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MIDNIGHT REIGN, Book 2 - February 2008

The following is an excerpt from MIDNIGHT REIGN, Vampire Babylon, Book Two, by Chris Marie Green.  The sequel to NIGHT RISING begins in the same way the first story did, with a main crime that will be solved by the end of this book—a murder that will be integral to both the Vampire Underground of L.A. as well as Dawn Madison’s search for her father, Frank.  Book Three, BREAK OF DAWN, will round out this trilogy in September, 2008, and that will be followed by a second Vampire Babylon trilogy….

1. Starring

When Jessica Reese came home from her job at a Hollywood bar that night, someone was waiting in the bedroom closet. 

Someone hiding amidst hanging party dresses and dry cleaning wrappers that ghosted back and forth with every slight, controlled breath.  Someone who sat patiently with a container of bleach and a long knife that would be used to slash the victim’s throat and quiet her before that Someone could tear the woman’s neck apart in leisurely delight.

Someone was going to become a star tonight.

The sheer plastic hangings leeched air out of the tiny closet, making the wait a humid, trembling vigil. 

Patient, patient, wait, just wait.

From the kitchen, a set of keys jangled onto a countertop, a pair of high-heeled shoes hammered into the wooden floor.

Someone fought to breathe, running a tongue over the sharp points of fangs.  Blood pumped like gun blasts, the resulting hunger pulsing like open wounds.  Just keep remembering why you’re hereRemember how The Lee Tomlinson made himself a star through shock value, ripping out that other woman’s throat?  You can do it, too.

Every night, entertainment channels and newscasts spotlighted stock footage of The Lee Tomlinson, “The Vampire Killer,” the accused murderer wearing a ten-yard stare, handcuffs, and a harmless smile as he was led into the courtroom for arraignment.  While breathlessly speculating about the upcoming trial, the press relished the charges: Lee had torn a woman’s throat out with his bare teeth, then become a fugitive who hadn’t even made it out of the county, thanks to a brief stop at a seedy motel.  There, after getting his head together with the aid of some marijuana, he was found: a stoned and peaceful martyr who hadn’t even questioned the “anonymous tip” regarding his whereabouts.  He hadn’t even fought the cops when they’d hauled him out of the room.  They said he’d gone willingly, with that same smile on his lips, that same perpetual look of lost innocence in his gaze.

He already had a growing entourage of adoring women wearing the same clothing, make up, and cotton-candy hairstyle that his victim—what’s her name—had sported in the one headshot they always showed on the news.  The fans camped outside of the bar where their idol used to work, holding signs proclaiming his hotness, his innocence. 

A celebrity.  That’s what The Lee Tomlinson had turned out to be.  A hopeful, Brandon Lee-lookalike actor who had never been anything more than a face in a mouthwash commercial…

…until the cops had uncovered witnesses who’d placed Lee near the scene of the crime, then harvested the DNA evidence that led to the arrest of “The Vampire Killer.”

But the press’s nickname for Lee would become a joke tonight, right after they saw what a set of serious fangs could really do.

Footsteps exploded closer to the bedroom.  Closer.

Someone shivered.  If great care hadn’t already been taken to shave every body part, the hair would be standing on end over each inch of skin, a body electric with skin-buzzing currents.

Tap, tap, tap, went the victim’s last footsteps.

The sound grew muted as she walked onto the bedroom carpet. 

Someone started to ache, aroused by the woman’s proximity. 

Stay calm.  If The Lee Tomlinson can carry this off, anyone can. Now it’s your time to shine.

The fact that murdering someone using The Lee’s same patterns didn’t register much.  Killing this woman might cause reasonable doubt in a courtroom for him.

Instead, jealousy, even anger twisted every heartbeat.  Confusion and need pumped through each tangled vein like tainted blood.

You’re smarter than the cops, so you won’t get caught like he did.  You’re smarter than The Lee Tomlinson, too.  You can beat him at his own game.

The thought of sinking fangs into flesh warped into a fantasy, one in which each violent bite was a thrust into Lee, a furious victory.

Through the slit of the sliding door, the victim came into view, ambling into the brandied darkness on three-inch heels.  The steady drip of the adjoining bathroom’s leaking faucet kept time with Someone’s strangled breathing as the light from a dying streetlamp outside suffused the room.

The victim was on the midnight side of thirty, shrouded with August sweat and a dark red dress.  She bent to work off the thin straps of her heels, her hair frizzed from humidity, her bodice gaping to reveal most of her small breasts.

Sex.  I can smell the sex she wants so badly right on her skin.  How will it taste?

Someone’s belly went tight, body tensing with the yearning to join with a counterpart.


Someone craved to become him, to fuse with him again in this substitute act of connecting.  An act of beautiful violence.  An act of hating and worshipping a fallen hero.

Unaware of what was in the closet, the victim sauntered to her adjoining bathroom, slipping the tiny straps of her dress down her shoulders on the way.

The bathroom light swicked on, slicing over the floor.

It’s time.  It’s my turn to shine now.

Carefully, Someone grabbed the knife, then opened the closet door and crept to the bathroom, fangs gleaming during the impulsive emergence of a smile.

And when Jessica Reese looked in the mirror to see Someone behind her, it was already too late for her to scream.

2. The Players

Even with her eyes closed, Dawn Madison was aware of a vague, lurking danger.

Dressed in basic street wear—a sleeveless white T, black jeans, leather bracelets—she crouched, waiting for the next attack, senses alive.  She caught the scent of old wood, paint, and must that lingered in the corners of the room.  She heard a reporter’s voice barking from the TV speakers her opponents had turned on in order to mask their movements.  Her skin prickled as an air-conditioned breeze hushed over her.

But there was something else out there…stalking… 

A pop from her right split the air, and a projectile whizzed toward her.  With the well-trained moves of an athlete, she banked to the left, using her shoulder to cushion herself while rolling to her knees.  Another object came at her from the opposite direction.  She dropped backward, grunting, her spine hitting the floor, her bent legs splaying to give her leeway.  Immediately rolling to her stomach then pushing up to her feet, she landed in another crouch, her hands at the ready….

“Not bad for the dead of night,” yelled a tinny male voice that echoed off the windowless walls.

Heart pattering, Dawn exhaled, regulating her stress while keeping her eyes shut.  She maintained her position, ready to withstand anything.  “You guys take forever to reload.  Can’t you go any faster?”

She heard Kiko Daniels make an okay-you-asked-for-it sound as he inserted another beanbag into his gun.

Dawn tuned her ears into what was happening with her second opponent.  Breisi Montoya.  Kiko wasn’t very mobile with the back brace he was wearing, but his team member had been all over the room trying to whoop Dawn’s ass during this agility session.  The other woman’s bare feet cushioned her stealthy attacks, aiding her in smacking Dawn with three damned bruises already.

The drone of the TV battled Dawn’s concentration as she tried to detect Breisi’s whereabouts.  To the right?  Left? 

Temples throbbing, she stayed cool.  She’d have no other choice if this simulation were real; although the three of them hadn’t faced any vampires for over a month, the monsters were still out there.  In fact, The Voice kept telling them it was just a matter of time before the vamps reemerged from their “Underground”—or whatever it was the team had gotten wind of.

Dawn blew out a breath, picturing herself outside at night, the moon shrouded behind the tips of pine trees.  This training session was supposed to simulate the threat of one vamp variety they’d uncovered.  The subspecies was bald, pale, clawed, with iron fangs and attacks that came as fast as those beanbags, especially when they used whip-quick tails with bladed ends. 

Red-eyes, the team had called them.

But, Underground, she knew the group was named something else.  Guards.  Robby Pennybaker had revealed this and more before he’d turned into yet another form of vamp, a creature way more powerful than a Guard or one of the basic silver-eyed Goths the team had also encountered.  Terrible to look upon and deadly to fight, Robby had thrown diminutive Kiko across a room and into a wall, breaking his back.  The creature had also mentally violated Dawn’s mind until she thought she would break, too.

And that’s just one of the reasons Dawn had killed him.

Now, she was preparing to function without ever having to look any of those creatures in the eye—she’d never get mind-screwed by a vamp again.  Wouldn’t ever allow them inside so they could see her weaknesses, especially her desperation to find her dad, who’d gone missing over a month ago….

She heard a pop from across the room, straight ahead.  Responding by pure instinct, she launched herself sideways, forcing her mind to act as a weapon.


But the trick didn’t work this time, not like it had when she’d fought Robby.  She’d accidentally smacked away the vampire with some kind of mental shove, and she didn’t know how to recreate it, even if she’d surprised herself by doing it a couple of times during this last month of training.

That made it an undependable tactical option.

Whap!  The beanbag punched Dawn’s hip as she hit the floor.  Shit.  And ouch.  Time for a new plan.

Before Kiko could get off a shot and Breisi could reload, Dawn opened her eyes and unwound a chain from around her waist.  A nine-section whip chain, to be precise….

(Stay tuned for more next month!)

(Later in the chapter, after the whip chain…)

As Kiko went to the other side of the room, Dawn busied herself by loading a beanbag into Breisi’s gun.  By chance, she glanced over, catching sight of Kiko by the far corner, turning away from her.  He inspected his gun, slipping a hand to his back, holding it like it was paining him.  But in the next second, he was loading a beanbag, acting as if everything was normal.

Frowning, she took off the rubber-soled work boots she’d been wearing for the gym floor, then her socks.  Kiko was a big boy and she wasn’t going to tell him to take a rest; she knew damned well that bringing up the subject would only encourage him to prove her wrong by playing that much harder.  The best thing would be to keep an eye on him, and that was that.

Waiting until Breisi closed her eyes and settled into a defensive hunch, Dawn changed position, ready to give the other woman a few karma bruises. 

But before the first shot could be fired, the TV blipped off, the room going quiet.
Her body readied itself, pounding, heating, because she knew what was coming next.

The Voice eased through the speakers, low and rough, still-of-the-night lethal.
“I need all of you in my office,” he said.  “We’ve finally got something.”

(See what happens when Limpet and Associates investigates Jessica Reese’s murder and continues their search for Frank Madison and the Underground in MIDNIGHT REIGN!)


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A noir-mystery-fantasy series by Chris Marie Green