Excerpt from DREAM OF MY SOUL by Debra Jess. Copyright © 2022, Debra Jess, Corp. All rights reserved.
Marc retreated downstairs so the guard he'd replaced wouldn't get suspicious. After what he'd just seen in the nursery—a mother rejecting her child—he didn't feel quite so bad about snatching the kid. Just as he'd made it to the last step, he heard a door creak. Turning to look, he watched the baby's mother stomp back into the room where she'd had the argument with her father and slam the door closed.
"Hey, bud," Marc tapped the other officer on the shoulder, "I've been ordered to make sure the mother doesn't leave the house, so I'm going back upstairs, okay?"
The other guard frowned. "Fine. I'm off shift in an hour. Make sure you're back down here before—"
"What the—" Before Marc could finish, a two-hundred-pound lumbering stack of mottled skin with a blank-eyed stare stepped through the cloud of flying splinters and jagged glass. Forced to raise his hands to keep from getting skewered, Marc could only see out of the corner of his eye. The other guard was in the same position, but only for a second. Whatever this thing was, both Marc and the guard were professionals. They both pulled out their guns and started firing.
Two dozen rounds and the zombie kept advancing. From the other room, Marc heard shouting as the guests evacuated, probably toward the kitchen.
"It's after the baby!" Marc shouted, still firing.
The guard fired his last bullet, then he turned to Marc, his face hard knowing what was about to happen. He pushed Marc back up the stairs. "I'll stall it. You get the baby and get out of here. Do whatever you have to do."
Marc had never left a man behind. Since their guns weren't working, he yanked out a hunting knife from the sheath strapped to his arm. He was too late. The guard had rushed the zombie, trying to tackle it, but the zombie hadn't budged. Instead, the thing grabbed the guard's arms, ripping them right out of their sockets before picking the body off the ground and smashing it against the wall.
Marc's stomach lurched, but he held back the bile. "Robin, if you're watching, now would be a good time for some angel mojo."
No response, damn it. The zombie grabbed the dead guard's arm and started stripping the flesh with its teeth. Digging his boots into the debris, Marc got ready for the fight of his life.
Before he could launch himself toward the monstrosity, someone jumped from the second floor to the first floor right next to the stairs. A tall man in all-black combat garb and silver-blue hair poking out from under his cap rushed past Marc. With a series of fierce jabs followed up with a roadhouse kick, this other guy managed to force the zombie back out the door. Whoever he was, he knew what he was doing. As soon as the zombie crossed the front door threshold, a huge dog slammed into the zombie, knocking it to the ground. Vicious snarls replaced the background screaming as the dog kept the zombie pinned.
The guy in black turned toward Marc. "Upstairs to the right! Go! Now!"
The voice had the faint echo of Marc's old drill sergeant, so he didn't question the order. Running upstairs and rounding the corner, he shoved the door open. That's when he saw her, a graceful silhouette against the light of the moon pouring in front the doors of a balcony.
Even though her back was toward him, he'd know that hourglass figure anywhere. The baby's head appeared over her shoulder as she soothed the whimpers with the same soft voice he remembered from his dreams.
Entranced, he took a step forward, but the glass shards embedded in his boots gave him away. One second she was on the balcony, the next she was right in front of him with claw-like fingernails headed toward his neck, the baby tucked protectively against her chest. What she didn't see was the zombie crawling over the balcony railing behind her.
“Marcello?” Her hand dropped back to her side. “You’re alive!”
"You're not." Everything Marc knew about vampires he'd learned from the movies. Every vampire from Dracula to Lestat had superior reflexes and eyesight. That’s what he was counting on when aimed his fist at her face. She disappeared before he connected, so his punch slammed into the zombie behind her. Literally, one second she was there, and the next she was gone. Nothing human could move that fast or had that kind of speed. The zombie absorbed Marc's punch, but ignored him otherwise, lurching around him with stereotypical grunts.
"Okay, pal. Let's end this." But how? He wasn't strong enough and Vincenzia had her arms around the baby. The monster grunted again and pushed past Marc. He rolled with the momentum until he hit the balcony railing, curling his body to absorb the blow. With the zombie's back to him, Marc didn’t have to tangle with the creature's arms, and he had plenty of room to step behind it. He grabbed his knife again, leapt up to reach the zombie’s head and with a quick slice, cut through its neck.
"Got, ya, fucker!"
He had expected to slow down the zombie. After all, it was already dead. He didn't expect the head to pop off the body and fall to the floor.
Marc wiped the knife on his pants, smearing bits of flesh as he stepped over the rapidly decomposing blob. He could hear more gunfire and the dog howling in the background. No need to guess that there was more than one zombie.
Vincenzia appeared before him still holding the baby. Reaching over the desk, she snapped on a reading lamp which only enhanced her deathly pale face.
"Is it really you?"
He bit back every sarcastic answer he could have used. "Yeah, it's me. I'm Marc now. I mean that's what everyone calls me."
Lame, bro. Real lame.
The top of her head reached his chin, a perfect fit if he were to pull her close. Still, he couldn't bring himself to touch her. Instead he waited as she ran a finger along his hairline. Just the light tickle of her long fingernail tracing his face shot a bolt of desire straight to his groin.
She's a vampire, you dork. Look at her skin. She’s not human.
But she was still perfect, more beautiful than what he remembered, or what he dreamed.
And don't look at her eyes. She'll hypnotize you. Just like Dracula.
Yet, before he could turn away, he saw eyes were still a gentle hazel. Their depth pulled him deeper and for a moment he didn't care if she took control of his mind—or his body for that matter.
Remember the blood. Remember what she did to you.
"Your hair," she whispered,"it's so short."
Never in his life—his modern life—had he grown his hair past the tips of his ears. As her fingers kept tickling him, he saw a flashback of the human she once was.
"Your teeth—they're straight." Jerk. Could you possibly have said anything dumber?
She pulled her hand back in shock. Then she laughed, low and gentle. At least she wasn't offended.
"You're right. The front gap closed when these extended for the first time." She ran her tongue, almost as pale as her face, along one partially extended canine.
This was getting real awkward, real fast, and they still had zombies to outrun if they were going to get the baby out of here alive. As if the kid knew he was thinking about her, she let out a squeal and started to pound a tiny fist against Vincenzia's breast. Gently, Vincenzia pulled the baby's hand away. "I'm sorry, sweetheart, but those don't work anymore. We'll get you food soon."
Food. Right. The baby needed food and diapers and he was standing here wasting time.
"Let's go." He reached for her arm, the one that wasn't full of squirming baby, to guide her to safety but she outmaneuvered him and he found the baby in his arms instead. Good thing this wasn't the first baby he'd ever held.
"Give me one more minute." With expert ease, she cracked open the tower case to the desktop computer, fingered through its guts and popped out the hard drive. She slipped the drive into the right pocket of her black cargo pants. "Now we can leave."
She took his arm this time and guided him back onto the balcony. The zombie had disintegrated by this point, its body nothing but dust stirring in the stiff breeze blowing off the river. He noticed the grappling hook embedded in the balcony's planks. So that's how the zombie had climbed up behind her.
"I'll need to secure the kid better if we're rappelling down the rope," he said.
"Not necessary." She had wrapped her arms around his waist. "Get ready to roll."
Before he could figure out what that meant, she jumped.
"Shit!" Marc enjoyed the freedom of flight for half a second before gravity pulled them down. Just as she let go, he hit the ground and rolled only as far as the baby he held would let him. "A little warning next time?"
She offered him a hand to pull him off the ground, just as the baby started to scream.
"No, no, no, no, no." Marc took her hand and let her pull in to his feet. His instincts kicked in and he bounced the baby. "No crying, not now."
The baby squealed louder, drawing attention to their position. Vincenzia moved to take the little girl. "I have to get her out of here."
"Where are you going? Where are you taking her?" Marc demanded, pulling the baby out of her reach.
"Somewhere safe. We have a van nearby." She reached for the baby again. Robin did say she was supposed to succeed, so Marc reluctantly handed her the baby. Her eyes caught his.
"Come with me,” she said. “We can leave together."
Here, in the middle of a firefight with a baby between them, she was pushing his unwanted desire to the surface. Wasn't she?
Keep your mind on the mission.
"Wait a sec." Marc broke eye contact as he reached for his gun and reloaded it. "Let me take lead in case there are more zom...Fuck!" An eight hundred pound sack of fur landed on his chest and knocked him to the ground. When the stars cleared, all Marc could see was an endless row of sharp teeth and eyes that burned like blue fire.
"Bryce, back down."
The wolf either didn't hear Vincenzia, or it didn't care. Marc kept his eyes lowered as he slid his hand down to his waist. That's right, doggie, no challenge here, just need enough time to get my gun. The wolf snapped its jaws right on his nose. "Shit! You damn animal. Get off of me."
"Bryce, I mean it." Between the wolf's fuzzy ears, Marc could see Vincenzia grab the wolf by the scruff its neck to haul it off him with her free hand.
The wolf growled and the baby howled right along with it, as Vincenzia maneuvered her way between the wolf and Marc.
"He wasn't hurting me, Bryce. He was helping. Where are Rosemary and Ilario?"
"Over here," a high-pitched voice answered.
Something bright whizzed over his head, paused, and wiggled. Some sort of dust fell on his wounded nose making him sneeze.
Another set of footsteps approached. Turning his head, Marc saw the guy who'd tackled the first zombie in front of the stairs. This time Marc recognized the strange silver eyes, and he flashed back to his death once more.
"Just Ilario will do. Welcome back, Marcello."
This time Marc accepted without hesitation the hand that was held out to him and let Ilario pull him to his feet.
"How's your nose?" the ball of light asked as it zoomed around his head.
Marc guessed it—she?—was Rosemary. "Feels better. Thanks. Not to put a damper on this little reunion, but does anyone know how many zombies we're dealing with?"
"I took out two, one with Bryce's assistance," Ilario said.
"Bryce and I also took out two," Rosemary said.
"Marcello and I took out one upstairs." Vincenzia walked over to Marc, the baby's yowls muffled as Vincenzia held her awkwardly against her hip.
"Here, let me." Marc held his arms out for the baby. Vincenzia hesitated, then handed the little girl over. Marc expertly tucked the kid in his arms. Almost immediately she quieted down.
"We have Musen's baby. Can we leave now?" Rosemary asked.
"What about the Believers?" Vincenzia asked, as she reached out to adjust the baby's blanket as if she and Marc were the proud parents instead of the kidnappers. "They had at least a dozen guests inside."
"I put them all to sleep." Ilario said. "They saw nothing and will remember nothing of what happened tonight."
"They'll figure it out once they realize the baby is missing," Vincenzia said.
"Then let's go," Marc interrupted. He was losing track of this conversation. Believers? Musen? He’d ask later. The faster he put distance between himself and this madness, the better he'd feel. "I'm parked down the street."
“We're probably right behind you.” Vincenzia held out her arms to take the baby back from Marc. “Ilario, you should take her and we'll split up. I'll go with Marc and we'll head down the coast.”
Marc pulled the baby out of Vincenzia’s reach. “Hold up, here. Have you ever held a baby before?”
Vincenzia put her hands on her hips, clearly offended. “Of course.”
“When?” Marc demanded.
“Before today?” She hesitated. “Uh, it’s been a few centuries.”
“How about you?” Mark rounded on Ilario. “When was the last time you took care of a baby? A human one,” he specified.
Ilario tilted his head to the side, studying Marc. “Like Vincenzia, mortal babies are not something I encounter on a regular basis.”
Which was pretty much the answer Marc had expected. “Then it's settled. I’m holding the baby.”
“I don't like it,” Vincenzia said. “We don't know if we killed all the zombies. If we missed any, they'll find us and we won’t know who's the target, me or Musen’s daughter. It could answer a lot of questions.”
Sirens wailed in the background.
“We don’t have time to discuss this.” Marc dug into his pocket, pulled out the keys to the Rover, and tossed them at Vincenzia. “I assume you at least know how to drive.”
“Yes, yes, I know how to drive.”
“Then move.” Marc didn't wait for Vincenzia's approval. He raced toward his vehicle and hoped that Vincenzia had enough sense to follow him. The wolf dashed ahead of him, followed by the pixie. Marc couldn’t hear anything behind him, but he assumed Vincenzia and Ilario followed. What other batshit creatures could he possibly encounter tonight?
The group reached Marc's Range Rover first.
Marc settled himself in the passenger seat, careful to pull the seatbelt across the baby in his arms. It would be tight, but it was better than no protection at all. Vincenzia slipped into the vehicle beside him and started the Rover. She pulled away from the curb in a tight u-turn. The van up ahead turned on its headlights and blinked once before driving past them in the opposite direction.
For a second, Marc checked the baby, finally quiet and gurgling against his chest. In that second, Vincenzia slammed the Rover to a stop.
“What now?” He hadn't meant to sound so harsh, but enough was enough with the surprises already.
“Lorenz, you bastard.”
Lorenz? Marc could see a man standing in the middle of the street, blocking their path. Images completely unbidden swam before his eyes. Flashes of light, puddles of blood and bodies and evil. Marc remembered Lorenz, even if he dressed like a wannabe redneck.
Without warning Vincenzia hit the accelerator. The tires spun, burning enough rubber to leave tire marks, before they caught traction and flew forward.
“What the hell are you doing?” Marc yelled.
Vincenzia hissed, her teeth extending but never took her eyes off the road. Marc had just enough time to lean forward and cover the baby as the Rover slammed into Lorenz. Instead of a sickening splat against the windshield, the glass cracked as if hit by a boulder.
“Slow the fuck down, will you,” Marc shouted.
Vincenzia slammed on the brakes again. Without looking at Marc, she jammed the Rover in reverse.
“Stop it. You’re going to get us killed.”
It didn't matter how loud he yelled, she wasn't listening. Looking over her shoulder, she aimed his vehicle like a bullet. The Rover bucked wildly as it rolled over the body again. The baby wailed.
“Enough.” Marc reached over and grabbed Vincenzia's wrist to pull it off the steering wheel, but it was like tugging on cement.
“He's still alive,” she cried, jerking her wrist out of his hand.
Marc could see Lorenz standing up. Wonderful. “Listen to me. You can't kill him this way. We need to retreat.”
“I have to kill him. I have to kill him now. If I don't, I might not get a second chance.”
How far beyond reason was she? “Think about the baby. She needs you to protect her. You have to protect her from him.”
That got her attention at least. The baby let out another wail.
“I have to kill him,” she repeated, but the conviction was gone, leaving only sadness.
“Fine. We'll kill him after we figure out how because running him over isn't getting the job done.”
Vincenzia revved the engine once more, gunning for the monster that had chased both of them through time. She aimed the Rover for Lorenz once more, but at the last second skidded around him and blasted through the stop sign at the end of the street.
Vincenzia, the world's only surviving vampire, discovers her fiancé and first victim has returned from the dead, giving her one chance for forgiveness. But, if the demon that hunts her didn't resurrect the man she loves, who did?
All Marc remembers from his Renaissance wedding to Vincenzia is her teeth in his neck. He's really not in the mood to find his former bride, much less protect her from the demon he's chased through hell for five hundred years, even if the orders come from an angel.
Maybe time really does heal all wounds, but when Vincenzia and Marc reunite, they realize the rekindling of their love won't stop the demon from stealing her immortality and using her hybrid blood to bring hell to Earth. Only a sacrifice will, but which one of them will have to die again so the world might live?
Dream of My Soul is the first riveting book in the Dreams series, a dark urban fantasy. If you crave charismatic characters, paranormal creatures, and seat-of-your-pants action, then you won't be able to put down Debra Jess’s breathtaking new book.
Buy Dream of My Soul to plunge into this dark world today!
Fantasy Urban [Debra Jess, Corp., On Sale: July 11, 2022, e-Book, / eISBN: 2940186348191]
A Connecticut Yankee transplanted to Central Florida, Debra Jess writes science fiction, romance, urban fantasy, and superheroes. She began writing in 2006, combining her love of fairy tales and Star Wars to craft original stories of ordinary people in extraordinary adventures and fantastical creatures in out-of-this world escapades. Her manuscripts have won the Golden Pen Award (Paranormal category) and the Golden Palm award (Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy category).
Debra is a graduate of Viable Paradise and is a member of Codex. She’s also a member of the Romance Writers of America and RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal chapter, the First Coast Romance Writers and she’s the Vice President of the Volusia County Romance Writers.
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