Sneak Peek: Chapter 1 of VAMPIRE APOCALYPSE: BANE (Book #1) by H.M. Ward
That day lingered at the back of Kahli’s mind like a nightmare. The memories and emotions bled together, making every terrorizing moment painfully clear. Kahli and her mother were not halfway through the crystalized trees when the first ray of light burst forth. Icy pines jutted up out of the ground forming towering spires. Kahli remembered everything: The crisp scent of the morning air, the sunlight on her face, her mother’s voice—even and urgent—telling her to stay hidden. Every piece of information was stored with acute detail in her mind.
Making their way down the icy slope of the mountain had taken longer than expected that day. It was nearly ten years ago now. She was barely seven. Just after they’d entered the woods, Kahli’s mother turned sharply. Instinctively, she grabbed her daughter’s hand, and searched the landscape behind them. Mother’s heart stopped. The Trackers were too close. If she didn’t do something, they would both be captured.
Her grip on Kahli’s small hand tightened. Leaning closer to her daughter, she whispered in her ear, “Run.”
Kahli blinked, shaking her head. It felt like she was stuck in a dream and time had stopped. Her mind couldn’t comprehend what her mother had done. What she said. This couldn’t be real. But it was. Mom ran directly toward the Trackers, leaving her behind.
Ignoring the terror that rushed through her tiny body, Kahli finally turned and sprinted in the opposite direction. The pounding of her heart echoed in her ears as she gasped in the frigid air. Cold dry wind whipped her small cheeks. Kahli’s spiked shoes cut deep into the glittering snow, but they left no foot print, only tiny holes left by the spikes. They would soon be covered with the dry powdery snow that blew through the air like dust.
Kahli ran until the stitch in her side felt like it was going to burst. Her legs screamed in protest, burning, begging her to stop, but she didn’t. She couldn’t. Sucking in huge breaths, Kahli ignored the needles pinching her lungs and fled. She didn’t look back. There were no sounds other than the thumping of her heart and the howl of wind ripping through the trees, nothing that indicated pursuit. She didn’t know what her mother heard, but she knew without a doubt that there was danger behind her, and that her mother had run straight into it. Kahli stumbled, forcing her feet to continue.
The brightness of the frozen trees shone in her eyes like a thousand suns, blinding her. They should have passed through these woods earlier. It was her fault they were here now, trying to escape from creatures that couldn’t be outrun. Her heart hammered harder, her small body filled to the brim with fear, shaking as she ran. The ski mask that covered her face to protect her from the wind made it difficult to see. She’d nearly collided with a tree. It didn’t fit quite right. The worn wool was slightly too large for her small head. Kahli untied her hood and tore off the mask. She decided it was better than slamming into one of the ancient aspens. Gasping for air, she shoved the mask in her pocket. Fiery red hair streamed behind her as she fled.
Nearing the edge of the woods, Kahli slowed. A sound carried through the trees to her left. Jerking her head toward the noise, Kahli saw her mother rush through a thicket of briars, shattering them into tiny fragments as she thrashed her way through.
Breathless, Mother reached for Kahli, and shoved her into the frozen thicket. The branches gave way without shattering, concealing the small child. Leaning down, Mother breathed so hard that Kahli could barely understand her. “Stay in there. Don’t come out.” She put her finger on her lips, and backed away from her daughter’s frightened green eyes and small round face.
Mother was within reach when the Trackers burst into the clearing. A large man with a thick coat that barely concealed his round belly said, “Thought you could escape, did you?” He wore white like we did, so he could blend into the landscape. The man moved towards Mother, who stood utterly still. The dark-haired man examined her, sliding his eyes up and down her thin frame. Her fingers fisted at her sides, ready to fight. The man’s narrow eyes ignored the gesture. Stubble lined his jowls, as if he hadn’t shaved for days. He scratched his chin like he’d forgotten something.
A boy appeared next to him. He couldn’t have been more than 8 years old. His gangly frame seemed too tall for his thin body. He was like the other man—pale with dark hair. Stepping into the clearing, he stopped behind the man. The boy appeared frail, but Kahli knew he wasn’t. That boy was a Tracker, a vampire, like the fat man.
Kahli pressed her face to the cold ground, trying not to breathe. She didn’t know what they were doing. Tears stung the corners of her eyes as terror coursed through her veins, but she remained hidden as her mother said.
Mother held her chin up high, “I evaded you long enough.” She’d lost her mask. Wisps of dark hair blew gently away from her face.
He laughed, reaching into the bag he carried across his chest. “Not much good it did you.” He removed something that glittered in the sunlight.
Mother stepped away, ready to run. But she didn’t want to flee and leave her daughter with the Trackers. Even the boy was dangerous, but there were no other options. When the man moved to wrap the gleaming metal around her wrists, Mother lifted her foot and stabbed the man in the leg with the spikes of her shoe. A wild howl tore from his throat. The nails pierced his skin, leaving long deep holes in his flesh. Blood covered his shin in long lines where metal met flesh and blackened blood poured down his leg.
The dark haired boy came to life. He moved faster than she could see. Before her mother got in another shot, she heard her hit the ground. A gush of air was forced out of her lungs when she fell on the packed snow.
The fat man reached for Mother, jerking her to her feet. “You’ll pay for that.” Without another word, his hand collided with the side of her face. The sound filled Kahli’s ears. Her tiny stomach lurched within her, her small eyes wide and frightened. His hand landed squarely on her mother’s jaw with such force that her head turned to the side.
Mother didn’t scream. She just closed her eyes. When she reopened them, she glared at him.
The man ignored her glare, and cast his gaze at every tree in the clearing. The holes in his leg had already healed, but his pants were stained with blood. The boy watched, standing nearby, his eyes scanning the trees.
He addressed the boy, his dark eyes searching the gleaming forest. “She doubled back. There has to be a reason.”
The boy was quiet for a moment and then asked, “Do you think she has young nearby?”
Mother didn’t move. Her expression remained the same. Kahli’s heart was beating so fast within her tiny body that she thought they would hear it. She stuffed her mittens into her mouth to keep from crying. They’d find her. They knew she was there. Hidden at their feet.
The man nodded, his lips snaked into a grin, “It stands to reason…”
The boy stepped forward and began to move methodically through the clearing. Looking between the branches in the frozen thickets, his ungloved hands pushed through thorns, bending back the branches. The ice-covered brambles slid against his pale skin, but he did not bleed. He continued pulling vines and branches, parting them and peering into the shadows until he was next to the exact place Kahli was hiding.
Kahli held her breath. Her mother’s eyes were glued to the boy’s back as his hands were dangerously close to her daughter. Mother’s entire body was stiff. She swallowed hard, watching the boy get closer and closer.
Kahli’s heart slammed into her ribs. Air wouldn’t come. She couldn’t breathe. The boy crouched, parting the thicket and bent down low. He was standing just above her, his hands right above her head. And then he stopped. His blue eyes stared into the dark place where Kahli hid deep within the thicket.
His eyes locked on hers.
Kahli’s small body was frozen. A scream was stuck in her throat, refusing to come out. Her teeth were biting into her mitten, and she couldn’t stop. Every part of her wanted to scream.
His blue eyes remained fixed on hers, but the boy didn’t move. He simply stared. She wasn’t certain if he saw her among the shadows or not. After a moment he turned away. The branches flew back into place, concealing Kahli.
“There’s nothing here, but frozen thorns. Whatever she had is gone,” the boy stated.
The man grunted, displeased. “Then find her. You know the situation we’re in. Bringing in a wild female and her young would fix everything. We’d be welcomed back by the Queen herself.” He beamed, imagining it.
The boy nodded, dark hair falling in his eyes, “Yes, Sir.” And he took off between the trees, tracking down a girl that was hidden right in front of him.”
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