“Sandra’s not coming?” he hissed.
“Can’t serve me very well if she’s dead, can she?” she answered sarcastically.
She saw the realization dawn on his face before he said it. “She’s not a vamp.”
“For a cat, you’re not too slow.” Valerie held out a hand for silence as a crew woman went running by. They emerged on the deck, careful to stay in the shadows.
The two sky-ships were maneuvering so that one would be on each side, and men and women were already moving to their battle stations on all three of the ships.
“Prepare to be boarded,” a voice came over the loudspeaker from the ship to their left. “Resist, and you will be sucking water with the worst of them.”
“What’re our chances of outrunning them if the captain goes that route?” Valerie asked.
Diego shook his puma head. “Zero to none, but in fighting she might hold up.”
“Two to one,” Valerie said, doubtful.
“Trust me, I’m kind of a techie nerd. Well, as far as tech goes these days. In the old days, let me tell you what I could’ve done with—Ouch!”
She’d flicked him in the ear. “Focus!”
“Right…” His tail moved and he shifted on his hind legs as if preparing to pounce, but then said, “The point is, their ships are built for speed. Like sloops in the old days, single-masted, not many cannons. But ours is more like a Man of War. Those babies had double masts and a hundred cannons.”
“None of what you just said means anything to me.”
The puma sighed. “Pirate stuff. I don’t know if I have it right either, honestly. But back in those days—”
“Ah, right, focusing. Let me say this in simple, even-a-vampire-can-understand terms—our ship is strong, theirs are not.”
“Okay,” Valerie said, irritation causing her voice to rise slightly. Good thing everyone around them was yelling and had no reason to come to this part of the ship just yet. “Let me say this in you-want-to-live-so-don’t-ever-talk-to-me-like-that-again terms. I will throw you off into the ocean and see if cats like water.”
The puma’s tail twitched quickly. “Sorry, it’s a habit.”
“Being an ass is a habit of yours?”
Great. She was trying to figure out how to make it out of this without being discovered and without having to slaughter every last one of them, and here she was, was stuck with a sarcastic ass-cat. She laughed to herself.
“Something funny?” Diego said.
“I just came up with a new nickname for you. Ass-cat.”
Diego stared at her, his yellow puma eyes burning fiercely.
“It’ll grow on you,” she said, then motioned to him. “Follow me.”
But she was already gone, bounding up the steps to the captain’s tower. At the doorway, she paused, then looked back at Diego inquisitively.
“Speaking of names, Xianliang, really?”
“What?” he hissed.
“No Chinese accent, and I don’t know…. You don’t exactly strike me as a Xianliang type.”
“Even though I was raised in Spain and don’t speak a lick of Chinese, I have my roots from there.”
“Which explains your Were-cat nature,” she said, nodding to herself in understanding. “Sacred Clan?”
He instantly tensed at that, and she could tell she’d hit a nerve.
“Let’s just put a pin in that conversation.”
“Deal.” She paused to look at him one more time. “But if you didn’t know, your Chinese name’s meaning is ‘worthy brightness.’”
When he looked at her inquisitively, she added, “My real parents, before I was turned… One was French, the other Chinese. I know a thing or two. Not bad for a dumb vampire, huh?”
Without waiting for a response or to bother laughing at the way his jaw hung open, she stood. She considered knocking on the door, but then lifted her leg and kicked it in instead. The captain spun and aimed a pistol, but before he knew what was happening, she was standing over him with the pistol twisted up and facing his own temple.
“Wouldn’t squeeze that trigger, if I were you,” she told him, her breath blowing across his face.
The captain nodded but glared. “You’re one of the group attacking me?”
“Actually, no,” she said. “But here’s the deal. My pussy-cat friend here and I are stowaways, along with one girl.”
“This isn’t the best time for a confession, and I’m not wearing my robes,” the captain snarled.
Valerie rolled her eyes. “Do you want me to pull the trigger?”
He shook his quickly.
“I didn’t think so. Here’s what I’m proposing. I want to pay for our passage the rest of the way by saving you from these pirates.”
“You want to…?” The captain’s expression turned from hostile to confused, then amused. The yelling outside grew louder, and Valerie was becoming impatient. Every second she waited for this guy to agree was another chance their ship could be blown out of the sky.
The voice came again from the speaker outside, and then a warning shot was fired.
“Mr. Pussycat here tells me—”
“Can you stop with that?” Diego asked. “The name’s Diego, or Xianliang, if you’re feeling formal. Not Ass-cat, not Mr. Pussycat… Diego.”
The captain stepped back then. His eyes darted back and forth between the two of them. “Why should I listen to you, two Weres?”
“Wrong,” Valerie said, then showed her fangs and allowed her eyes to glow ever so slightly. “He’s a Were. I’m worse.”
The captain’s hands started to shake, but he folded his arms across his chest to try to hide it.
“A Were and a vampire on my ship… And you offer to fight off these pirates for me?” He assessed them, then nodded. “Deal. You save the ship, consider your passage covered.”
Just then, the first volley of shots went off from one of the enemy ships, and then the other followed.
“Merde,” Valerie said, with a glance outside as their ship returned fire.
“You better hurry,” the captain said. “Or all three ships will be collecting barnacles, and you’ll have to walk across the ocean floor to get to where you’re going. That is, if vampires don’t die from drowning?”
“I don’t plan on finding out,” she said, and then ran, pulling her sword as she went.
Diego’s heart was racing as he leaped after Valerie. He’d never had much of a problem keeping up with people or Weres, but he’d never been tested against a vampire. So far, he was failing his first test, but she waited for him at key points in the shadows. It helped that she had to go around areas to avoid the sun, while he could dart across.
“We get one shot in the wrong place, and we’re going down!” he said, his voice almost a screech. He was never fond of how his voice sounded in puma form.
“You said we have the stronger ship, right?” she asked, pausing at the ropes the ship to their left had just shot over to anchor to their hull. “If that’s true, all we have to do is make sure we hit them where it hurts first, right?”
“Of course, but—”
“Good, follow me, and when I say so, tell me where it hurts.”
“On the ship, right?” he asked, nervously.
“Of course!” She glanced over her shoulder as she leaped up onto the rope. “Although, if you steer me wrong, I’ll make sure you die before me, Ass-cat.”
“And if we win, you stop calling me that?”
She smirked and said, “Deal.” And then she ran across the rope.
Holy-balls, he thought, that was not something anyone should try at home. Luckily for her, she didn’t seem to have the slightest balance problem, and fortunately for him, he was a cat, and a cat’s balance is legendary. At least, he hoped that legend would still hold true after this screwed-up idea.
None of that stopped him from thinking Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap the whole way across. He only said it faster when they saw the man at the other end pop up, apparently about to shimmy down the rope almost exactly like the pirates of old. His eyes grew big, and then he lifted a rifle when he saw them coming.
“Watch out!” Diego said, but it wasn’t necessary. One minute, Valerie was running in front of him, the next she was a blur and had the pirate slammed against the far wall so forcefully that he crumpled to the floor, unconscious.
Diego made it to the end of the rope and leaped down on the deck to confirm that the pirate was indeed not dead.
“You some twisted vegan vampire or something?” he asked, pointing to the unconscious—but still breathing—pirate. “You’re serious about this?”
“I just…” she started, but then she stumbled, heading for the edge of the ship. The sudden use of energy had drained her, and now she was running dangerously low on strength.
Diego stared in surprise as she almost caught herself and then stumbled again. He looked around, and saw that two more pirates had noticed them and were coming over. Mierda, he thought, and then transformed so that he could catch her.
The sight of a puma turning into a naked man about to catch a woman before she fell over the edge of their ship made both pirates freeze in their tracks.
Valerie squeezed her eyes shut and said, “You really didn’t have to do that.”
“You were gonna fall,” he said. “I did.”
“Better to have spared me this sight,” she said jokingly, with a glance at his nude body. He considered letting her go, even shoving her over the side himself, but the two pirates had recovered and were working their ways towards them.
“You need energy,” Diego said. “And fast.”
She looked at him, and then at the still-unconscious pirate on the deck. With a heavy sigh, she fell onto the pirate, her teeth on his neck. Seconds later, she stood, a trickle of blood dripping down her chin. She appeared stronger already, but her eyes were sad, and she seemed upset to have fed on the man.
Diego was surprised to find that watching her had been exciting. Not in a sexual, this-is-super-awkward-to-be-naked way, but he wanted to see her do it again, for sure. Especially if it meant saving his own neck at the expense of someone else’s!
The act caused a different reaction in the oncoming pirates, however. They were starting to back away, looking left and right to see if another vampire was about to jump out and attack them.
“Tell you what,” she said, wiping the blood from her chin, her eyes now glowing red and ravenous as they stared at the backpedaling pirates. “You change back to a pussy-cat so I don’t have to see dangling participles right now, and I’ll take care of these two.”
He didn’t even have to answer, but simply transformed and moved his tail in an I’m waiting sort of way.
She smirked as she started towards the two pirates. “No offense, I hope?”
“None taken,” he said.
And with that, he stared, wide-eyed and amazed, as she darted forward and tore into the first man before sending the second over the side of the ship. His screams vanished into the deep distance.
Diego was damn glad he’d somehow ended up on the right side of this fight, even if she had insulted his manhood more than once.
FROM JUSTIN >>> And so we dive into chapter 3 and really see the start of a beautiful friendship. And some action! Woo! What do you think? Having fun? If you look at my writing background, you’ll see werewolves, vampires, zombies, dragons, and pirates. I haven’t figured out how to get dragons into Michael Anderle’s Kurtherian Gambit world yet, but we’ll work on it! (Maybe not? Or maybe he already has some creature like that?
So yeah, stay tuned for the rest of chapter 3 – coming tomorrow!
You can also get the snippets (1-4) on your e-Reader by grabbing the sneak peek over at Instafreebie.
This week’s recommendation comes with a bit of selfishness to it, because I have a short story in this anthology. But so do some other awesome authors, so it’s worth checking out even if you hate me!
THE EXPANDING UNIVERSE
Technologies that far surpass our own and ethereal beings of untold power…
Immerse yourself in The Expanding Universe.
Worlds collide as eighteen talented authors contribute their best short fiction to expand and explore the Sci-fi genre. Travel dystopian worlds and discover the possibilities that lie within the unknown. Experience the touch of metaphysical occurrences and enjoy the rush that comes from love deep enough to rattle the stars.
With contributions ranging from best-selling authors to debut works you will fall in love with this exciting new anthology The Expanding Universe!
Featuring a Foreword by Michael Anderle
H.J. Lawson Craig Martelle Paul C. Middleton
TJ Ryan Taki Drake RJ Crayton
E.R. Starling Justin Sloan Jim Johnson
J.L. Hendricks James Aaron Bradford Bates
E.E. Isherwood Felix R. Savage Andrew Dobell
Andrew Broderick James Osiris Baldiwn Spencer Pierson
So go check out John’s book, and don’t forget to preorder Justice is Calling for only $0.99. You’ll love them both!