Prologue

She didn't plan on dying that day. It just sort of...happened.

One moment she was stepping out onto the road, the next, she was lying flat on her back. Kinsey wasn't even sure what really happened—she learned later that she'd been hit by a car—and made a noise of surprise when the silhouette of a man appeared above her and held out a hand. She reached for it only to hesitate with her fingertips millimetres from his. Somehow, she knew taking the man's hand meant she would never see the light of day again. Or attend another Mardi Gras celebration, which was more concerning to her. So she pulled her hand back and pushed herself up into a sitting position.

"Come now," the man spoke, his voice raspy and like smoke on the wind. "Up you get; come with me,"

"Why?" Kinsey asked.

There was a heavy pause, full of tension, before he replied, "Because I'm going to take care of you now."

Kinsey frowned and pushed back a heavy strand of hair. "I can take care of myself."

The air between them began to smoulder and she had an awkward feeling that she'd somehow managed to piss the man off. He withdrew his hand and slid it into the pocket of his pants. Kinsey fiddled with the strand of red beads dangling around her neck and peered up at his face, trying to make out the features. All she got was the edge of a strong jaw, the line of an aristocratic nose and the flash of gold eyes.

"Who are you?" she demanded, rising to her feet and dusting off her backside.

There was a smirk in the man's voice when he answered her. "Your new boss."

"Um...what?"

Before she could react, one of his hands shot out and grasped her tightly around the throat. She choked and reached up, fingers scrabbling at the back of his hand. She finally realized he wasn't actually squeezing and that she could still suck in great gulps of air so she stopped clawing at him. Her heart still pounded in her ears and her vision had narrowed to nothing but his face as she waited for him to make another move.

"Welcome to Hell, so to speak," he sneered and then crushed his mouth to hers.

Kinsey grunted and tried to jerk her head back but his grip on her throat only tightened and kept her still. He pried her chapped lips open with his but instead of his tongue snaking in, she felt like all the air from her lungs was being sucked out and replaced by a mind-numbing heat. She gagged against his mouth but he refused to move until she felt as if everything was burning. Only then did he let her go and step back.

Kinsey crumpled to the ground, arms wrapped tight around her stomach, gasping for the air that seemed so far out of reach. A scream clawed its way up her throat and caught in the back of her mouth. She rolled her head back to stare at the man, and spotted another figure looming just behind him. The man turned to this person and placed a hand on their shoulder.

"Watch her," he commanded. "If she doesn't make the transformation, get rid of her. If she does, well...you know what to do,"

The person nodded and then the man was gone, leaving behind nothing but the smell of smoke and burning. Kinsey groaned and squeezed her eyes shut; everything hurt, even her eyelashes, and it didn't seem like it was going to be stopping any time soon. She felt the cool sweep of a hand across her forehead and made a small whimpering sound.

"It'll be alright," the person said. "You'll be fine,"

Kinsey wanted to disagree—she was so not fine—but at that moment the pain surged, everything went black and there was nothing else.


Title is subject to change.

All plot and characters (c) s.f james 2011