Since I wrote up a guest blog post for a friend earlier today, I don’t really feel like writing another blog post. Instead, I’m going to share the first chapter of the YA Vamp project I’ve mentioned a couple times. I always swore I would never write vampires until I could come up with a unique twist–and this one qualifies. I can’t share the unique twist without spoiling it but I did want to share this with readers who might be interested. (I polished this up today but my active WIP is Fury Book 3, since that’s the one under actual deadline. However I do want to get this one in proposal form, just in case!)
Blood and Bone, Chapter 1
“Wake up. Come on, now.”
The blue-haired boy wakes with his face slumped onto his left shoulder and drool dribbling down his arm. A kind-faced man seems relieved when the boy focuses unsteady eyes upon him.
“Son, you’re gonna have to get off the bus now. St. Cloud’s the end of the road.”
“I-uh, St. Cloud?” He shakes his head to try and clear it. The last thing he remembers is…huh. He remembers fading in and out of wakefulness over the past couple of days, the rhythmic motion of the bus soothing him back to sleep each time it pulled away from another no-name town. The man standing over him–who now looks the slightest bit impatient–bullying him into brief bathroom and food breaks at stops along the way. What he can’t remember, however, is where he actually got onto the bus. Or where he’s headed now. Or why.
Son…am I his son? No, that doesn’t sound right. He knows the man is the bus driver. Son is just something to call him since he’s never told him his name. His name… Fear claws a hold into the pit of his stomach and vomit threatens to rise up. What the hell is my name? Along with the fear and nausea comes a faint but nagging sense of hunger. Odd, since he recalls eating enough cheeseburgers at the last stop to satisfy a linebacker. Two linebackers.
“Yes sir. Come on, now, all the passengers are long gone and I’ve got your other bag sitting on the curb. Grab your pack and I’ll take you to the nearest motel like your sister asked. Have my own family to get home to now, son.”
The boy watches the driver head back up the empty aisle, mind struggling to catch up. He uses the hem of his black t-shirt to wipe the drool off his arm and shrugs. Jeez. Whatever pills he took to get through this long-ass bus ride have screwed up his memory big time. Not only can’t he recall his name but he doesn’t remember having a sister.
He stands up and moves to follow the driver, only noticing the backpack at his feet when he trips over it. A curse passes his lips but he grabs the seat in front of him and manages not to fall. Guess that’s the pack he wants me to bring.
So he does. Before he can settle a strap over his left arm–which seems the most natural somehow–he catches sight of four letters stitched onto the back panel of the pack. Z-A-N-E. Zane; is that my name? Not knowing for sure feels strange, but at least he has something to latch on to. Some shred of identity. Hopefully the rest will come once the pills wear off–he has to be tripping on some sort of drug, nothing else makes sense.
In the meantime, he’ll go through his bags first chance he gets. Maybe at whatever motel the driver points him to. First, though, he has to venture off the bus that’s been the closest thing to a home he can remember for the past few days.
And, man, isn’t that pretty damned pathetic?
He’s not used to feeling pathetic, or at least doesn’t think so. Not a feeling he wants to get used to either. The bus driver waits for him next to an olive-green Salvation Army style duffel bag. He scoops up the bag and settles it across the opposite shoulder from the smaller backpack, noticing that this one, too, has the letters Z-A-N-E stitched in small text.
The driver–his nametag reads “Paul Owenson”–clears his throat, shifting awkwardly from leg to leg. “Your sister told me to remind you to keep a low profile, though she didn’t say why. Don’t think I want to know, either. You seem like a good kid and she loves you like a son. Old enough to be her son, too. But I’m babbling on like my wife; you know all this.”
No! he wants to scream. I don’t. But that doesn’t seem the smartest thing to do, so he keeps quiet.
“She wants you to read the letters in your backpack and said she left you plenty money in there. Don’t you let nobody go taking advantage of you, neither. Your ID’s in there, and yeah, I checked to make sure your sister wasn’t lying to me–you’re 18 so don’t let nobody give you shit that you don’t look a day over 16.” Owenson takes off his beat-up cap and rubs it between thick, calloused fingers. “I left my work number in your wallet, son. You get into any trouble you can’t handle, you call me. Not sure I’ll be able to help, but. Well. We’d best get you settled in for the night.”
The boy–Zane’s as good a name as any to go by until he can remember differently–follows after Owenson obediently, becoming more alert as the late-night breeze washes away the cobwebs cluttering his mind.
He looks up at the black expanse of sky and takes in a deep breath. A dozen scents hit his nostrils and he wrinkles his nose as the stench of skunk wars with fried chicken and chili. How weird that he can sort those smells out. The nearest fast-food restaurant is several blocks away and he can’t see a line of trees where the skunk might hide. His eyesight seems way too sharp for the moonless night as well. He picks out the line of buses surrounding the one they rode in on in clearer detail than a single dim security light can explain. Before he can puzzle out his infrared eyesight, Owenson leads him through a chain-link gate. He locks it behind them before heading toward a smaller parking lot, this one containing a single vehicle, a plain white Ford sedan.
Funny, that he recognizes the make and model when he can’t even remember his own name. Or the sister that loves him like a mother. Not really funny-ha, more like funny-sucks-huge-donkey-balls.
Owenson herds him into the car and steers it past ten motels that look fine to Zane. Wherever St. Cloud is–Minnesota? Florida? It’s hot as hell outside but since he doesn’t know the month that’s not much of a clue–it’s obviously a tourist trap with all the flashing neon lights they pass. It’s only just after they pass a sign reading, “Welcome to Kissimmee” that the lightbulb goes off. Florida, then. He’s not sure how he knows that, but he does. Maybe he’s been here before. Hell, for all he knows, “here” is home.
Owenson finally turns off the main road he’s been driving down and pulls into a small but clean-looking motel. Pirate’s End Bungalows. The name doesn’t ring any immediate bells like Kissimmee and Ford did. Maybe a local chain.
“I know the family of the owner here, son. They’ll take good care of you and won’t ask too many questions long as you show your ID and pay cash. Specially if I vouch for you, which I will.” The man levels a stern look his way. “Just make sure I don’t come to regret that.”
“I won’t.” The response is automatic. Surprisingly, though, Zane realizes he means it. He may not know who or what kind of person he is, but he likes this man and doesn’t want to bring him any trouble.
His eyes are drawn to the motel’s main building, which is shaped like a Spanish galleon. A half-dozen smaller bungalows–treasure chests to go along with the pirate theme–spread out to each side of that building. Owenson does most of the talking to the front desk clerk–one of the owner’s daughters, who takes one look at Zane and immediately adopts a mother hen attitude. He does his best to follow the man’s advice and keeps his lips zipped as much as possible. She interprets that as his being tired–which he is–and rushes through the check-in process. On the up side, she barely glances at his ID and takes his cash no problem. On the down side, he finds himself trapped inside a treasure chest behind the main building much faster than expected. And for the first time in days, completely and totally alone.
Well, time to go through Zane’s–I mean my stuff. Assuming it is my stuff…
He starts with the backpack because it’s the smallest. The front pocket holds the new leather wallet featuring the wad of cash he barely dented paying for the night’s lodgings, along with a Massachusetts driver’s license that does, in fact, pronounce him to be 18 years old. 18 years, 1 month, and 22 days, to be precise. The photo shows an unsmiling, dark-haired boy with tan skin and almond-shaped brown eyes. Anxiety blooms when he doesn’t recognize his own face so he flails for something else to focus on.
“Massachusetts. That must be where I’m from.” He speaks out loud to taste the rightness of the words coming from his tongue, but nothing. Could be true, could be bullshit.
The wallet also houses several credit and gas cards, all in the same name as the license: Zane Khenbish. That word has him blinking. “Nobody. I am Nobody.”
The story of his life now, isn’t it? How he knows that Khenbish means “nobody” but can’t remember it as his last name is another mystery. He frowns and steps over to the sink and mirror just outside the john. Harsh light makes his skin look more yellow than tan. Tangled blue hair–obviously a dye job–falls well past his shoulders and could really use a rubber band. Or a haircut. Big, round eyes that had the motel clerk launching into instant mothering mode and would probably make girls his own age go gaga.
His own age…He stares down at the driver’s license in his hand again and then back into the mirror. Owenson was right. He doesn’t look a day over 16. Maybe even younger, with his anime eyes and delicate cheekbones that would have looked more at home on a girl. Like his sister, maybe.
Thinking of his sister has his fingers diving back into the backpack and emerging with a ribbon-tied stack of letters. The topmost envelope reads only, “Zane – #1,” which he takes to mean he should open that one first.
“Dearest Khenbish: Trust only the one who delivered you to where you are now, for if I entrusted you to that person’s care I saw into their mind and judged them deserving. I understand you are confused and disoriented but know these two things: I love you. And you are in danger.
“Impossible for me to summarize everything in a single letter, and you would find it all just as impossible to believe so soon. Read one of these letters each morning for the next month and, by then, you will be ready. Ready to truly know, ready to believe, and ready to become what you must for us both.
“For now, let me say this. You are more than what you appear. Our people have been called various names over the centuries but one thing has remained constant. Honor, loyalty, and love above all else. Second only to those three: blood and bone. Blood to feed the power and flesh to fuel the bone. You are probably sitting there scratching your head over these mysterious words, but trust me. Tomorrow’s letter will shed more light on who and what you are and explain the importance of the books I sent with you.
“Tomorrow, you will know. And knowing, believe. And hopefully soon, become what you must. For us both, for our Family, and for the Upyr.
“Until tomorrow-I remain your loving sister, Terbish.”
He frowns at the word “upyr”. Something about the word tickles his memory and he racks his brain for the reason. His head begins to ache as he tries harder to remember why the word “upyr” sounds familiar. The dull throb becomes stabbing pain until, finally, he gives up with a frustrated growl. The pain fades quickly once he stops searching his Swiss cheese of a memory, leaving behind the hunger whining in his belly and the exhaustion humming through his entire body.
Exhaustion wins out over hunger. He abandons the letter to fall onto the lumpy but clean mattress and do the only thing that makes any sense. Sleep until the sun comes up and hope like hell his body works all of the drugs out of his system so his memory comes back.