As one of the #CMCon17 featured bloggers, I get to have a little fun with a few of the fabulous authors who will be hitting the beach for Coastal Magic 2018 by showcasing their many stories. We had so much fun with last year’s At the Beach feature, that we’re doing it again.
Today Lucienne Diver is taking us to the beach with Bobby and Gina from the VAMPED series. If Sharkula gets your interest, make sure you check out the first book, Vamped.
“I’m not saying it’s true, Gina. I’m just telling you the rumors swirling around. I mean, these girls were found with their throats ripped out, drained of blood, washed up on the beach. What would you call it?” Bobby answered.
He was always the reasonable, logical, thinky one of us. It sent an actual chill up my spine that he was taking the rumors seriously.
“It sounds like something the SyFy Channel would come up with,” I said.
“Sharknado, Sharktopus, DinoShark. Yup, it would fit right in.”
“Hey, I can’t make this stuff up.”
We’d reached the pier now. We were far from the streetlights lining the parking areas and public walkways, but the moon was so full, I felt my skin tingle from the near-burn of the reflected sunlight. We didn’t have any trouble spotting what we were looking for. The entire area beneath the pier had been marked off by crime scene tape. There was no chalk outline, but vampire senses were pretty amazeballs, and I could spot the impression of the last body still denting the sand. I’d seen pictures of the latest victim as well, Linda McKenny. She’d been petite, blonde, model-worthy…in the before picture. The after picture could have come straight out of a horror movie. As Bobby had mentioned, her throat had been ripped apart, but that didn’t mean the rest of her had been left intact. Her hands had been shredded by defensive wounds, and her face looked like a giant hickey. Red in the center, ghost white at the edges, like something had sucked her face. Literally. Bringing all the blood to the surface and then sucking it away from the outskirts.
I mentally superimposed the picture I’d seen of her over the indent in the sand and shivered.
“Cold?” Bobby asked.
I gave him a look. Vampires didn’t get cold.
“Right,” he answered himself.
“Where do we even start?” I asked. The police had already been over the site, and all I could see was sand, sand, and more sand. I could hear as well as see the water lapping eerily at the pier posts. And smell it. Salt and decay.
“We start here,” he said. “The thing might not still be in this exact area, but two area kills in two weeks means its established its hunting grounds. Between you for bait and me to call it to the table, we should have this thing neutralized in no time.”
Bobby shrugged off the equipment bag he’d been carrying, like a quiver the size of a golf bag, harpoons poking their heads out of the top, a zippered pouch at the front holding not golf balls but fun stuff like a water bottle of blood.
“To prime the waters,” Bobby had said when he’d put it in there.
I grabbed a harpoon in one hand and a shark-sized fishhook in the other. “Arrr, me matey,” I said, feeling like a female Captain Hook, but way better dressed. Or undressed, since there was no way in hell I was finally getting to the beach and not wearing an itty-bitty, teeny-weenie, flashy silver mesh bikini. A shark cage might have been more protective, but hardly bait-worthy and not at all fashion forward. Besides, the silvery fabric put me in mind of a breast plate. I was a watery warrior woman. A mervamp, oh yeah!
I’d just have to make sure not to make that too literal, since in all actuality, running water was like vampire kryptonite, and while the ocean didn’t exactly run, it had tides and currents and all that jazz.
Bobby and I approached the water together. He poured the blood from the bottle into the water, and I stirred it around with my harpoon, swishing it out into the ocean. Then I unwrapped my silvery sarong?a perfect match to the suit?and laid it in the sand to use as a blanket. I hadn’t been thinking entirely of fashion. I knew the silver would catch and reflect the moonlight, the better to attract Sharkula…or Bobby if our prey failed to show. I sat on the sarong and dipped my feet into the water, splashing around in the hope that movement would draw attention as much as the blood chumming the water.
Bobby didn’t sit, but stood vigil over me, harpoon raised like he was some manly-man of old going mano a mano with his great white whale. His mental mojo blasted out, washing over me like a white-capped wave as he sent out an image of me on the shore, blood on the water, and the hunger for those things to meet and mingle. Calling to the creature. It would have been creepy, except we were vamps. Blood was pretty much our thing. Even I almost wanted to take a bite out of me. Luckily, while Bobby’d gotten all the crazy mental mojo, I had the ability to resist it. Otherwise the balance of power in our relationship would be seriously skewed.
We waited. And waited.
I suggested that Bobby move back, out of immediate sight. That maybe he was too intimidating.
“Maybe he’s sleeping?” I suggested.
“Most sharks hunt at night. You don’t see that in Jaws and all, but…”
Out in the water there was a splash, but there’d been a lot of those?waves breaking aggressively, fish jumping or birds landing. We waited a second to see if this one would turn into anything, but no.
I sighed. Who’d have thought the beach could be boring?
“You know what always works in the horror movies?” I asked.
Between the moon and my vamp-o-vision, I had no trouble seeing the smile that spread across Bobby’s face. But he was such a goodie-two-shoes. “We’re not doing that,” he said.
That sounded like a challenge to me.
I got up off of my sarong, still holding my weapons, but with my fishhook hidden behind my back and my harpoon acting as a walking stick.
“Oh no?” I asked, stalking up the beach toward him. I knew how to work it. I reached up to play with my bikini strap, and suddenly the water erupted.
“Gina!” Bobby called in warning.
I whirled lightning fast, harpoon aimed point out, but the thing was as fast as I was. I had the quick impression of a sucker-like face a full third of its body-length, rows of pin-prick teeth and, yes, fins, but also it was walking upright. Then it slid past the harpoon, body as agile as an eel’s, and slammed me to the sand on the way by. I landed hard on one shoulder, the beach abrading me like sandpaper, but I didn’t dare let that stop me. I heard a horrible bugle as I rolled to my feet, and knew Bobby had scored a hit with his own weapon, but I didn’t want him fighting the thing alone. It was at least a match for us on speed, and that meant it was probably battling hard and fast enough to keep Bobby from a moment’s concentration on any more mental mojo.
I’d lost my harpoon in the sand. A quick glance located it, but not within easy reach. Given the opportunity, I’d grab it, but for now I had my oversized fishhook. I ran for Sharkula’s finny back as it made a swipe at Bobby with its webbed claws, hands otherwise looking eerily human?five fingers, joints in all the right places. Green-tinted?very matchy-matchy with the rest of him. What Not to Wear’s Stacy and Clinton would have a field day. He really needed a contrasting color. Like blood red.
I leapt into the air and brought the fishhook down just as it sensed me and turned, so that instead of his back, I buried the barb deeply into one shoulder. He bugled again and whipped around, but I held to the hook, afraid if I let go, he’d yank it out and use it against us. He had advantages enough without help. But holding to the hook put me in reach of his deadly claws, which he closed around me, dragging me up toward his sucker-like maw. Scary enough without the rows of back-tilted teeth. With them…His whole mouth was one big barb. Anything going in would be caught tight and shredded on the way out, if it lasted that long.
It took all I had to keep focused on attack rather than defense. I had no chance to muscle myself free. Instead, I twisted the fishhook I still held, going for maximum damage, tearing tissue, muscle, until it stuck on bone. But it did enough damage that the arm attached to that shoulder must have gone limp. The one hand fell away from me and the other didn’t have a solid enough grip alone. I slid to the ground and quickly whirled out of reach.
I’d been in Bobby’s way, but now he had a clear shot and a moment of concentration.
“Freeze!” he ordered with a blast of power that had even my body tensing in response.
The man-monster froze, the side-eye I could see glistening in rage. And then it seemed to shudder and burst free, coming at us like a speeding bullet train. Bobby and I dove to either side, and I was near enough to my fallen harpoon to swim through the sand and grab it. I came up with the weapon in hand to see the monster looming over Bobby.
“No!” I shouted. It turned on me, and I exploded up out of the sand to plant that harpoon right through his heart, faster than it could respond, maybe still fighting the effects of Bobby’s command. The thing looked shocked. Its mouth went slack, dropping even farther open. It staggered a step, going down to one knee. Its good hand clutched at the harpoon. I had a moment of horror. Its response was so human in that moment. So… And then it keeled over, falling onto its side into the sand and then half rolling so that the end of the harpoon pointed upward toward the moon.
Bobby was at its side instantly, checking for a pulse at its wrist rather than the neck it didn’t have. He dropped the hand with a sigh. “Dead,” he said.
I thought of the two kills we knew of?the two women with their throats ripped out and blood drained?and no longer felt so bad. Whatever he had been, he wasn’t human anymore.
“What is it?” I asked. “It’s too human to be some strange species of shark. Not that it looks like a shark anyway.”
“Remora,” Bobby said. “Lamprey, something like that. One of those things that latches on and sucks. Kind of like us. I can see the Sharkula thing, actually.”
“But how did it get that way?” I asked.
“Magic,” he said. “It’s the only thing I can think of. He’s clearly some kind of human-hybrid. Maybe it’s a curse. It’s certainly no kind of blessing. I guess we’re hanging around the beach a little bit longer to find out. We have to make sure he’s the last of his kind. And track down whoever’s behind his transformation. We can’t have more of these monsters terrorizing the town.”
Bobby was staring at me in the moonlight, and I looked down at myself to make sure my bikini was still intact.
“Well, crap.” Talk about contrasting colors, there was now blood all over the front of me. I looked like a B movie scream queen. “Guess if we’re going to be here a bit, I need to do some more shopping.”
“Any excuse,” Bobby answered.
He wasn’t wrong.
“Come on,” he continued. “Help me get this body up under the pier and we’ll call it in. Have to let the police know the scourge is over.”
“I wonder what they’ll make of it?”
“Whatever the Feds tell them to. What do you want to bet they’re monitoring communications and have a clean-up crew here faster than you can say ‘chain-of-custody’?”
“I’m not taking that bet.”
“Too bad, you haven’t even heard the stakes,” he said, eyes gleaming.
“Okay, I’ll bite.”
“We’ll save that for later. I was thinking you…me…a walk along the boardwalk. Maybe I win you a stuffed teddy, and then?”
“You mean a nice, normal night? What’s that even like? I can’t remember.”
Bobby smiled. “That’s if you win.”
“And if you win?”
“Same thing, only you win me the teddy. Or giant gorilla. Or maybe we play skee-ball until we have enough tickets for secret decoder rings.” He waggled his eyebrows.
I laughed. Over the dead body of a man-monster, I laughed. What did that make me?
A question for another time. Right now, I looked Bobby dead in the eyes and said, “You’re on.”
Meet Lucienne Diver!
Lucienne Diver is the author of the popular Vamped series of young adult novels (think Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Her short stories have appeared in the Strip-Mauled and Fangs for the Mammaries anthologies edited by Esther Friesner (Baen Books), Kicking It ed. by Faith Hunter and Kalayna Price (Ace) and Tribulations (Lore Seekers Press), and her essay “Abuse” is included in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperTeen). She also writes the soon-to-be reissued Latter-Day Olympians urban fantasy series: a contemporary fantasy, set in LA and featuring a heroine who can, quite literally, stop men in their tracks.
Don’t miss your chance to meet over 50 fabulous urban fantasy, paranormal, and romance authors at Coastal Magic next February! This super casual book-lover weekend happens on Daytona Beach, and gives everyone the chance to hang out with fellow readers and amazing storytellers.
REGISTRATION is now open! If you haven’t been to Coastal Magic yet, you’re missing out on a lot of fun. Be sure to keep up with all things Coastal Magic, by following it via your own personal social media drug of choice: Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | RSVP at the Facebook Event.