Today, I’m pleased to have author J. K. Beck (aka Julie Kenner) here to participate in the Spooky Legends event. Julie has a new vampire series called The Shadow Keepers. The first two books in the series, When Blood Calls and When Pleasure Rules have already been released. Her latest book, When Wicked Craves is scheduled to hit shelves on October 26, 2010.
Click on the links to read an excerpt from When Blood Calls, When Pleasure Rules, and When Wicked Craves. Julie is here to tell us all about The Knife in the Briefcase urban legend and giveaway a $15 Barnes & Noble gift certificate. As always, details are listed below.
**Visit All Things Urban Fantasy today for her Spooky Legends Guest blog with Rachel Vincent and a chance to win ALPHA**
A note from J.K. –
I jumped at the chance to do the Spooky Legends event…after all, what’s more fun than a spin on a classic horror tale? And while the stories like the hook above the car freaked me out as a kid (oh, heck, they freak me out now) the ones that really got to me were the ones of potential horror. Close calls that give you chills. That’s the classic knife in the briefcase story. And here’s a spin on it, set in the world of the Shadow Keepers. This is a prequel story, set about a year before the events of When Pleasure Rules and Wicked Craves….
A brilliant full moon hung heavy in the sky as Petra Lang tapped the brake, then turned into one of the few empty spaces in front of Los Angeles’ Griffith Observatory. It was one of her favorite places to come late at night—a place that was flooded with humanity during its open hours, but when the night hung thick overhead only those like her walked nearby. People who, for whatever reason, needed to be alone and away from the crush of humanity.
Needed. Not wanted.
Petra sighed, irritated with herself. She wasn’t a loner by choice, but by circumstance, and, yeah, on some days it got to her, but usually she wasn’t so morose. But it was Halloween night, and she wanted to be at parties, dancing and drinking orange cocktails and eating pumpkin pie. Instead, she was alone, walking through the dark, the night heavy around her. And of all the humans in Los Angeles, she knew the kinds of things that walked in the dark. Things that lived in nightmares. Things that killed. Things that–
The curse cut through the eeriness, making her smile. So much for Halloween spookiness. She turned toward the source of the curse, the muscled form of a Hollywood-ready man bent over the engine of a classic Mustang. “Trouble?” she asked, her voice low, trying to restore the veil of the night.
He jerked up—obviously she startled him—then smiled, his teeth glinting in the moonlight. “Only if a completely dead car constitutes trouble.”
“For me, yeah,” Petra said. Her luck with cars ran about the equivalent of her luck with everything else—bad. And calling for a tow invariably meant being squashed in close to other people in a truck or a van or a mechanic’s waiting room, and that was never safe. Even if she wore gloves and long sleeves and socks and jeans—even then, there was still her face. She could hardly run around Los Angeles in a ski mask, after all. Still, she longed for company. For companionship other than her brother. Most of the time it didn’t bother her, but sometimes—like now—she wished for…
Well, she wished for what she couldn’t have. And she needed to just buck up and stop it.
He was watching her, his head cocked sideways as if she were a puzzle. He’d missed his socially acceptable cue to speak, and the silence hung awkward between them, filling a night that seemed to span out toward forever. She cleared her throat, then spoke, mostly just to fill the gap. “I mean that you look competent. With cars, I mean.”
That made him laugh. “Because I’m a man.”
A blush heated her cheeks. “Well, yeah.”
“Cars aren’t actually coded onto the Y chromosome.” He aimed a quick nod at the decrepit Oldsmobile she was driving. “That thing work? Maybe you could give me a lift? I’m supposed to be meeting a business partner in Studio City, and I’m going to be late…”
“I—oh.” She stood like an idiot for a moment, weighing the odds. On the one hand, he seemed to be a nice guy. Not that you could always tell, but she was safer than a lot of girls where physical attacks were concerned. Hell, she was more of a risk to strange men than they were to her. And he did seem nice. On the other, she didn’t need to be thinking about guys, nice or otherwise. Not that he was proposing marriage—it was just a lift. And the ancient car had a bench seat. He’d be well away from touching distance. “Yeah,” she said, feeling emboldened. “No problem.”
She slid back into the car, then clicked the mechanism to unlock he passenger door. He eased in, the darkness draping over him as he dropped his briefcase between them. His smile flitted over her, and for a moment she felt like what she wasn’t—a girl who was available. A girl guys flirted with. And, yeah, it felt nice.
She put the car in gear, got her head back in the program, and accelerated toward the main road, watching as the mist—so very apropos for Halloween—curled up around the car. Silence hung heavy between them, and she fidgeted. She’d never dated—how could she? And small talk wasn’t her forte. At the same time, she didn’t usually get so flustered. It wasn’t even as if she was that attracted to the guy. It was just that—well, he was attractive. And he was there. And maybe a little flirting would be nice for her ego. Too bad she really didn’t have a clue how to do that.
To break the silence she reached over and flipped on the radio. She’d been hoping for some music, something bouncy to counteract the heaviness in the air, the feeling of something dark looming on the horizon, but while she caught the tail end of the Beach Boy’s California Girls, no song followed. Instead, the DJ came on to report about the news, and right then, in the Southland, the only news was the chimera killer. A serial killer who’d killed a half dozen women so far—the damage he inflicted with a knife so bad that even the tabloids were avoiding discussing the mutilation in detail. And those poor women—girls who’d been kind-hearted or foolish enough to pick up hitchhikers, only to find themselves dead at the end. So far, two witnesses had turned up, each describing a different man—one handsome and dark, the other a fiery red-head with a corn-fed southern charm about him. Both dangerous. Both deadly. And both most definitely the same man.
Petra clicked the radio off.
“Disturbing, isn’t it? All those poor girls.”
Petra nodded, but the truth was that wasn’t why she’d silenced the radio. It was just that murder and mayhem was work. Her regular life. The man in the car was fantasy.
“What he’s done. The way he’s hurt them. To torture them like that. To keep them alive while he does it.” He shuddered. “Do you believe a man could be so cruel?”
“He sure as hell isn’t a man.” She clenched her hands tighter on the steering wheel, knowing she’d said too much. But she knew damn well that the human press had labeled the killer correctly by accident: “the chimera killer.” A killer who could change form. A shapeshifter. A creature from the shadow world, a world into which she’d willingly set foot, looking for her own set of answers and finding a whole lot more than she bargained for. She was one of the ones looking for Mr. Chimera, actually, and she had to admit that he was scarier than your average psycho.
“No,” the man beside her said. “I guess he’s not.” The rustle of leather caught her attention, and she looked sideways to see that he’d shifted on the seat, his arm resting on his briefcase. “Anyone who can kill like that doesn’t deserve to be called a man.” Idly, he fingered the pull of the zipper on his briefcase, and she listened as she kept her eyes on the drive. Zip, zip, zip. There was something disturbingly hypnotic about the sound. Something she didn’t want to think about. Something that made her want to tap the brake and run.
“Aren’t you scared?” he asked, and she surprised herself by the answer that screamed inside her head—yes, yes, suddenly I’m scared. So scared.
“No,” she said out loud.
“A killer on the loose, and you’re not scared? You just invited a man into your car, and you’re not scared?”
Her heart pounded in her chest—could he hear it? And she tapped the brake, stopping as a light turned red. She turned, forcing herself to meet his eyes. Kind eyes. Smiling eyes. “No one would attack me,” she said. “I’m untouchable.”
“Are you?” Amusement in his voice, but was that worry she saw in his eyes? Curiosity?
“I’ll bite,” he said, leaning back. “Why?”
The light changed, and she flashed the slightest of flirtatious smiles. “You’d have to touch me to find out.”
“Now that’s tempting.” Something sultry in his voice—dangerous, yes, but in the kind of way that men are so often dangerous to women. She glanced sideways in time to see him ease toward her, his hand stretched out, as if to touch her cheek.
“No!” She jerked the wheel sideways, sending him rocking back and his briefcase tumbling to the floorboard with a thud and a clatter.
“You’re serious,” he said, his eyes narrowed as he examined her. “What’s wrong with you?”
“It’s—it’s bad.” How could she tell him the truth, some guy from the park? How could she tell him that one brush of his fingertip against her skin and he’d be transformed into a monster? That she was a walking curse, something hideous and alone?
She’d meant it when she said she was untouchable; she was. But she couldn’t help but think about the chimera killer, too. The possibility of him seemed to fill the car between them, making her edgy and uncomfortable. Paranoia didn’t sit well with her, but she couldn’t get one simple though out of her mind—you can kill with a knife without touching skin to skin. You can kill with a knife without touching skin to skin. You can—
A short burst of a siren was followed by the quick flash of red and blue lights—a police car telling them to move along. Petra blinked, gathering her thoughts and reining in her paranoia. She pressed on the accelerator, realizing she’d stopped in the middle of the road.
“Right here,” her passenger said, pointing to a low brick building. A nice, normal passenger despite the fears brought on by the dark night, by Halloween, by everything she knew about what lived in the gloom.
“Here?” she asked. “Really?”
“Here is fine.” He was speaking in clipped tones, all business now. She’d probably freaked the poor guy out. “I’m late for my meeting.”
“Sure. Right.” She pulled to the curb, and he slid out, reaching back in to grab his case from the floor where it had fallen. “It’s been a pleasure,” he said, his smile wide and charming, yet menacing, too. “Perhaps we’ll meet again.”
He closed the door before she could answer. Good, she thought, since despite his looks the idea of meeting him again gave her shivers.
A soft tapping at her window startled her, and she turned to see a police officer. She rolled down the window, then smiled wide. “Problem?”
“I was going to ask you that. Any reason you’re parked here?”
“Just dropping someone, sir.”
The officer looked off in the direction the man had walked, disappearing into the shadows that consumed the building. “Friend of yours?”
“I’m being a good Samaritan. Gave him a lift.”
The officer made a disapproving noise in his throat. “You watch the news young lady?”
“I do. It’s okay.”
“Apparently so,” he said, looking her up and down. “Next time, you might not be so lucky.”
She nodded, assured the officer again that she was fine, then slowly pulled away from the curb. As she did, the glow of the nearby streetlight filled her car, illuminating something shiny and small on the floorboard. Frowning, she slowed to a stop, then eased down and grasped the object. It had fallen, she realized, when his briefcase had toppled over. Zip, zip, he’d left it open. Zip, zip, he’d meant it for her.
Cool and smooth, and not so small after all. Most of it was under the seat, actually, and as she pulled it out, she felt her blood run cold—a long, curved steel blade, stained with the blood of dead women.
But not Petra. For tonight, at least, she lived.
Some other woman, though, wouldn’t be so lucky. There were other knives, other victims.
It was Halloween, after all, and danger lurked in the shadows.
1. Open to US and Canada only
2. Fill out the form below
3. Entries for all Spooky Legends giveaways must be received by Midnight EST on November 6th. All the giveaways winners will be announced on November 7th.
I would greatly appreciate if you shared this giveaway on your blog or favorite social networks. Thanks!
Interested in offering a giveaway on Dark Faerie Tales? CONTACT ME
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.