So, as The Cheesy Romance Novel reaches the Adhesion beat, which contains all the tropes I roll my eyes at in romance novels, I thought now would be a good time to provide one final excerpt from my upcoming urban fantasy/southern gothic thriller, It Hungers, where we continue with the adventures of Samantha Hain.
And so, presented without context:
“Would you drive faster, Martin? I want to be waiting for Samantha before her plane lands. You are only driving one hundred and thirty kilometers per hour. Faster!”
Carmilla had unbuckled her seat belt and leaned over the gap between the two front seats. Martin recognized the perfectionist tone in her voice and remained calm as he drove the black BMW 750i-G12 along the dark motorway in the early hours of the morning on the last Saturday in February. As expected, they had seen a handful of other motorists since leaving Castle Karnstein on their way to Innsbruck.
“Exactly, My Countess,” he replied. His voice remained calm and neutral. “I am driving the speed limit for the motorway as I have always done since their implementation. Fear not. If Miss Hain arrives before we do, she will wait with as much patience as you have.” He then added under his breath, “And it will save me the headache of watching you pace the airport as we wait.”
“I heard that, Martin.” Carmilla glared as she sank into her black leather seat, buckled her seat belt once more, and crossed her arms over her chest.
“I am aware.” Martin smiled. He pressed the button that raised the privacy panel between the front and back seats.
Sam’s eyes watered. Her stomach churned and pushed against her throat. She swallowed hard and breathed deeply, trying to calm her body. The flight had experienced turbulence from the time they departed Heathrow until it entered Austrian airspace. The plane landed, and the passengers began disembarking. She appreciated Carmilla’s insistence on first class, but the businessmen in the rows ahead of her took their time, chatting leisurely with each other and with the flight attendants. As Sam left the plane, she raced to the nearest restroom.
Martin parked the car once they arrived and then opened the door for Carmilla. They walked through the Kranebitten Airport. A dozen travelers slept under thin blankets on the seats. A handful of pilots and flight attendants left the airport, heading to their hotel for the night. Passengers moved from their gates toward the baggage reclaim area.
As Martin moved toward the baggage reclaim, Carmilla grabbed his wrist. “Where are you going? Samantha’s gate is this way.”
He nodded. “Miss Hain informed me that she has checked a suitcase, so she is traveling light this time. It would be prudent to wait in the baggage reclamation zone, as she will need to head there.”
“I wish to wait as close to her gate as I can, and the security terminals are this way.”
Martin sighed; he knew he would not dissuade her from this course of action. As they walked toward the security terminals, Sam stood before a mirror in the airport restroom, touching up her makeup and reapplying her victory red lipstick. She exhaled and blinked, shaking off the last waves of nausea. She grabbed her carryon and left the restroom.
While Martin sat in one of the ten empty chairs just outside the security checkpoint, Carmilla paced the area. Her eyes searched for Sam, and she checked her phone’s messages every two minutes. Sam texted Destiny to let her know she arrived safely, and then she grabbed herself a cup of black coffee. Carmilla focused on her text conversation with Sam, pacing about the area and looking down. Martin waved to Sam and then placed a finger over his lips. He winked.
Sam slowed her pace and kept her eyes on Carmilla, remaining in her lover’s blind spot. She slid behind Carmilla as the vampire, still staring at her phone, said, “Where is she? Why isn’t she texting me?”
Carmilla jumped and swung around. Sam ducked beneath a defensive elbow. When their eyes met, Carmilla screamed Sam’s name and wrapped her arms around the much younger human. They kissed, and Martin rose from his seat. After exchanging pleasantries, Martin guided the two women to the baggage reclamation area, where they waited for Sam’s suitcase. With the suitcase collected, they drove to Castle Karnstein.
As they drove through the portcullis, Martin glanced at the dashboard clock and said, “The sun will rise in two hours, so I will prepare a nightcap for you both and a light snack for you, Miss Hain. And the two of you will then retire for the night.”
They had their nightcap in Carmilla’s drawing room. Martin provided a bottle of Sanguinovese wine and a plate of three local cheeses and rounds of crusty bread. As he took his leave, he requested they keep any amorous activities to the bedroom to minimize difficult cleaning. They agreed.
As Sam tasted the creamy nuttiness of the gruyere cheese, Carmilla sipped her wine and said, “It gladdens me, my dear one, that you are safe. The worry in your voice when you spoke of this case was as heavy and thick as the humidity of your summers.”
Sam nodded while she chewed. She swallowed. “It was touch and go at a few points, ‘Milla. It was hard work, and it was scary. Reminded me of Ireland in a lot of ways. And worse in other ways.” She shook her head. Her eyes glassed with tears. “We only saved two of the kids, but we saw what remained of those we didn’t.”
Carmilla wrapped her arm around Sam and held her close. Sam cried on her lover’s shoulder. Carmilla said, “When we first met, the physical dangers of your work concerned me. Now, the mental dangers outweigh that. I know you will not consider a mortal magical tutor, but perhaps learning vampire magic? And perhaps a psychologist?”
Sam sipped her wine. Carmilla cared about her, and Sam heard the love and concern in her questions. She sighed. “Destiny said the same things. Well, she didn’t mention vampiric magic. And I promised her I’d look for a therapist after this case, and I’ll make that same promise to you. The stress is more than I can handle on my own. I promise.”
Carmilla nodded. “The promise has been made, my dear one.”
She cupped Sam’s cheek in her free hand and guided Sam’s face closer to hers. Carmilla planted a gentle kiss on Sam’s lips. They tasted of wine and cheese. Sam’s muscles relaxed, and Carmilla smiled as she pulled away. Sam pouted and sipped her wine.
Carmilla leaned in and whispered into Sam’s ear. “There is more planned, my dear one. However, we promised Martin we would behave in this room.”
Carmilla woke shortly after Martin placed her first meal on the nightstand beside her bed. As she sipped the brandy-laced blood wine, a long, nasal droning drew a smile from her. She turned and gazed at Sam’s naked body, sleeping next to her. Carmilla stroked Sam’s fair skin. A contented sigh escaped Sam’s sleeping lips. The vampire reflected on their shared history as she felt her lover’s warmth.
When Carmilla finished her drink, she kissed Sam’s cheek and said, “Sleep well, my dear one. I will be in the bath. I love you.”
As she walked to the adjoining bath chamber, Carmilla chuckled as Sam, still asleep, replied, “It’s not deer season. Don’t license me.”
Steam rose as hot water poured into the tub. The castle had no heating system beyond the multiple hearths, and the vampires who lived here felt no cold. She fixed her hair that fell to the small of her back into a tight bun. Carmilla perfumed the bath with Rose of Cascia oil, smiled as the floral scent filled her nostrils, and sank into the water.
Half an hour into her soak, her ears perked at the sounds of groaning and shuffling from the bedroom. A moment later, Sam shuffled into the bathroom. She yawned, waved with her left hand, and wiped the sleep from her eyes with her right. Sam shook the sleep from her head, walked to the edge of the bathtub, and kissed her lover.
Sam sat on the tub’s edge and smiled. “You’re up early.”
Carmilla arched her back and stretched. “No, my dear one. You slept through the day. For the first time.”
They smiled at each other as their fingers intertwined. Sam exhaled. “For the first time. Yeah. I never thought this day—this night—would come. Partly due to how cold you become when you sleep, which I’m slowly getting used to, and partly because you’re even less of a morning person than I am.”
Carmilla grinned. “I find the best way to awaken is with a nice scented bath. Why do you not join me, my dear one?”
“You know how to tempt me, baby,” Sam said with a smirk. “I’ll join you in a few, but I need my coffee. Martin didn’t leave me anything other than a glass of mineral water. So, let me go grab a mug, or maybe a tankard or a stein, and I’ll be right back.”
They kissed once more. Sam grabbed a satin robe hanging on the wall, slipped her phone into her pocket, and descended to the kitchen on the first floor. Martin was elsewhere, but he left a kettle on the stove and a French press pre-loaded with ground coffee on the counter beside a travel tumbler. Martin left her a note, which he placed beneath the tumbler.
It pleases me that you remained asleep during the time I brought the Countess’ initial libation. Please ensure that both of you consume mineral water throughout the night, as you need hydration and the Countess needs the nutrients the water provides our kind. I will serve your first meal at precisely thirty minutes after nineteen. Yes, you will dine in the drawing room tonight.
Also, please note that I have purchased one of those microwave ovens you mentioned. Inside, you will find a plate of food so that you receive the nutrients you need. Marmalade and jam are in the refrigerator. Might I remind you that you need do no more than place your dishes in the sink, and one of the thralls will see to their cleaning. You are a welcomed guest here.
Enjoy your night.
Sam found a large plate loaded with fried potatoes, eggs, sausage, a small bowl of porridge, and two bread rolls. She heated the breakfast while her coffee steeped. She checked her messages and emails while she ate. Destiny left only one message. Outside long pocket of your carryon has the dental dams. Be safe! She ended the message with a winking face emoji. Sam chuckled and rolled her eyes as she sent off a reply. We’ve decided to take our chances. Raw feels so good. She finished her breakfast and returned to Carmilla’s bedroom suite.
When she returned to the bath chamber, only the tip of Carmilla’s head remained above water. The vampire smiled and said, “Welcome back.”
“Sorry, I took so long,” Sam said as she removed the satin robe. “Martin made breakfast, and he made a huge plate for me. He insisted we both drink mineral water throughout the night…”
“As Sanguinovese does not provide full nutrition, and we both need to stay hydrated. I’ve heard that lecture since the birth of the twentieth century. He has extended his protectiveness of me to you. That is why he suggested a security system for your new home. It all gladdens me.”
Sam nodded. “I really do appreciate it, and I’m honored he’s including me in his charge. Most of me wants to say he’s overreacting, but there’s that voice in the back of my head that reminds me something’s happening, something big, and I don’t know what it is.”
Carmilla’s wet hand rose from the water and held Sam’s hand. The vampire said, “You are intelligent, my dear one, and you are skilled. However, the young Grimm and I both express our concern for your safety because fragility is a symptom of mortality. We love you, and we want you to return home safely at the end of each day. Ah, let us turn to happier topics, for we are together. And that brings me happiness.”
Sam smiled. “It brings me happiness as well, and we have a little milestone to celebrate. So, what is this special event you wanted me to have an outfit for?”
“There is a poet, a dhampir whose pen name is Gustav von Furst, and he is giving a reading at the Catholic church in Karnsburg. He is of my clan, and as I had planned to attend, I thought perhaps you would enjoy the experience, given that you were working toward a literature degree before you left your university. He will speak in German, if that is acceptable?”
“A poetry reading is way more than acceptable,” Sam said, beaming. “I do have one tiny little question, my Countess. Okay, two. First, will it be safe for vampires in the church? No, turning to ash as you step inside or anything? And Second, I know it’s not the same church, but it’s on the same site as the old one. Will you be okay in there, given what happened?”
Carmilla’s chest rose and fell, and she sighed. In 1827, an angry mob dragged her younger sister, Elisa, into the church and staked her, believing her to be Carmilla. Agents of Vlad Dracula spread the false rumor that Carmilla had drained her mortal lover, Annalena Meyer, killing her, insinuating that Carmilla was responsible for a string of murders in the town. The resulting mob violence, Elisa’s death, and the fire that nearly destroyed the town led to Carmilla’s banishment to Ireland and her subsequent forced marriage to Dracula where she was humiliated, raped, and tortured until she escaped after Van Helsing and his allies slew Dracula. Carmilla believed in her guilt for this until Sam uncovered the plot in December.
“I think that I will be able to handle the evening,” Carmilla said. She squeezed Sam’s hand. “After all, I will have you beside me. And yes, we can enter churches. The youngest of us are weakened. I will have a migraine while inside, but Martin will be unaffected. Gustav is the first dhampir our clan has birthed in four centuries, so I am uncertain how the hallowed ground will affect him.”
Dhampirs were the offspring of a vampire and a human. While the overwhelming majority of dhampirs had a vampiric father, folklore recorded a handful of instances where a female vampire gave birth. Vampiric magic aided in such acts by increasing vampiric fertility. Vampiric clans traditionally shunned dhampirs for many reasons, but they also feared them. Being half-vampiric, the dhampir proved to be a natural hunter, and humans often trained them to hunt and kill vampires, as they possessed some vampiric powers with relatively few weaknesses. However, in recent decades, and especially since the signing of the International Supernatural Entity Recognition and Rights Treaty in 2017, the clans have embraced the dhampirs they produce.
Sam joined Carmilla in the bath, and after their shared bath time, dressed, and ate a light snack. Martin handed Sam an H&K P12 as a precaution, and they drove down the mountain road and into the town of Karnsburg. Located in the town square, St. Rita of Cascia Cathedral had Gothic revival architecture. Hundred of candles illuminated the church; a few hundred humans and a few dozen vampires filled the pews. Carmilla squinted as intense pain throbbed around her left eye; she rested her head on Sam’s shoulder.
Gustav, a young man with fair skin and hair dyed a pale blue, wore sunglasses over his red eyes, a white button-down French tucked into a pair of tuxedo pants and a pair of oxblood Doc Marten boots. His voice faltered at the start, but he settled and displayed a powerful charisma and an inventive command of language. His free verse poetry addressed themes of loneliness, lineage, finding one’s voice, and searching for love. Sam understood more than half of his words, but she understood his emotions.
After the reading, Karnstein-Bertholt thralls passed wine and hors d’oeuvres to those gathered. Carmilla and Sam approached Gustav. They waited while he spoke to other attendees. When he saw them, his eyes widened, and he bowed. “Countess Karnstein, you honor me with your presence. I did not think you’d—that you would—come.”
Carmilla smiled and nodded. “You are one of my clan, Gustav. Your success uplifts us all. And from the response of those in attendance, your words move mortal and immortal alike. Speaking of mortals, allow me to introduce unto you my lover, Samantha Hain.”
They shook hands and exchanged salutations. Sam said, “It was a pleasure hearing you read your work. Your poems about being between two worlds and not fitting really resonated. Thank you for sharing them.”
He bowed. “Thank you.”
The conversation continued for a few moments, and then Carmilla introduced Sam to other members of her clan. After an hour, Martin approached and said, “Forgive my intrusion, My Countess, but you do have an Investors Meeting tomorrow an hour before sunset. I believe now would be a good hour to return home so that you and Miss Hain may rest before dawn.”
Carmilla agreed. They returned to their car. Sam pulled Carmilla aside and wrapped her arms around the vampire and kissed her lips. “A romantic candlelit poetry reading. My Countess, there are those who might think you’re trying to get me into your bed.”
Carmilla smiled and brushed Sam’s cheek with the back of her hand. “I would concur with them on my goal.”
Martin muttered a response as he opened the door and helped them enter the car. “It takes so much effort.”
Carmilla poked her head out of the car and said, “I heard that, Martin.”
“I am aware,” he said as he closed the door.
As they drove off to the castle, a single figure emerged from the crowd. He was a middle-aged man with swarthy skin and curly black hair. He peered at the car through binoculars. When the car left his field of vision, he produced a cell phone in a black case adorned with the image of a dragon with its tail coiled around its neck and a cross on its back, and he made a call.
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.
Carmilla’s Ghost is now on sale. The paperback version is available all major online retailers, including Amazon, Bookshop.org and at Barnes & Noble. Currently, eBook pre-orders are only available at Amazon and through my webstore.
It Hungers (formerly Stone Cold), the third book in the series is currently available for pre-order as an ebook on Amazon. Paperback preorders go through my website and will all be autographed! The book will officially release on 3 May 2022.
My prequel novel, Blood/Lust is also available as an Amazon exclusive.