Draft: Chapter One, Bloodstained Shadows

I’m currently revising this chapter, along with the next two, and continuing the story for the first book in the Bloodstained Shadows series, which is being sponsored via Patreon and Ko-fi.  The drafts for chapters two and three are currently up for Patrons on Patreon. As always, I greatly appreciate any and all feedback anyone may wish to give. Without further ado, here’s the first chapter as it stands so far…

***

“No, I’m not letting you see her,” Jennifer said. “We agreed before she was even born! It’s not going to happen.”

Sean ground his teeth, the muscles in his jaw tensing. High winds whipped through the hot, dry Mojave, pushing against his body. He took a deep breath before speaking. “She doesn’t have to know who, or what, I am. I just… does she look like me? Act like my mother?” He chuckled, “holy shit, I hope she doesn’t act like my mother.”

“I get it. You lost your mom, now you want to replace that loss with Kyra. But you agreed. We can’t risk it.” Jennifer pulled her straightened brown hair out of her face and into a tighter bun.

“It could be a chance encounter at a diner. Maybe we go to the same movie at the theater.”

“You coming here, even contacting me once, was dangerous. Now you want chance encounters? It’ll grow from there, you’ll want more. Except this right here, just us talking about it in the middle of the friggin’ desert, is dangerous!”

A tiny sliver of moon barely illuminated their meeting space in a patch of sand. The only other source of light for miles in any direction would have to come from one of the camping trailers that housed the members of Jennifer’s Pride. They lay no more than ten yards beyond a dune in front of the pair. The Pride would be asleep by now, probably dreaming of a good hunt.

Sean’s hand twitched at his side; for a moment he clenched his fist. A 9mm was holstered to his right thigh. Every nerve ending wanted to send the signal to draw that gun. He pushed the thought away, his twitching almost subconscious. “I know I’m not handling my grief well here, but she’s the only family I have left.”

“Except she’s not your family. She’s a Waters, not a Mitchell. She’s my family. She’s Malcolm’s family. She’s like us, not you!” Jennifer crossed her arms tight to the front of her body.

Sean could no longer ignore the impulse. He drew his gun without thinking. Before either of them knew how, he had the barrel pointing at Jennifer’s forehead, dead center. The bullet exited the chamber before Jennifer could finish shifting a claw, before Sean could draw in a breath. Silver pierced Jennifer’s skull.

A deafening bang destroyed the quiet in an instant. Jennifer’s body collapsed, blood and sprinkles of silver staining the sand encircling her head. Sean stared at her, his mouth dropping open as he lowered his gun. “Fuck!”

He started hyperventilating, dropping the weapon before grasping fists full of blonde hair at the sides of his head. He paced along the length of the corpse at his feet. “Shit, no. No, no, no! I didn’t mean to… I.” He choked on his words as reality sunk in. A tear dripped down his cheek.

A young female voice broke the brief silence that followed the shot. “Mom?”

It was on the other side of the dune Sean now stared at. If it was Kyra, she couldn’t know he was responsible for this, couldn’t find him here hovering over her mother’s body. He took a last look at Jennifer. I’m sorry.

Sean retrieved his gun, holstered it, and stumbled away in a panic. He headed toward the road where he had parked his bike, hoping the wind would scatter any of his scent that lingered. With any luck, the Pride would never know he was the last to see their beloved alive. A distant roar overpowered the sound of the motorcycle’s engine as he sped down the road.

 

***


Kyra jumped awake from her unconsciousness. What was that sound? Thunder, maybe? She peered out the trailer window over the head of her bed, searching for clouds. The sky was crystal clear, nothing but bright stars freckled along the pitch black night.

She left her room in the back and walked into the living area. Perhaps something heavy had fallen? Nothing seemed out of place. She shuffled to the sleeper couch with the intention of waking her mother to ask if she’d heard anything. A crumpled mess of blankets and pillows was all that greeted her.

Kyra opened the door, “mom?” No answer. She walked down the steps, letting the door slam shut behind her. The wind blew in multiple directions, blasting sand against her face and into her cropped brown hair. No light bled from the many vehicles and trailers in the camp. She appeared to be the only one awake.

She opened the door to her trailer again, “mom, you in the bathroom?” No response. She walked to the center of camp, her heart rate a little faster than normal. “MOM!”

Malcolm opened the door of his motorhome. He covered a yawn with one hand while stretching the rest of his body. “Kyra, why are you yelling?”

Kyra turned to face Malcolm, her amber eyes opened wide, her breath quickening. “I can’t find her, where would she go?”

“Who, honey?”

“Mom!”

“Last I saw her, she was heading off to bed.”

“Well she’s not there now!”

The wind blew toward them from over the dune behind the camp. The heavy, metallic smell of blood punched them in the face. It wasn’t a wounded animal, nor was it human. The scent was distinct, familiar, too familiar.

Kyra ran toward the smell, closing the distance and scaling the dune quicker than Malcolm could finish stumbling out of his RV. She heard him yelling behind her, warning her of possible dangers, begging her to wait for him. She didn’t care.

The form of a person lying in the sand came into view as she reached the top. Its chest didn’t rise and fall, no movement was evident. The odor of shifter blood grew stronger as Kyra moved toward the body. She grew numb, her breathing shallow and rapid, as she staggered closer.

She dropped to her knees in front of her mother, her knees sinking into the sand as she wept. “Mom?” Her voice cracked as she stroked Jennifer’s cheek.

Malcolm reached the top of the dune. “Is it Jennifer? Did you find her? Is she hurt?” When Kyra didn’t answer, he hastened down the other side. As the image before him became clearer, Malcolm sat next to Kyra, one hand clasping her shoulder while the other covered his gaping mouth.

“Someone did this to her. On purpose.” Kyra wiped the tears from under her eyes. “Someone who knew how.”

An engine revved in the distance. The sound came from the same direction as the main road butted against this patch of desert.

Kyra let out an enraged scream as her bones cracked and reformed. Her fingernails stretched and sharpened into claws while her hands and feet widened into thick paws. Her sweats went from baggy to tight as her body grew, the threads straining against longer, denser muscles. Her teeth became larger and sharper, her jaws expanding to accommodate. Soft, tan fur dispersed along bronze skin, from the top of her head to the tip of her tail. The screaming became a deep, resounding roar as she finished shifting.

Kyra’s vision tunneled in the direction she meant to head. She ignored Malcolm roaring for the rest of the Pride to wake up and join them as she bolted for the road.

That engine, and whatever it belonged to, was at least a mile away by the time Kyra reached the street. She could still hear it blaring from afar, gaining distance at dangerous speed. She bent her head to the ground, sniffing at any tracks or footprints she found. Unadulterated tenacity coursed through her veins. Winds be damned! She would find something, anything, any way to track her target.

A trace of her mother’s blood rested near fresh tire impressions on the cracked, neglected asphalt. A growl vibrated her throat as she bounded forward, following the trail. I’m going to tear them apart!

***

Read Chapter Two Here

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