Cloud City (Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles)

BOOK: Cloud City (Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles)
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CLOUD CITY

By

Jeanne C. Stein

 

  An Anna Strong Novella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  © 2013 by Jeanne C. Stein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Readers:

I’ve gotten more than a few requests for a story about Sophie the witch from the Many Bloody Returns anthology. While the novel
Retribution
featured Sophie, this novella is the completion of her story arc. I hope you enjoy it. For you purists that want to know where my Anna Strong shorts fit into the overall series, Cloud City would fall between Retribution and Chosen.

Thanks for your interest and support. This is my first attempt at putting something up on Amazon myself. You can let me know how successful I’ve been (or not)!!

Best wishes,

Jeanne

www.jeannestein.com

 

 

 

Cloud City

By Jeanne C. Stein

 

Chapter One

 

Witches come in two flavors: good and bad. A while ago, I would have pegged the witch sitting across from me squarely in the
good
category. But that was before I killed her sister, the black witch Belinda Burke.

Sophie Deveraux hasn’t said two words since appearing unexpectedly at my office door. It happens I’m alone since my bounty hunting business partners, David and Tracey, are in Arizona tracking a skip. I elected to stay behind and handle office duties. The last few months I’ve had more than my share of excitement.

My name is Anna Strong. I’m a vampire. Not just any vampire, but the Chosen One. Which means besides the usual problems vampires face, finding safe food sources, hiding my identity from my human family, avoiding the pitfalls that would “out” me to an unsuspecting mortal world, I have other uber-vamps to contend with. Not all of whom wish me well.

But that’s another story.

Right now, I’m alone with a witch whose intentions I can’t read. Sophie looks twenty-something. Her perfect face is framed by shoulder-length dark hair. Her skin stretches smooth over high cheekbones, her thick-lashed eyes are clear and blue as a summer sky. Her mouth is pursed a little, an indication that she’s not overjoyed at being here. She’s dressed in tailored slacks and a form fitting jersey top that emphasizes her full figure.

I have a feeling it’s not a top that Sophie picked out herself.

Of course not.
A familiar masculine voice intrudes on my thoughts.
I’m trying to update her wardrobe and it’s no easy task. She has the taste of a puritan.

Sophie’s lips grow thinner.

I smile.
Hello Jonathan. Wondered when you’d speak up.

At that, Sophie decides to speak up, too. “Being here is his idea. Not mine.”

And it’s a damned good one.
Jonathan’s voice fairly crackles with anger.
Anna can help us. And if you’d like to continue breathing, and just for the record, I would very much like you to continue breathing, you’ll let her.

The very first time I heard a male voice projecting from that petite, feminine body, I thought Sophie had been possessed. By what, I had no idea. But it creeped me out. Turns out, what happened to her was Sophie’s doing. She didn’t intend to share her body with a vampire but after Jonathan was immolated by his wife at a birthday party, Sophie mixed his ashes in with a face cream. She thought it might reverse the ageing process. It did, but the side effect was that she absorbed his essence. Now she’s a hybrid vampire-witch with the physical perfection of a twenty year old and the abilities of an eighty-year-old very powerful witch.

And since their two personalities are polar opposites, it’s not exactly a smooth cohabitation.

The vampire side, Jonathan, can speak to me telepathically. Sophie, though, while she can hear our head talk if Jonathan allows her access, can only speak to either of us in the mortal way. Her emotions are felt by Jonathan and vice versa.

Personally, I don’t know how she keeps from going insane.

I shift in my chair, waiting for one of them to tell me the reason they’re here. When neither takes the initiative, I do.

“I take it this isn’t a social call.”

Sophie releases a deep sigh, not a wistful sigh, but a frustrated, angry one. “Jonathan has gotten us in a mess. Another mess, I might add. Because of his vanity he’s put my life in danger.”

Mine, too, don’t forget. If you die, I die.

She sniffs. “You should have thought of that sooner.”

How could I have known of all the editors at all the publishing houses, we would have ended up with one with a grudge?

Sophie opens her mouth to bark a retort, but I hold up a hand. “What are you talking about? What editor? What’s going on?”

Sophie’s mouth clamps shut as if waiting for Jonathan to reply. Jonathan is not jumping to the bait.

“One of you better tell me why you’re here. I do have other things to do.”

Sophie squirms in her chair, then leans forward. “Jonathan had this brilliant idea to make money. As if we need more.” She bites off the last words as if aiming them right at Jonathan.  “We’d write a vampire book. Based on his experiences. I’d be the public face of the book and he’d provide the material.”

It was a great idea
, Jonathan interjects.
Just check out the best seller lists today. Charlaine Harris has made a bundle on her Sookie Stackhouse books, Richelle Mead and her Vampire Academy is a perennial best seller. Imagine how much better I could do? A real vampire with the inside track and a hundred plus years of experience to draw from? It was a sure thing.

“So what went wrong?”

Jonathan grows quiet. Sophie’s face grows dark with anger. “The genius here decided his first story will be about how he was turned. A brilliant story of love and betrayal. The very first editor it was given to accepted it immediately. Should have suspected right then something was wrong. But Jonathan just chalked it up to his dazzling writing style.”

Jonathan starts to interrupt but Sophie shuts him down with a quick follow-up. “The editor brought me to New York, wined and dined me, all the while pumping me for more details. Details, of course, Jonathan could provide. He offered us a huge advance, a national marketing campaign, all the things Jonathan had hoped for. The only catch was that he wanted me to accompany him to the scene of the story, to gather background info to add realism to the book. We, of course, agreed.”

Her last words drip sarcasm.

“I take it the trip didn’t go so well.”

“Haven’t made the trip yet but as soon as I got back to Denver from New York, the first incident occurred.”

“Incident?”

“At the airport. We’d chartered a jet for the trip. Another of Jonathan’s vanities.”

Joanthan growls.
Didn’t see you complaining when we skipped those irritating security lines.

Sophie ignores the mocking aside.

“I was getting into a taxi to go home and someone took a shot at me. The bullet missed, but smashed the cab’s rear window. The police are still investigating but are inclined to chalk it up to a random crazy. I was so grateful to be alive, I accepted the theory.”

“But you don’t now?”

“Not after it happened a second time. This time I was out riding on the property. And this time, the bullet missed me, but not my horse.” For the first time, her face softens, her mouth wilts in sadness. “He killed my horse.” The flicker of sorrow is gone as quickly as it appeared to be replaced once again by stony anger. “I could have been seriously injured when he went down, but of course, those vampire genes kept that from happening.”

Something she’s yet to thank me for.

“Don’t hold your breath. None of this would have happened if you weren’t such a greedy bastard.”

Sophie is on the verge of a full-blown tirade. I stave it off by jumping in. “I don’t understand. Why do you think Jonathan’s book has anything to do with the attacks on your life?”

Sophie sits back in her chair, spine stiff, hands gripping the arms of the chair with white-knuckled ferocity. “You want to tell her, genius?”

Jonathan lets a groan come through.
I couldn’t have foreseen this in a million years.”

My patience is growing as thin as Sophie’s temper. “Foreseen what?” I snap.

“He used real names in his book,” Sophie snaps right back. “And locations.”

“So?”

Jonathan’s tone at last shows a modicum of regret.
The editor who bought the book is the great-grandson of the vampire who turned me.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

I suppose I should have been surprised. But after all I’ve experienced in the time since I became vampire, it’s damn hard to be surprised by anything. So instead of reacting with shock or incredulity, I ask the logical question, “And just how did you determine that the editor is the great-grandson of the vampire who sired you?”

I can hear the shrug in Jonathan’s voice.
How does one determine anything these days? I had Sophie do a Google search.We traced the genealogy of the mortal relatives of my sire. Steven Prendergast is indeed one of them.

“Steven Prendergast? He’s the editor?”

Sophie nods glumly.

“But what makes you think he’s behind the attacks on your life?”

“I saw him the second time. He was running toward the road after shooting my horse. He glanced back and I recognized him.”

“Did you tell the police?”

“Tell the police what? That the editor of the
vampire
book I wrote is out to get me because he thinks I know the one responsible for turning his great-grandmother? Because that’s what we suspect this is all about. We were able to access newspaper archives from the 1800’s. The disappearance of Prendergast’s great-grandmother’s caused a scandal in the family. Her missing corpse, the fact that she was sighted long after her ‘death’, the bloodless corpses that turned up. The entire family was disgraced.”

My head is spinning. “How in the world did you end up with the one editor who has connections to Jonathan?”

Sophie huffs out a breath. “How do you think? Jonathan when he was—” she pauses, as if searching for the right word, “
corporeal
had many contacts in the entertainment world. One was a lawyer in New York. Jonathan had me send the lawyer the manuscript under the guise of my new identity, Jonathan’s niece. I told him it was a recounting of an old family story I’d heard from my mother. He read it, liked it, and gave it to an editor friend of his who just happened to be big in the genre. Steven Prendergast is editor to many of today’s top vampire writers.”

I place both hands on the desk and lean forward. “But why would he attack you immediately instead of waiting until he got you alone on that research trip he proposed? Wouldn’t that have made more sense?”

Sophie’s perfect brow wrinkles. “I don’t know what he’s thinking. He must know I’m human since he keeps taking shots at me. At the same time, he believes in vampires. We thought maybe we could convince him to meet with us before he goes too far. But he won’t return my calls. I get the same message from his assistant every time I call. He’s not available.” She leans forward, hands clasped on the desktop. “I want this nightmare to end. I’ve told his assistant I’m backing out of the deal. That I’ll return the advance. Still, nothing. I’m afraid to go outside, afraid to run a simple errand. I want my life back.”

The emphasis she puts on the last words reflects more than a simple desire to resolve the issue with Prendergast. It’s obvious to me she is tired of sharing her consciousness with Jonathan. When she says she wants her life back, she means
all
of it.

The fact that Jonathan does not immediately respond with a snarky remark is proof that he feels her frustration, too. The silence that stretches between us is fraught with tension. It sizzles in the air like static electricity until even my nerves start to hum.

BOOK: Cloud City (Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles)
7.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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