IN THE WORKS
New Morgan Creek book
Morgan Creek, Wyoming
Rylan Saintcrow stood at his wife's bedside, one of her icy cold hands clasped in both of his. Like so many of the young vampires in Wyoming, Kadie had been stricken by a mysterious plague. One day, she had been strong and healthy, with decades, perhaps centuries, ahead of her. The next, she had collapsed. He had given her as much of his blood as he could spare – ancient blood that had saved lives in the past – but it had had no effect on her.
For the last three months she had lain there, unresponsive, not dead, not alive, but trapped in some endless netherworld like Sleeping Beauty.
Whatever the malady was, it struck only young vampires. As far as he knew, ancient vampires like himself seemed immune. Curiously, it had infected only those who resided in the state of Wyoming. Would it eventually spread to other states? Other countries? Who the hell knew?
Unable to endure watching Kadie laying there another moment, he transported himself from his lair to the nearest city. Like a tiger on the hunt, he prowled the moonlit streets searching for prey, but it was Kadie who filled his thoughts. Would she be forever trapped in that deathlike sleep? Would she gradually waste away? Was she aware of her surroundings but unable to respond? Or was she trapped in a preternatural coma from which she would never awaken?
The thought of existing without her, of never holding her in his arms again, never hearing her voice, seeing her smile….never making love to her again….was unimaginable.
Kadie. Years ago, her scent had roused him from where he rested deep in the earth. Back then, any human who wandered into Morgan Creek became prey for the coven of vampires who had resided there under his protection as long as they abided by his law. The humans had been given housing, their physical needs provided for. But then Kadie had stumbled across the bridge and everything had changed. She had made him realize the cruelty of keeping mortals imprisoned. To please her, he had turned them loose and sent the vampires away. For no reason that he could fathom, she had fallen in love with him, had chosen to be what he was so that they could be together forever.
And now she lay in his lair, unmoving, unaware.
Dammit! Where the hell had this confounded plague come from? And why now? Had it been concocted in some secret lab with the intent to destroy his kind? Was it some cruel spell conjured by a black witch? Some freakish virus? And when it ran its course, what then? Would she recover? Or be lost to him forever?
Saintcrow raked his fingers through his hair. He had survived for centuries, visited every country in the world at one time or another, and never seen anything like this accursed plague. He might have thought capricious nature had suddenly decided to wipe vampires from the face of the earth if the curse hadn't been limited to Wyoming.
He preyed on a young woman, wiped the memory from her mind, and moved on.
He was about to return to his lair in Morgan Creek when his long-time friend, Jason Kincaid, fell into step beside him.
"Still the same," Saintcrow said.
"Rosa keeps asking to come home."
"Probably not a good idea right now."
"That's what I keep telling her. I guess they all want to come home."
Saintcrow nodded. The vampires Saintcrow considered family – Micah Ravenwood and his wife, Holly, Ethan and his wife, Sofia, and Kincaid and Rosa, who all resided in Morgan Creek, had gone to Arizona for a family reunion. He wished to hell Kadie had gone with them.
"I wish to hell I knew what was going on."
"Funny that only Wyoming is affected," Kincaid remarked.
"Do you think some local hunter is behind this?"
Saintcrow shrugged. "Damned if I know, but if I find out who's responsible, he'll wish he'd never been born."
Kincaid raked his fingers through his hair. "I wish there was something I could do."
"Yeah, me, too. Dammit, I'm not sure how much longer Kadie can survive in her current state."
"Well, I just stopped by to see how you're doing. If there's anything I can do…."
"I'll be in touch."
Saintcrow nodded, his heart aching for Kadie. She had changed his whole world, made life worth living. His jaw clenched as he thought of her now, lying in his basement lair.
His feelings of despair and helplessness grew as he stalked the dark streets, growing ever stronger until he was overcome with rage and the sudden need to strike out. He hadn't taken a life in years but now the urge to kill rose up within him, and with it the desire to hurt as he was hurting, to destroy a life, to glut himself on the blood of some innocent victim.
It took only moments to find her, a middle-aged woman stepping out of a hotel. He yanked her into his arms, let her see the hellfire in his eyes as he bared his fangs. She opened her mouth to scream but fear trapped the cry in her throat.
Reveling in his power, drinking her fear as he intended to drink her blood, he bent his head to her neck.
Saintcrow's head snapped up. Holding fast to the woman, he snarled, "What the hell are you doing here, Kincaid?"
"Keeping you from making a bad mistake. Kadie would be horrified if she could see you now."
All the rage drained out of Saintcrow at the mention of her name. Trapping the woman's gaze with his, he wiped the memory of what had happened from her mind and sent her away. "What are you doing here?" he asked again. "I thought you went back to Arizona."
"I never made it. I could have sensed your rage if I'd been in Africa. It practically knocked me off my feet."
"Yeah, well." Saintcrow shrugged. "Thanks."
"You gonna be all right now?"
Saintcrow nodded. "Come on, let's go have a drink."
They materialized in The Crimson Rose. A few years ago, Saintcrow had arranged for Kincaid to meet Rosa here. She had wanted to become a vampire and Saintcrow's idea had been for her to meet Kincaid and for Kincaid to scare the idea out of her mind. It hadn't worked. They'd fallen in love and gotten married instead.
"There's got to be a way to end this," Kincaid muttered, swirling the wine they had ordered in his glass.
"I wish I knew what we were dealing with," Saintcrow said. "I've lived a long time and I've never seen anything like this. Hell, no one has. I've contacted a few of the ancient ones. They don't have any answers, either."
"Well, it came from somewhere," Kincaid said. "Just because no one's ever heard of it doesn't mean it's never been seen before."
Saintcrow frowned. The one person he hadn't tried to contact was the vampire who had made him. To his knowledge, she was one of the oldest of their kind. He hadn't seen his sire since she turned him centuries ago. In all that time, she had never tried to contact him, nor he, her. He didn't have any idea if it was possible to get in touch with her, didn't even know her name. For all he knew, she could have been destroyed centuries ago.
"We're not solving anything here." Saintcrow blew out a sigh. "Go home and make love to your wife," he said. And wished he could do the same.
Back in Morgan Creek, Saintcrow went down to his lair. His Kadie lay as he had left her, eyes closed, skin pale as death. He undressed, then slid into bed beside her, remembering the nights they had shared, the way she had always smiled when she saw him, the way she had melted in his arms. How long could she go on like this? Vampires often went to ground to rest when they tired of living, but in a dim part of their mind, they were still aware of the world around them, able to react at any sign of danger.
Was this nature's way of ridding the world of vampires? Impossible as it seemed, that was the only explanation that made sense. He thought it unlikely that even the black witch, Izabela, powerful as she was, would have been able to conjure a spell of this magnitude.
Murmuring that he loved her, he closed his eyes, eager to surrender to the dark sleep, to forget, for a while, that he might never again see her smile, hear her voice, make love to her until the sun chased the moon from the sky.
But the dark sleep eluded him. Where had this infernal plague come from? Why did it only affect young vampires in Wyoming? Had some hunter concocted it as a way to destroy the Undead? Had it been cooked up in a lab? He knew there were scientists doing experiments on vampires, analyzing their blood, trying to find out what there was about their blood that had the power to turn others, that allowed them to live such long lives, to change shape or dissolve into mist. Vampire blood was also able to cure disease and slow the aging process.
Sitting up, he shook his head. If hunters were behind this, they wouldn't have wasted it on young vampires, but unleashed it on the old ones, like himself, who were far more dangerous. Perhaps a very powerful witch had found a spell…. Or a very powerful necromancer.
Rising, he pulled on a pair of jeans, a shirt, boots, and called Kincaid.
"What the hell do you want?" Kincaid growled. "Do you know what time it is?"
"We need to go to Colombia."
"Luca had power over the dead."
"It would explain why the curse only affects those in Wyoming."
"He was trying to avenge himself on us," Kincaid said.
Saintcrow nodded. "It's the only answer that makes any sense."
"I'll be there in ten minutes."
It took only minutes to transport themselves to the Nevado del Ruiz volcano located in Colombia. "All right," Kincaid said. "What are we doing here?"
"I only know of one person who could conjure a spell that would affect only vampires."
Kincaid remarked. "But how could Luca be behind this? His spirit is trapped in a box. He's as good as dead."
"Is he?" Saintcrow gestured at the foot of the volcano. The ground had been disturbed, but not by human hands. An earthquake, a minor eruption, something major had disturbed the ground around the foot of the volcano. A small black box, neatly broken in half, peeked out from a small pile of earth. The same black box that had once contained the necromancer's spirit.
"Well, hell. Where the hell do you think he's gone?" Kincaid asked, glancing around.
Saintcrow shook his head. "The more important question is, whose body is he now inhabiting and how the hell do we find it?"
"Damn," Kincaid muttered. "I thought we were done with this guy. How many times do we have to hunt him down?"
"At least once more." Saintcrow stared at the black box, then picked up the pieces He grimaced as a faint trace of dark magic skittered across his skin.
"I think we need to go see Izabela," Kincaid remarked, sounding none too happy about it.
"One of us does, that's for sure. Take this with you," Saintcrow said, handing him the black box. "After all, she's your witch. If she has any ideas, let me know and I'll be there."
"She's not my witch," Kincaid muttered, but Saintcrow was already gone.