Mercy's Debt (Montgomery's Vampires Series Book One)

BOOK: Mercy's Debt (Montgomery's Vampires Series Book One)
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Mercy’s Debt

Montgomery’s Vampires Series Book One

 

Sloan Archer

 

Copyright © 2013 by Sloan Archer

 

 

 

Synopsis:

 

After graduating from the prestigious Dewhurst University, Mercy Montgomery finds herself in a bit of financial trouble: over $108,000 worth of financial trouble, in fact. She can’t find a job to save her life, and with bill collectors constantly at her heels, she has no idea how she will ever come up with the money needed in order to keep her head above water.

 

Mercy’s monetary worries seem to be over after a chance meeting with mystifyingly pale Michael Graves, who offers her a high-paying job at his company, Dignitary. But there’s a catch; the seemingly harmless Dignitary is an underground organization that offers human chaperones to wealthy bloodsucking clients.

 

As if congregating with the undead doesn’t make life complicated enough for Mercy, there’s a savage killer on the loose who appears to have a craving for her blood. Soon Mercy is torn between a dark and dangerous underworld of supernatural desire and a simple life of practicality, and business magnate Robert
Bramson is the man she blames for her confusion. If he just wasn’t so damn sexy… And dangerous. As the killer closes in, Mercy realizes that she must make a decision. But will she make her choice too late?

 

 

 

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any electronic or
written form without permission.

 

MERCY’S DEBT

 

PREFACE

 

Los Angeles
, California

June 10, 1924

 

The
killer glowered down at the two lovers, enraged by the adoration they so visibly shared.

Hand-in-hand, the happy couple ambled
down the embankment towards the isolated beach, murmuring to each other tenderly. When they reached the sand, the woman stopped to kick off her heels. She plucked a seashell from the glittering powder at her feet and placed the circular object in the man’s palm. He held it up to the light for examination: a sand dollar.

T
he moon highlighted the nebulous water before them as he pulled his mistress in close for a kiss. She whispered softly into his ear- a declaration of her love, perhaps- and he muttered back into hers. She tossed back her head and giggled, throwing her arms around his strong neck. Tucking a flyaway strand of her auburn hair behind her ear, he gazed into her face earnestly, emotion stamped on his every feature. She nestled her face against his touch, running her lips over his individual fingers.

They
embraced again, longer, closer, and he gently kissed her on both cheeks before breaking away. He produced a small box from his pocket, kneeled down on one knee, and presented his sweetheart with a ring. Her hands fluttered to her delicate Cupid’s bow mouth and she let out an exited squeal, incensing the killer to the point of madness.

Th
e man nervously asked her a question, to which she enthusiastically nodded her head, choked with such emotion that she couldn’t quite speak. He slid the ring on her finger and held her close as she wept happily in his arms. She stared into his eyes wordlessly as he thumbed away the tears from her cheeks.

Toying
with the flimsy ribbons on her beaded dress, he slid the spaghetti-thin straps off of her shoulders. Her dress fell to her waist and rested softly against the slight arc of her hips. She eased the dress lower, all the way down to her lean ankles, exposing her naked flesh to him.

He
bared his fangs to her wickedly, a vampire’s approach to exhibiting lust. She grinned coquettishly in return, undaunted by his bizarrely romantic gesture. She was amused; she was a mouthwatering, warm-blooded human, but he wouldn’t dare bite her.

He stroked her skin
, caressed the subtle curves of her body. She frantically undressed him until he, too, was bare. They made love noisily and carelessly on the sand, sharing a chuckle as they endeavored to use his tuxedo as a scant blanket. They held each other silently after they finished, staring up at the stars in a haze of post-coital bliss.

J
umping up suddenly, the woman skipped onto the wet sand. She hesitated on the edge of the shoreline, dipping a toe into the sea. She shivered fiercely, yet strolled back to her lover and pulled him near the water. He resisted playfully, but ultimately acquiesced after a few moments of her relentless pleading.

He drove
into the ocean fearlessly; she waded in scarcely up to her knees. He lunged towards her and she took a step back, shaking her finger at him. Ignoring her warning, he scooped her up into his muscular arms, tossing her deep into the surf. She came up for air, her breath creating small puffs of steam, and splashed him in faux anger. He picked her up once again, and pitched her back into the crashing waves.

The killer
shrank behind the craggy dunes, impatiently waiting for an ideal moment to pounce.

T
ime had run out. The girl had to die.

Tonight.

T
he woman held out her arm, pointed to the diamond bracelet on her thin wrist, and gestured in the direction of the shore. The man nodded and wiggled his eyebrows at her, teasing her to hurry back. The woman smiled over her shoulder and trotted to where their clothes were scattered along the beach. She unhinged her bracelet and set it down on top of her dress, momentarily distracted by the engagement ring twinkling on her finger.

She gazed down at the
diamond, marveling at its sparkle, and smiled lovingly in the man’s direction. She laughed softheartedly at the uninhibited way he frolicked in the waves; he reminded her of the days she’d spent at the ocean as a child.

Her
lips turned down slightly as she ran a hand over her taut abdomen. She’d never have a baby of her own, but he was worth the sacrifice. Someday, when her hair started to grey, and her skin crinkled with the first signs of age, she would have to give up her mortality, too.

She didn’t mind
. They were meant to be. He was her world just as she was his, and she’d stay by his side until the end of time.

With the woman
distracted by her profound deliberations, the murderer crept up silently, and clamped a strong hand down on her arm. The woman spun around, the surprised smile vanishing rapidly from her lips. The twisted face before her did not belong to the sweet man she’d expected. This was not her love; he was tucked away safely in the sea.

This face was one she knew
well, an evil face filled with hate and outrage.

The killer smiled menacingly.

“You,” the woman exhaled sharply, holding out a shaky finger. Fear scraped its fingers down her spine, gnawed at her heart, consumed her through her pores and down to her bones.
She gawked helplessly at the ocean, her lips curling over her teeth in a grimace of despair.

The
killer tore into her throat, her thick blood spilling onto the sand in a crimson downpour. Tears fell from the corners of her eyes, yet the pain was over in a merciful instant; she permitted herself to let go, to relinquish her soul.

She
spiraled towards the black abyss where Death awaited her, her lover too far away to hear her scream.

 

 

ONE

 

San Francisco, California

June 2
, 2012

 

I glanced down at the bill clutched in my trembling fingers, tears smarting in my eyes.

Shocked into immobility, I stood frozen in front of the mailbox, m
y feet rooted firmly to the squishy earth. I always knew this day would arrive, the day when they’d come looking for their money.

My heart caught in my throat.
I was going to be sick.

It will be okay
, somehow.
It has to be.

I
blinked back my tears and took in a deep breath. Today was not the day to fall apart.

Whether or not Stalwart Financial
deliberately intended to be sardonic was a mystery, but their poetic timing was not lost on me. The past due notice on my university loan arrived less than eighteen hours after I’d participated in the graduation ceremony. I reached up to my face and tugged at my eyelashes; I was still wearing the same mascara that I’d had on the night before. Oh, the bitter irony.

I ran my fingers over the numbers in
a futile attempt to fully comprehend the monetary shitstorm I faced. I owed $108,000 (plus interest, lest I forget) for a single piece of framed linen paper. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was already three payments behind, and now the bank expected me to magically produce the two grand required in order to bring the account up to date.

T
here was a bold threat in red writing across the top of the notice, handwritten by my loan officer, Frank Thomas.
No more excuses, Ms. Montgomery.
And I had come up with some good ones during the last six months that I’d been out of school: lost mail, illness, a death in the family (the last one was true). One more missed payment, and they’d turn me over to collections.

T
he bank had finally run out of patience, and I couldn’t blame them. I’d used up all of my pleas for extensions long ago.

At least my name looked pretty
on my diploma. It was elegantly scrawled in fancy gold lettering, a lovely Edwardian Script:
Mercy Delilah Montgomery. Bachelor of Science, Psychology.
Dewhurst University.

My private
education hadn’t come easy. Or cheap, obviously. But what had I expected? I’d attended one of the most prestigious colleges in America- in the world, in fact- and the paper my diploma was printed on was worth a million times its weight in gold. That’s what the university administrators had assured me each year anyway, as I shelled out exorbitant amounts of money for my schooling. Now that I was a bona fide graduate, a twenty-four-year-old
unemployed
graduate who couldn’t find work to save her life, I wasn’t so sure.

From what I’d
come to understand during my studies, having a bachelor’s degree in psychology is about as useful as a degree in underwater basket weaving, except people actually find a need for baskets. In the patient’s eyes, an advanced psychology degree translates into a more qualified shrink. To the shrink, on the other hand, additional schooling signifies tens of thousands of dollars deeper in the hole. Apparently, those with emotional dysfunctions don’t feel comfortable revealing their deepest, darkest secrets unless the psychologist is on the verge of bankruptcy.

S
everal of my professors assured me that I shouldn’t expect to have a decent paying job as a therapist until I earned a master’s, if not a PhD. Funny, this little factoid failed to make the pages of Dewhurst’s undergraduate admissions brochure.

With my happiness sufficiently drained for the day,
I sighed and stuffed the past due notice back in its envelope. I pulled out the rest of the ominous-looking letters, longing for the days when I had the luxury of feeling simple annoyance due the masses of junk mail I received. If only I could discover a mailbox stuffed full of innocuous neon papers advertising sales on vinyl siding for a house I didn’t own, and coupons for carpet cleaning, hot wings, and family-sized pepperoni pizzas. Those were the good ole days, days when I didn’t experience crippling anxiety from the mere sight of the mailman walking up the sidewalk.

I
scowled at the mound of unopened letters, feeling psychic because I was certain of the words printed on them. I wasn’t just late on my student loans; my rent, car, and utility payments were past due, too. Every piece of mail I received lately was a variation of a final warning, most times included with a threat to cut off my services. I hadn’t paid my cell phone bill in two months, and was continually surprised that it still had a dial tone each time I powered it on.

I really didn’t have too
many people to call anyhow. When a person found themself as broke as I was, it made having any sort of a social life almost impossible. Chatting with girlfriends over lattes was a simple but small luxury I couldn’t afford. Last time I checked, my bank account was barely in the double digits.

Unlike my classmates at Dewhurst, I didn’t have a cushy trust fund my family had set up in my name
the instant I was conceived. In actuality, my family was pretty much nonexistent.

My parents
died when I was just four. I was raised in a trailer park on a shoestring budget by my Grandmother, Tilly, who died four months ago from a heart attack.

I loved my
Grandmother, who I referred to affectionately as Grams, and not a day passed that I didn’t missed her. In the end, I may have not inherited anything more from her than a run-down trailer, curvy hips, and a thick head of hair, but the lessons she taught me about poverty were invaluable.

Although she
had died penniless, Grams came for a very well-to-do family in New York City. Her parents were stuffy old money types, elitists who cared about keeping up appearances above all else. When Grams was a sophomore in high school, she became pregnant with my mother. The father, my Grandfather- though I’d never known him as such- was an emotionally immature boy from the wrong side of the New Jersey tracks. As the oldest story in the world goes, he skipped town the very day he caught wind of the pregnancy. 

When they learned of the
illegitimate conception, Grams’ parents had given her two choices:  disappear to a “girls retreat” for a few months and give the bastard child up for adoption, or leave the family forever.

Grams
chose the latter option, hastily dropping out of high school and departing her parent’s estate in the winter of 1972. She left home with a few personal items, a small amount of savings, and the clothing on her back.

Shortly after her departure, Grams
opened her suitcase to remove a pair of gloves, and found a tangled heap of pearl necklaces, gold broaches, and small diamond rings that her mother had secretly planted in her suitcase. She also found a note which contained just two words:

I’m sorry.

In desperate need of funds, Grams pawned the jewelry swiftly, so she wasn’t able to get much for it. Still, she was able to buy a barebones but reliable used car, and still managed to have a little money left over. As a single mother, she bid Manhattan farewell and traveled south to Florida, optimistic about the sunny new life she was going to build for herself and for the baby growing in her womb.

Somewhere near Jacksonville,
Grams took a wrong turn and became lost on a secluded country road. Hungry and weary from the long journey, she stopped to eat and ask for directions. She ended up at a café in Pelville, a small town about forty miles inland from the nearest beach. The waitress Grams spoke to was so warm and concerned for her welfare that she decided then and there to make Pelville her new home.

Three days after her sixteenth birthday,
Grams gave birth to my mother in a free clinic for women. She did it under the name Tilly Montgomery, an alias she’d made up on the spot by borrowing  the names of two women she’d read about in the waiting room magazines.

Ashamed of
having been jilted by both her lover and family, Grams continued using her assumed name after the birth of her child. Grams told everyone she met that she was orphaned as a young girl, and that her husband had been killed while serving in Vietnam. She told the lies so often and so convincingly that she eventually started to believe them herself.

She
falsified her information on the job and housing applications she filled out, stating that she was nineteen. With her new baby in tow, Grams moved into a tiny studio motel room where she also found work as a cleaner. Each day on the job, she learned how to scrub floors, change bedding, and polish furniture, chores she hadn’t done once in her entire life as the daughter of millionaires.

Grams
was doing backbreaking labor for minimum wage, but she was nonetheless happy to be liberated from her parent’s suffocating oppression. That’s what she’d told me, anyway, during one of the few occasions that she talked about her past. She was also proud of the fact that she never once contacted her family. Even so, she couldn’t help but speculate just how mortified her mother would have been if she was to see her only daughter working on her hands and knees, scrubbing toilets while wearing a dingy maid’s uniform with
Tilly
embroidered above the breast pocket.

I don’t really remember much about my parents.

After giving birth to me at seventeen, Mom surmounted Grams’ pregnancy by a year, something only my mother deemed an achievement. Unlike my grandfather, my dad opted to stick around, resentfully wedding my mother in the city hall in Pelville when she was five months pregnant.

With M
om married off, poor Grams must have felt a tremendous amount of relief to finally be on her own again. Then my parents were killed by a drunk driver- my own father, coincidentally- and Grams was strapped with a young child once more. That young child, of course, was me.

Grams
made it her goal in life to ensure that I escaped the life of poverty. She was determined to stop the abysmal cycle she was convinced she’d set in motion. If she accomplished just that one task, she once said, her entire life hadn’t been lived in vain.

It was only because of
my grandmother’s sheer determination that I avoided becoming just another sad victim of circumstance. For that, I am forever grateful.

When I reached my teens,
Grams insisted that I behaved like a lady. She educated me a great deal about high society customs, which I’ve learned can take a girl like me farther than anyone in the trailer park would ever have ever imagined.

From th
e confines of our little mobile home, Grams taught me about proper table etiquette and how to carry myself like a debutante. She trained me how to speak neutrally and
a-nnun-ci-ate
my words, forbidding me from using parochial slang and developing a telltale “poor white trash” accent. Grams assured me that if I got into the habit of speaking in a low-class manner, it would be something that would hinder my success for the rest of my life.

The way
Grams looked at it, she wasn’t instructing me to hide who I was or where I came from; she was merely engineering the finest possible “me” to present to the world.

I
took care of myself, and ate the healthiest way that I could on our food stamp budget. I went jogging every night in my thrift store sneakers, always working hard to take care of my body, a necessity since we couldn’t afford health insurance.

When you reach womanhood, Mercy, you may find that you’re
broke at times,
Grams would say.
But you’ll have your looks temporarily and your brains forever. Your beauty may get your foot in the door, but it’s your intellect that will keep you there.

Grams
’ words resonated with me, and as a result, I spent my teens studying while all of my classmates partied. I attracted the attention of several boys in town, but I always remained fearful about the risks of pregnancy. I was called all sorts of unflattering names-
geek, frigid, ball buster
- for my studiousness. I didn’t have many friends, and townspeople accused me of thinking that I was better than everybody.

No matter what those who didn’t truly know me believed,
I never assumed that I was superior to anyone. I only wanted to escape.

A
nd escape I did.

I
t was the happiest day of my life when I was accepted to Dewhurst. I had to delay my admission for a year and a half because of finances, but I didn’t mind. I had found my way out.

I got a job
at the only grocery store in Pelville as a checker, worked as many hours as they’d give me, and saved every penny I made. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

No trust fund.
No savings. No inheritance. As an adult, every cent I ever had, every connection I ever made, I earned it myself. That much I could be proud of.

I’
d never been outside of Florida until the day I flew to California to begin attending college.

When I stepped off the plane in San Francisco, I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the
big city. My initial impressions were of the glamorous urbanites bustling around me. Everyone was so polished and important-looking, typing away on high-tech gadgets with upmarket cell phones glued to their ears, like they’d stepped straight out of a magazine. Even the air was different, far chillier than the humidity I’d grown accustomed to in Pelville.

BOOK: Mercy's Debt (Montgomery's Vampires Series Book One)
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