I was going to kill Lydna when I got back to Divine Providence. I glared at my boots, pink frilly dress and studded leather jacket. She’d sworn this look was popular with humans, but the other passengers wore muted, comfortable clothing. But it was a short flight, and all I had to do was watch movies and kill someone.
I wondered if I should order champagne, but I needed my head clear. I clocked my mark, a few rows ahead of me, just behind the curtain that led to first class. From what I could see, he had at least one travelling companion. My long legs were cramped behind the tiny seat, and I felt the weapons strapped to the small of my back. Vamps preferred guns, so I’d be the only one armed, not that it mattered. Taking down one vamp alone would require skill, even with the wooden stakes I’d snuck through airport security, and two was suicidal.
This is why the alary never went on missions alone, but I had to prove myself somehow. A year after giving birth and Joel still managed to keep me bound to the manor like an invalid. A high-value vamp was just the right target to prove to the chancellor I was ready for action.
But he’d be isolated from his horde, and trapped in a steel box, seven miles in the air. There was nowhere to run, which meant one of us wouldn’t be making it home tonight. This plan was either genius, or insane. Lynda would have called it post-partum psychosis or something like that, but a future of being homebound, learning to cook and taking care of an infant was infinitely worse than death. I’d been bred as a killing machine my whole life, and I refused to let my skills go wasted.
Besides, I’d killed dozens of vamps in only a few short years, some even before I’d earned my wings. Not to mention a handful of fae and djinn, though they were much rarer. I’d only seen a mermaid once, but we usually leave them alone, as they don’t interfere in human affairs and are absolutely deadly underwater.
I didn’t recognize the dark-haired bloodsucker in first class, but I’d done my research. Some kind of eastern european aristocrat. I was surprised he wasn’t taking a private jet for the instagram, but then I guess he wouldn’t show up in the pictures anyway. Vamps weren’t exactly insta-friendly.
And despite their wealth, they were cheap, which is how I knew he’d only be travelling with far fewer bodyguards. I heard a laugh ahead of me, and realized he’d starting chatting up another passenger, a pretty blonde with a white skirt and a gold necklace. She had far too much mascara and lips that were too plump to be natural. My heart pounded as she glanced at him wickedly, before getting up to use the restroom. He followed a moment later.
Charming bastard. Sure he’s handsome and rich as fuck, but that didn’t mean he had to bang every former gameshow hostess that crossed his path. With any luck, he was just thirsty. A few sips of first-class heiress blood would slow his reflexes, and keep him distracted so I could sneak up on him.
But that meant this was happening now.
The angelic brand on my arm started to glow in anticipation, but it was dampened by the dark leather jacket. I couldn’t stake his companion with so many passengers around, but thankfully they also disguised my smell, so I was able to sneak up close enough to touch him. The light flashed down my palms as I pinched the space behind his ear. My magic sparkled under his translucent skin. He flinched, but didn’t move, as my power held him paralyzed. With my other hand, I took a clove of garlic from my jacket pocket and stuffed it gently between his fangs. His eyes widened as the allergic reaction stiffened his limbs, activating the dormant rigor mortis in his black veins. I shut his jaw and strapped a disposable eye mask from the care package we’d been given.
“Night night,” I whispered, as I pulled my fingers away from his neck.
One down, one to go.
* * *
I saw a flight attendant glance at the bathroom door, but she just rolled her eyes. Apparently she was used to first class passengers taking their priveleges into the bathroom. I waited till she passed, then rammed the flimsy door open with my shoulder, busting the cheap lock. The vamp’s pale chin was covered in blood, his fangs fully extended, his back to me. I slashed out with the wooden spike, but he whirled quickly, blocking himself with the girl. I stabbed between her shoulder blades, but the wound was shallow. She moaned, still intoxicated from the vampire’s venom. I kicked the back of her knees, and she folded like a puppet, leaving the vampire exposed. This time I struck true, but in the tiny bathroom, I couldn’t get enough momentum to pierce his ribs. I felt the stake slide between them, inches from his heart.
Shit. This was not going well. He sneered at me, smashing my head into the mirror, before rushing past me into the main cabin. I took a deep breath and followed, picking bits of glass out of my hair.
When he reached his companion, he tore off the eye mask and pried the garlic out of his mouth, scowling as he wiped the vampire drool off against the plush seat fabric. In about a minute, I’d have to fight both of them. But I didn’t need a minute.
Passengers screamed as I charged down the aisle, leap-frogging over the rows of chairs to plant a boot into his jaw. He caught my leg and threw me to the ground, so hard the luggage compartment above us snapped open, spilling their contents. Movement to my left caught my eye, and I squinted at the dark shape outside the oval window, silhouetted by the moonlight sky.
I flinched at the sound of tearing metal. Green scales pressed up against the window.
“You fool,” the vamp croaked, just as one of the engines was ripped off in a burst of flame, smoke and a shower of sparks.
The plane rocked violently to the side, before going into a nose dive that had us tumbling across the floor, then sliding along the walls above the heads of the strapped-in passengers. Joel was going to kill me when he found out about this unsanctioned mission. If I lived that long.
I couldn’t fight a dragon with a wooden stake. This one looked centuries old, very mean, and nearly as big as the plane. They rarely attacked humans, and there hadn’t even been a sighting for over a decade, as far as I knew. What are the chances, I muttered.
I stood my ground as the vampire charged, tearing apart the upholstered seats with his elongated claws as he dashed across the ceiling. The oxygen masked popped down, and the passengers clutched each other as they strapped in tightly. If I could just get my fingers around his wrist, I could incapacite him, at least until I figured out what to do next. But before his blow landed, the plane was torn apart from beneath us.
Wind sucked him instantly out of the mangled shell of the airplane. I clutched hold of the nearest seat, wrapping my hands into the seatbelt straps, even though the vibrations of the shaking plane made my teeth chatter.
Behind me, voices screamed as the now-open main cabin of the plane tumbled downwards in a death spiral. A little girl looked up at me with wide eyes and I heard her whisper, “look Mommy, an angel.”
“Sorry kid,” I said. “I’m not that kind of angel.”
Then I took off, driving through the scorched carnage of the plane and narrowly missing the flaming engine. I felt its warmth as I tumbled past. Then I flattened my body, riding the air forward like a missile. I found the dark silhouette of my mark a few hundred feet away. He probably wouldn’t survive the fall, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I grabbed his torso between my legs and stabbed him with the stake. He fought me off at first, but he wasn’t used to the low oxygen.
The thin air at this altitude made him weak. Finally, I felt his ribs snap and the wooden stake plunged into his rotten heart, oozing dark sludge over my fingers. Then I kicked away from him, as he plummeted towards the earth. Wind buffeted against me as I tore off my leather jacket, and rolled my bare shoulders back to unfurl my wings. I glanced back at the airplane, now a flaming inferno spinning towards the ground, but it was too late to save them. I watched as it hit the ground in an explosion, close to where my mark had fallen.
That’s one way to kill a vampire.
* * *
I took a breath, slowly flapping my wings to maintain altitude, wondering if I’d made the right choice. I could have saved that kid, but I’d chosen to take out the vamp instead. I couldn’t save the whole plane, but that kid, her, I could have saved. Now she was just another soul on my conscience.
My head still buzzing from the fight, I didn’t hear the slow pulse of the dragon’s wings until I felt the warm steam of his breath just behind me. The burst of hot air spun me sideways and when I glanced back, it was too late to avoid the wall of scales. Its talons bound me like a vice, snatching me in its massive claw like a hawk with a trout.
I felt the angelic mark on my wrist glow with power as I extended my shield around me, narrowing it to just a razor’s-edge over my skin to keep me from getting crushed. Even so, the pressure was immense. Enough to turn an SUV into a tin-can.
I clenched my jaw as the dragon flexed his knuckles. When the creature didn’t eat me immediately, I realized it was tenderizing me. I cursed at the nearly-full moon, which was pink and low on the horizon. I knew I should have consulted the astrocharts before leaving.
It was nearly Summer Solstice, on the year of a super strawberry moon that only occurred every twenty years. Breeding season. Dragons were periodical; like locusts, they emerged every few decades from their underground burrows, in search of mates. I’d been an infant during the last cycle, but that was no excuse. It was a stupid, and potentially fatal, mistake.
The thought of being fed to a nest of hatchlings made my blood freeze. Killing a vamp with an airplane? Badass. Becoming infant formula for a brood of baby dragons? Not cool.
The runes on my arm scalded against my skin, drawing more energy than I ever had before. My wing was pinned at an awkward angle and I gasped when I felt it snap. I shifted, trying to relieve the pressure, and the sharp edge of the dragon’s talons stripped off a few dozen primary feathers from my carpal edge.
I watched them fall with a sense of loss; I knew how long those suckers took to grow back. It meant Joel would have a new reason to keep me grounded, assuming I made it back at all. But I didn’t have much time to think about it. If I lost consciousness, I’d be done for. The stakes were useless against a full grown dragon, but I wasn’t out of options. With a snap of my wrist, I threw one at the dragon’s eye. At the same time, I flexed out with my shield, with all my remaining strength.
The distraction was just enough to pry apart the talons, allowing me to slip out and plunge into free fall. A moment later, I was tumbling down towards the city. I flapped my wings, which leaned to the side. My broken wing felt like a razor slicing through my shoulder, and it was hard not to fold it in and fly in circles, but with my shield energy depleted, I wouldn’t survive a fall from this height. I scanned the city skyline, as the evening lights of Boston rushed towards me. The streets were still full of tourists, warming up and pregaming for a hard night of drinking. Fucking Fridays.
I found a dark spot in the grid below, and recognized the steep towers and turrets of a church, one of Boston’s oldest. I knew it had a cemetery in the back. Perfect. With any luck, the trees would break my fall. Maybe there was even a pile of leaves waiting between the gravestones.
I started braking a hundred feet up, using the warm, polluted air of the city to slow my descent. Despite my stripped and broken wing, I managed to reduce my speed considerably, nearly hovering over the cemetery for an instant—barely enough to scan for threats. But then my strength gave out, and I let gravity take hold. I was still coming in too fast. It would hurt, but I’d live. I tucked my wings in, preparing for a hard landing as the ground raced up at me. But I never made it. Something dark hurdled into me from the side, knocking my breath away. The momentum carried both of us through the rose-shaped stained glass of the main ocular window.
Keep reading the short prequel!
The short story is about 10K words and ends on a brutal conclusion (the *end* of that protagonist, but the beginning of the main protagonist that continues in the full series.) If you like the prequel, or just want a longer, more satisfying read, you can also get the full first book on Kindle Vella.
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