The City Beneath
Night Blood #1
April 28, 2015
Amazon | B& N | iTunes | Kobo | Publisher
As a journalist, Cassidy DiRocco thought she had seen every depraved thing New York City’s underbelly had to offer. But while covering what appears to be a vicious animal attack, she finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed. Her exposé makes her the target of the handsome yet brutal Dominic Lysander, the Master Vampire of New York City, who has no problem silencing her to keep his coven's secrets safe…
But Dominic offers Cassidy another option: ally. He reveals she is a night blood, a being with powers of her own, including the ability to become a vampire. As the body count escalates, Cassidy is caught in the middle of a vampire rebellion. Dominic insists she can help him stop the coming war, but wary of his intentions, Cassidy enlists the help of the charming Ian Walker, a fellow night blood. As the battle between vampires takes over the city, Cassidy will have to tap into her newfound powers and decide where to place her trust...
I nearly limped right past him, clouded by my own physical pain and the churning unease in my gut, but the rattling hiss that growled from the alley tripped my interest. I stopped walking.
The night was cool and quiet in the aftermath of sirens and flashing lights. My scalp tingled in response to the noise emanating from the alley, and I thought of all the things I should do: I should return to the main crime scene, I should finish my interviews, I should write my story and submit it to print like a good, reliable, by-the-book reporter. The hiss rattled from the alley again, but as I’d never been one to leave questions unanswered, I slipped a can of pepper spray from my brown leather, cross-body satchel and sidestepped into the alley to find the source of the noise.
What I found was a man, and the rattling hiss was his struggling, gurgling, uneven breathing. His entire body was ravaged by thirddegree burns. Tucked into a shadowed alley between two buildings on the corner of Farragut Road and East 40th, he was crouched down as if warding off an attacker—perhaps in his case a flamethrower—and not moving. I cringed, thinking about the injury that was blocking his throat to produce such a horrible rattling. Maybe he was crying.
Maybe he was just trying to breathe. I couldn’t decipher his expression because his burns were so devastating. His face wasn’t really a face anymore beyond the rough distinctions of a lump for a nose and a hole for a mouth. The unease churning in my gut all night bottomed out. I wouldn’t have imagined that someone so injured could still breathe.
Trading the pepper spray for my cell phone, I dialed for Detective Greta Wahl.
“Wahl here.” She answered on the fifth ring, just before I suspected my call would transfer to voice mail. “I already gave you a statement, DiRocco. Let the other sharks have a bite, will you?”
“I found another victim, G,” I said without preamble. “Alive? Where?” Greta asked, snapping from friend to detective instantly.
“A block up Farragut. He’s still breathing, but he’s different from the others. No bites.” I swallowed the bile that clogged my throat like hot ash. “His entire body is burned to charcoal.”
“Is he wearing a necklace, like the ones from last week? They were gold with a wolf pendant.”
“I remember,” I said. “And no, he’s not wearing a necklace. And he’s not shot execution-style like those victims, either. He’s burned. This is probably a different case altogether.”
Greta sighed. “Stay with him. I’ll send a paramedic to you ASAP. It might be a few minutes, though. We’ve still got our seven victims being stabilized here.”
“Got it. We’ll be waiting.” I hesitated a fraction of a second before asking, “Any one of our victims talking yet?”
“The few that still have throats haven’t said a word. They’re all in shock. It’s not pretty down here, DiRocco.”
“I know. Keep me posted, and send Nathan to me if you can.”
“Will do,” Greta said.
I ended the call and sat gingerly on the ground next to the man to offer what comfort I could and to give my arthritic hip the rest it needed. Injuries were supposed to heal with time, but the scar buildup on mine had only increased in the five years since I’d taken a bullet. The first stakeout of my career had set a high standard for my field performance, but it had also left a permanent reminder to listen to my gut. My hip ached on a regular basis, and lately, it would click and grind when put to excess use. After an entire day on my feet, interviewing officers and tracking down witnesses, my activities had apparently escalated way past excess.
Once I settled on the pavement, I held the man’s left elbow—one of two visible patches of skin not blackened or blistered—and felt an overwhelming, humbling gratitude, no matter my past injuries or current residual pain, that none of these victims had been me.
According to the brief interview I’d snagged earlier in the night from Detective Wahl, my sometimes informant and longtime friend, seven other victims were still alive at Paerdegat Park out of the twelve or so they’d been able to identify. Most of them were in critical condition.
Nights like tonight, when the world was writhing and in pieces, I’d rather feel the pressure to write on deadline than capture a close-up of one of those ragged, bloody bite marks. The victim next to me made another rattling hiss, the same agonized noise he’d been making with every few breaths. He wasn’t visibly bitten like the other victims, but his wounds looked wholly more devastating. The only other body part spared from the burns was the left half of his chin, which, ironically enough, bore an old, healed scar.
About the Author
Melody Johnson is the author of the Night Blood series. She graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with her B.A. in creative writing and psychology. While still earning her degree, she worked as an editing intern for Wahida Clark Presents Publishing. She was a copyeditor for several novels, including Cheetah by Missy Jackson; Trust No Man II by Cash; and Karma with a Vengeance by Tash Hawthorne. Book #1 of the Night Blood series, The City Beneath, is her debut novel. When she isn't writing, Melody can be found hiking the many woodsy trails in her Pennsylvania hometown or sunning and swimming at the beach. You can learn more about Melody and her work at elodymay.blog.com, Facebook and Twitter.