Authors: Christine Edwards
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal
Charleston Past Midnight
The Past Midnight series, Book 1
PO Box 70515
Seattle, WA 98127
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover design by Sabrina Sun
Charleston Past Midnight
Copyright © 2014 by Christine Edwards
ISBN: 978-1-60381-556-7 (Trade Paper)
ISBN: 978-1-60381-557-4 (eBook)
Produced in the United States of America
o Kathy, my beautiful, lion-hearted friend
who made life in Charleston so thrilling.
This one’s for you.
I’d like to especially thank Emily H. of Fanny Press for your divine editing precision. It’s such a pleasure working with you.
Thank you to Jennifer M. and Catherine T. for assisting me in bringing this book as well as several others to life. It’s a wonderful honor to work with you talented ladies.
To my loving family, thank you for always bringing joy into my life.
To Sia for her inspirational song “Dressed in Black.” With every listen I envision Severin and Calla’s intense love for each other.
Present Day; 1:45 a.m.
Chalmers Street, Charleston, SC
he girl’s fear is so blatant that it’s practically pouring off of her. It cuts straight through the heady scent of jasmine and burns my nostrils with the harsh potency of smoke from a raging fire. With my usual detached interest, I watch her from my second story rooftop vantage point.
Even in the haze of the dense shadows I can see her clearly. She rushes past the back entrance of the Blind Panther Pub, heading for her parked vehicle. The girl’s length of honey colored hair is streaming behind her in wild abandon. She suddenly breaks into a flat out sprint. I can hear her heart pounding in her chest now. The girl’s completely terrified.
She’ll never make it. They’re too close ….
The men are jogging as they close in on her. The larger of the two glances quickly over to his friend and then back toward the girl. “C’mon, darlin’, it’s all good. You remember me and my buddy here from the restaurant the other night. You waited on us, remember? We’re not gonna hurt ya. We just wanna talk, baby. Hold up now, girl.” He talks to her like she is a skittish animal he’s trying to tame.
She holds her keys with the sharp ends pointed out between each of her slight fingers as she races across the uneven cobblestones. Attempting some form of self-defense is admirable, but in this case, nearly laughable. She’s no match for their size. The two intoxicated humans appear to be athletes, each well over a foot taller than the petite female and at least a hundred pounds heavier.
I step up onto the narrow ledge before dropping down into a low crouch to study the scene, my palms splayed across the top of my black slacks. I arrived only minutes ago, curious to observe our hunting grounds from above.
Her quivering voice cuts through the summer air, “I-I told you already, I’m not interested! Now leave me be!”
Even trembling, her magnificent voice thrills me like the opening of a Puccini aria. It’s beautifully melodic, unlike the majority of those I hear on a nightly basis. I can’t quite place the accent, which isn’t one I’m very familiar with. My eyes continue to track her.
Nearly there ….
She twists her keys around in her hand and has the one for her car front and center, primed to slide into the lock that’s now merely ten feet away. It might as well be a mile away because the larger of the two is now sprinting hard for her.
Too fast … she needs to move.
“Whoa, girl. I said hold up! Don’t you got no manners, baby?”
He’s got her
He clutches her upper arm in a firm, unyielding hold.
“Ow! Let go!” she cries out in despair while trying to break away.
“Get off me!” The brave girl struggles valiantly, like a wildcat, but it’s no use.
She’s hauled forward and lands against his wide chest as he peers down and speaks to her in a different, more menacing tone, “Now why you gotta be so fuckin’ rude, darlin’? See, me and my buddy here just wanna have a good time with ya tonight. Ain’t that right Kane?”
His friend nods. He is swaying from foot to foot, his excitement obvious.
Of their own volition, my fangs descend. It is difficult to enrage me, but for some perplexing reason I’ll have to examine later, that is now the case. Inside of a nanosecond I have made my decision. There is going to be some major mayhem on this historic street tonight.
The friend moves fast and cages her in from behind, twisting a handful of her glorious hair around his fist. He pulls down forcefully and she cries out in pain. The man named Kane smiles excitedly. “Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Let’s get her to the truck right quick.”
I can see it in her eyes. She knows she doesn’t stand a chance against both of them. She begins to scream loudly for help. The lead man grabs the back of her head and shoves her face into his dark t-shirt to muffle her cries. I watch her writhe violently against his inescapable hold. She’s kicking and twisting.
It’s no use.
She tries to knee the larger man in the groin but he shifts before she can connect. The man behind her takes over, spinning her around before he tosses her up and over his thick shoulder. He calls out in a cruel hiss, “Hurry up! Bar’s closing. Someone might see. Truck’s not far.”
I sense that they’ve done this before. My rage reaches a boiling point.
“Stop! Heeeelp! Someone—”
The larger of the two men matches his friend’s stride. He snakes his arm discreetly behind the man’s back, palm stifling the girl’s fervent cries. I’m about to make my move when an intoxicated couple rounds the corner. They stop and sway forward, nearly bumping into the trio, and stare curiously at the two men holding the frantically kicking girl. The college age girl speaks first, fear and apprehension in her voice. “Hey, what’s going on here?”
I wonder if this might make them give up their quest, but then the lead man smoothly offers, “Ah, nothing, sweetheart. See, my buddy here got in a big ol’ argument with his girl tonight, and she’s still completely fired up about it. But we live all the way up in Summerville, so ya see we can’t go and leave her downtown on her own, ya know? Lots of bad things happen to women on their own down here in the city.”
Stupidly, the smashed couple believes his asinine story, most likely not wanting any trouble from the two thugs. I watch as they simply move on, stumbling off the curb to cross over toward their car. The two men grin at each other before disappearing around the corner onto State Street.
I scan the street and swiftly drop thirty-five feet to land silently on the rounded stones. My footsteps make little sound as I follow them.
As I round the corner I see that one of the men is clicking the button on a key fob for an oversized black pickup truck with tinted windows. My eyes scan the street.
There are no witnesses
Time to make
introductions … the kind they’ll undoubtedly not appreciate.
Best to give them a chance to avoid massive injury, although I’d bet a month’s supply of blood that they are too stupid to back down. That’s perfect for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve fought a human. I secretly crave the battle, especially against ones such as these.
Both men turn to me just as the one without the girl is opening the door to the truck. The man named Kane’s meaty fingers dig into her squirming, bare thighs as he lifts his chin to me in an arrogant manner and says, “Fuck you asshole. Go find your own pussy!”
I grin, my fangs flashing in the light of the gas street lamp. I watch as their brows draw tightly together in fear-laced, drunken confusion. A few seconds pass before the larger one grumbles, “Fucking freak. Let’s get the fuck outta here, Kane. This bitch had better be worth the hassle.”
He’s going down first.
The girl is still struggling furiously, and before they can force her inside of the truck, I’m on him. With the strength of a big cat, I attack. My hand closes around the back of his hot neck and in one smooth motion I face-plant him onto the pavement. Before he can suck in air, I pull his right arm backward and listen to the sickening crunch as it breaks like a brittle toothpick into a compound fracture.
He won’t be able to silence an unwilling female for a good long while with this gruesome injury
His scarlet blood begins pooling out onto the light stone of the old sidewalk. It’s a good thing I’ve already fed, although knowing what I know of this vile human, I’d have to be desperate to take his blood within my body.
His screams of utter agony ring out all around us, in a cacophony of sound that echoes through the streets. I have about fifteen seconds to get her away from them before curious humans amble over to intervene and inspect the damage. Similar to each other, both our species are capable of wreaking great violence. The difference is,
don’t stick around to languish in the afterglow.
“Give her to me.” My tone leaves little room for doubt of what will happen if he disobeys my command.
“Here, fucking take the bitch! Just get the fuck away!”
He drops her down to the ground, relinquishing his hold before shoving her toward me. Her long hair is in disarray, covering most of her face as she nearly trips twice trying to race to cower behind the safety I offer. My eyes stay locked with his as the human struggles to get his bleeding friend up and off the sidewalk and into the cab of the high truck.
The injured man is going into shock. I can tell by the way his heart is pounding. I should’ve hurt him worse, considering what he would have done to the girl had I not intervened. She would’ve been lucky to live through it. I’ve met men such as these before; they are total sociopaths, taking all they want with no regard for others. I grin inwardly at the thought of crossing paths with them again, perhaps somewhere far more remote.
Although she’s not touching me, I can sense that the frightened girl is standing directly behind me. Reaching back, I place my palm against her forearm and connect with creamy soft skin that’s chilled despite the oppressive humidity that hangs thickly in the air tonight. She’s shaking hard and her breathing is ragged as she struggles to process what’s going on. Once the threat is gone, I’ll face her, but not quite yet.
“Fuck, JC! Gonna get you to a hospital! Shit, this is so fucked up, man!”
The man named Kane is both petrified and enraged over his friend’s injury and the inconvenient detour in their evening’s festivities. Only his denim-clad legs and scarred work boots are visible as he finally manages to get his friend hauled up inside of the truck.
A car alarm goes off not one hundred yards away. I whip my head in the direction of the blaring noise, quickly assess that it’s not a threat, and turn my attention back to the man. Before I can relax, I must ascertain that he has put distance between us.
As if in slow motion, his tall frame pulls back from the interior of the dark cab, hunting rifle poised in his large hands. Instantly my hand bands around the girl’s arm like a manacle and she shrieks out in pain. The weapon swings in our direction and the human fires. I watch the shell dispense from the chamber as his shoulder jerks back from the blast. His aim is accurate.
In that instant I do the unthinkable. Instinct completely takes over, and I spin around in a blur of motion, clutching the stunned girl against my chest as I trace us away. I hope to hell she survives it.
6 o’clock p.m. April 3, 1756
Beauvais Plantation, 12 miles SE of Charleston, SC
everin, can you believe how
has outdone herself with the preparations for this evening’s affair?”
“Come again?” Her lilting voice barely registers as I pore over the fascinating documents that are spread out before me.