia shook her head as she answered. “It’s just not like her to not return my texts. We even text during classes.”
“What do you study?” He asked.
“Engineering at TU in Berlin,” she answered.
“Oh,” he said, “I am an engineer. Been working on improving waste heat recovery through cascading Rankine cycles so that we can have cheaper and more sustainable eco-friendly power options.”
Sofia’s eyes lit up, and the two began talking about work and research. The bartender rolled his eyes and chuckled silently as they filled their conversation with technical jargon. He wagered that neither had many chances to talk about such things as openly and animatedly at a discotheque. It made him smile. Sofia gently squeezed his arm as they leaned toward each other. Neither focused any attention on the dance floor. After half an hour of animated, engaged conversation, George suggested they find a late-night snack, and so they left together.
George led her to a small restaurant that was little more than a glorified food cart in a shopping center near the discotheque that stayed open for police officers, first responders, and club goers. George claimed they sold the best vegan currywurst and spiced apple chips in Karnsburg. Though this town was far smaller than Berlin, Sofia enjoyed the snack. They continued talking, and George promised to walk Sofia back to her friend’s house because he knew the town well and could easily find it when given an address.
They walked through the dark streets, and the flickering streetlights cast stop-motion shadows across their paths. As a gentle snow fell, he led her on a shortcut through a series of alleys that avoided municipal government buildings. As they moved beneath a heavy shadow, Sofia leaned against the wall, smiled at George, and licked her lips, parting them slightly as she gazed into his eyes. He met her gaze, and the left corner of his lips quivered as he stroked her cheek with the back of his right hand. Her breaths came faster as she leaned toward him. He raised an eyebrow. She nodded affirmatively, arching her back. He slid his right hand around her head and his left into his trench coat’s pocket as he leaned.
Their lips met. The roughness of George’s lips shocked Sofia momentarily, but her tongue danced around them and helped moisten them. She clutched his back and purred into his mouth. His right hand cupped the back of her neck and held her close. Hidden in his pocket, he slid something metallic onto his left hand. He pushed her against the wall, shocking her momentarily before slamming his open left hand into her neck. She cried in pain and surprise as she felt two sharp points puncture her skin. George held her in place with the weight of his body as he used his right hand to draw back a syringe-like apparatus that sucked the blood from her veins. She called for help once, but he thrust his lips onto hers in a deep, rough kiss that muffled her words. In vain, Sofia tried to push the larger and much stronger man off her.
After a few minutes, Sofia ceased her struggle. Her body fell limp against George’s body. He removed the apparatus which resembled a set of brass knuckles with a pair of fangs attached to a syringe from her neck and then dropped it back into his pocket. He looked at her lifeless body beneath an awning that would keep it from being covered by snow. Kneeling, he folded her arms across her chest, closed her eyes with his thumb, and stood. He then made the sign of the cross and nodded.
“Nothing personal,” he said, “I’m sure you’re a good person, Sofia, and I hope you’ll forgive me. But it’s for the greater good of bringing light and truth into this dark, vile world.” Stepping over her body, he then walked into the darkness of the night as the church bells tolled Lauds.
My debut novel, Liam’s Doom, is on sale at all major and minor retail outlets from Amazon to Barnes & Noble to Bookshop.org. I request that you support Bookshop.org, as their site supports local and independent bookstores. The eBook is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through my webstore.
Also, you can find my serialized prequel novel Blood/Lust on my website. New chapters go live at noon each Sunday!