Tuesday, May 31, 2016
The Way of Escape by Kristen Reed
The Way of Escape
The Clara Robinson Series
Date of Publication: May 1, 2016
Number of pages: Appx 255
Word Count: 67,196
Formats available: Kindle eBook
Cover Artist: Photo by Galyna Andrushko
When the leader of a vampire coven tells Clara Robinson that she's a dhampir, he gives her an impossible choice: Keep her mortality and live as a slave or become a vampire be free. A vampire visiting the coven complicates matters by revealing that she can liberate all of the slaves by parting with her humanity and becoming a vampire. This news forces Clara to examine her faith and decide if she should risk her eternal soul to save the humans or give up her freedom to serve by their side.
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/zfNA-vCEE24
“Come in,” a male voice called.
Lisette pushed open the door and gestured for me to enter. I hesitantly tiptoed into the room and jumped slightly much as the other woman had, my heart skipping a beat when she shut the door behind me and left me alone with the two strange men who occupied the large living area. The first man stood by the fireplace taking a sip from a glass of red wine. Long black curls cascaded down his back and nearly blended in with the expertly tailored tuxedo he wore just as his button down shirt almost disappeared into the pale skin of his neck.
When the man set the glass on the mantle, I finally got a good look at his surprisingly youthful, heart-shaped face as he licked the wine from his Cupid’s bow lips. After he finished savoring his wine, which he barely seemed old enough to drink, he opened his blue eyes and fixed me with an inquisitive yet predatory stare that made me shiver despite the heat coming from the lit fireplace. I suddenly knew how a gazelle felt after capturing the unwanted attention of a cheetah during a stroll across the savannah.
In an attempt to evade his chilly gaze, I gave the second man a once over. He sat in a Queen Anne-style chair that was just a shade whiter than his fair skin. Though his green eyes were trained on me, his stare wasn’t as unsettling as his companion’s had been. I thought that his wavy auburn hair was short until he turned his head to glance at his phone and I saw that he’d just swept his locks away from his face in a low ponytail. As I took in how the minimalist hairstyle showed off his deep-set eyes, high cheekbones and square jawline, I realized that I would have been attracted the man if I hadn’t been terrified of him.
While he didn’t exude the same threatening aura as his slightly younger companion, I still felt as if I was a fly that he could swat easily and remorselessly at any moment. I hadn’t felt that powerless in over a decade, and I hated the feeling just as much then as I had growing up.
“Bonjour, Clara,” the raven-haired man greeted in a smooth French accent. “My name is Emmanuel Géroux and this is my guest, Augustus Damiani.”
“Hello,” I replied hesitantly.
“I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve brought you here,” he presumed. “Let me begin by apologizing for the lackluster room you awakened in. I wasn’t quite sure what I should do with you when you first arrived.”
“I’m more concerned about what I’m doing in your house than the quality of the room I woke up in,” I said carefully. “Why did you bring me here?”
Emmanuel walked over to the wet bar nearby and poured himself another glass of wine as he spoke, his friend’s eyes never leaving me as the conversation continued.
“My men found you lying unconscious near the village of Manonette last night. Apparently a fire broke out at the facility where you were staying, and you passed out after the evacuation.”
When I struggled to recall the events that transpired earlier that night, I vaguely remembered smelling smoke and hearing an alarm blaring. The memory was so indistinct and brief that I’d brushed it off as a dream, but that hazy memory was enough for me to believe that Emmanuel was telling the truth about the fire at Gospel Gateway. However, I should have awakened in a hospital and not on a private island with two men who looked like they’d just gotten home from a night at the opera.
“Is everyone else alright?”
“Yes, no one at the facility was injured in the fire.”
The relief Emmanuel’s news brought gave me a brief respite from my suspicion. Alas, that break didn’t last long.
“Not that I don’t appreciate your help, but why didn’t your men take me to a hospital if I was unconscious? I might have needed treatment for smoke inhalation or burns,” I pressed on. “And who are you that you have people prowling around Gospel Gateway and Manonette at night?”
“The sooner you tell her the whole truth, the better,” Emmanuel’s Italian counterpart said.
My host nodded and took another less leisurely swig to polish off his wine before giving me a more fleshed out explanation.
“Well, mademoiselle, I am the leader of the vampire coven that resides on this island. I sent the men who found you to Haiti to bring more humans to the island to be our servants. When they discovered you and a few of your missionary friends near Manonette, they took you to fill my open positions,” Emmanuel explained nonchalantly. “One of the first tasks my men complete with new humans is pricking their fingers and tasting their blood to see if they are worthy of being one of our personal attendants. However, when they tasted your blood, they realized that there was more to you than meets the eye. Your blood had the sweetness of life and the bitterness of death, which means that you are half vampire — also known as a dhampir. Since you aren’t fully human, I wanted to give you the opportunity to choose your fate. You can either live with your fellow mortals and toil on my island for the rest of your days or enjoy the luxury and privilege that comes with being a vampire.”
I gaped at Emmanuel in stunned silence as I attempted to process his ridiculous explanation. Although my first instinct should have been to laugh at him and look for hidden cameras, something inside of me told me that he was telling the absolute truth. While I’d never contemplated the existence of vampires and had only seen them as fictional characters in books and movies, I’d spent enough time in the Bible to know that demons and other nefarious creatures existed. Jesus himself had even cast a legion of demons out of a man and into a herd of two thousand pigs.
If people can be possessed by demons, is the existence of vampires really that far off, I wondered. Either this guy is telling the truth or he’s insane. I can’t decide which one is worse.
“You’re being awfully quiet, Clara,” Emmanuel remarked. “What are you thinking?”
“I need proof that you’re telling the truth.”
“Then proof you shall get,” he agreed with a smile as he set down his drink.
Emmanuel took a step forward, but I backed away before he could reach me.
“Can you prove it without coming any closer,” I revised.
The Frenchman stood his ground a few yards away and his blue eyes underwent a frightening transformation. His pupils bled outward as if someone had dropped ink into his eyes until I found myself gawking into two completely black orbs. Once that change was complete, Emmanuel opened his mouth to show that his top canines had extended into a pair of gleaming white fangs. He let out a feral hiss that sent me sprinting for the door, which I quickly realized was locked. I tried to force the door open, but the hair-raising tickle of his breath on my neck paralyzed me as he placed a frigid hand on mine and removed it from the doorknob.
“Don’t be frightened,” he said in a tone that would have sounded reassuring if not for his newly terrifying appearance. “If I truly wanted to hurt you, you would not be standing here with your pretty neck untouched and your blood still in your veins.”
About the Author:
Kristen Reed, a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, is an artist, filmmaker, and author from Dallas, Texas. As a Christian, her faith influences her writing and is the driving force in her life.