The Value of Her Surprise
(Excerpt from a work-in-progress novel; a reimagining of the tale of Little Red Riding Hood)
Gabriel had sensed it long before he had even reached the front door. It was likely because it was a beautiful fall day and he was driving home with the convertible's top down. At first, he simply assumed he was just smelling the remnants of her on the leather seats, like a warm memory. He was excited to have a three-day weekend ahead with the love of his life. But then that scent grew stronger until he was pushing the buttons of the neighborhood gate code, and like a predator sensing for another predator through the winds, he inhaled deeply. The scent was unmistakable; his hands clenched tight around the steering wheel.
Muttering a few profanities under his breath, Gabriel pushed harder on the gas as he headed to the house on the far end of the sprawling community. The farthest from the entrance, and closest to the woods and lake was theirs. By the time he had pulled into the driveway and rushed through the front door, he was already so anxious he was hardly thinking straight. Gabriel threw his bag on the edge of the couch and with another growl headed directly down the hallway and towards the bedroom. He was so focused he didn’t even notice the spell on the bedroom doorknob, and the moment his hand wrapped around it, his body relaxed and was held frozen. Gabriel stood in the hallway, hand on the door and unable to move.
“Shhhh my sweet. I got you a present, but you can’t get mad…” The voice rolled into his mind, like the soft caress of velvet and warmth. He wanted to shake his head, to clear her out of his mind, but the spell held him still.
“It’s a very special present. And I promise, she’s willing… well, so far she has been.” That voice! It could do things to him that no touch ever had. Gabriel felt as if the woman’s breath was licking down his neck, goose-bumps rose all over his body and his blue eyes softened.
“Open the door Red.” He tapped into his own power, eyes growing icy as he managed to force the words out, his Irish accent bubbling out with his command.
“Promise me…” her voice pulled at things deep within him, Gabriel could feel his claws beginning to grow and his jaw tightened. If she didn’t release him from her spell…
He felt a small tingle and then his body lurched forward as the knob turned and the door flew open. The room was dimly glowing, lit only by dancing candlelight. His eyes had no problem adjusting however and instantly he could see her.
Red. His Red. Her body was unmistakable. With skin as soft as petals and as pale as gypsum, the woman appeared to glow in the flickering light. That glow was all the more appealing with the contrast of her mane. Hair that was every shade of crimson, cherry, scarlet, and ruby; it was so warmly intense you could get lost in its wavy depths. Red was a woman of rare legend and Gabriel was proud to be hers just as much as she was his. They were coming up on a big anniversary soon… one he had special plans for. But those thoughts were far from his mind as her scent flooded the room, and because he could sense what she had been about to do. Something she had just recently sworn never to do within these walls as she lay outstretched on their bed, licking her lips.
She wasn’t alone. Her body was intertwined with that of another woman, creating a blend of color from their toes to their hair. Those ribbons of rouge fire faded away into a stark contrast of a thick sable black. His eyes traveled down the raven-haired stranger’s body, across spray-tan-colored skin that was dotted small with small tattoos of Japanese symbols. He counted one on the girl’s shoulder, another above her belly button, the third symbol on her inner thigh, and a final mark near her left ankle. This he recognized as the symbol of trust. His eyes traveled back up to the mark along her inner thigh, and it moved. He blinked and took a step forward. And that is when he saw, the symbol hadn’t moved - it had dripped, and it was not a tattoo at all but rather a bloody bite mark.
Gabriel snarled and rushed at the bed, his movements so quick and fluid that he had Red snatched up by a strong fistful of that trademark hair before she had even seen him move. When he looked into her eyes he knew instantly why her reflexes were off. The eyes that looked back at him were heavy with solid ebony irises surrounded by glowing rings, rings pulsing slowly and evenly. Red was in the early stages of being blood drunk. He knew he could watch the girl on the bed die through Red’s pulsing eyes. It was the one thing she had never been able to hide, those eyes of her truly were windows, and when she fed the crimson rings around her empty irises began to glow and dance to the rhythm of her victims' ever slowing heartbeat.
The girl groaned softly and it brought his attention back to the bed. Red’s bite contained an anticoagulant, and a small pool of blood was starting to form on the sheets below the girl. Red had heard the moaning also and she pushed against his grip, her nails reaching up at his arm and digging in. Gabriel cursed softly and used his other hand to grab hold of her wrists and lift her straight up and off of the bed.
“What the hell are you doing Red?! What - the hell - is this?” Gabriel fought not to yell, but his voice certainly wasn’t quiet.
“Oh come on. Don’t be a spoilsport!” her voice was husky and she pouted at him while balancing on her tiptoes as he held tight to her wrists and hair. “I told you she was willing…” again her magics tugged at things low inside of him and he shook his head at her.
“Willing to do what, Red? What lie did you tell her? How much have you drained that you’re already this high on the bloodlust?”
Her widening grin was answer enough he knew whatever she had told the girl that it had nothing to do with the fact that Red could suck every drop of blood from her veins before she would even try to scream. He growled and turned, one hand still in her hair and the other holding her wrists tight enough the bruises were already beginning to show and threw her against the wall. Gabriel pushed his body against hers and he felt the icy energy radiating from her cool skin. Red winced, though it was more of a habit of a reaction as she didn’t feel much physical pain anymore. Being a form of Dead did have its advantages. Still, she whimpered a bit at his roughness. Before she had a chance to attempt to defend herself, Gabriel was inches from her face, voice a deep hissing whisper.
“You know I can tell when you’re playing and when you’re actually hunting. I can smell the hunger all over you. This isn’t about sex, she’s just food to you….” Suddenly his power was there, gnashing its teeth against her energy. His hand released from her hair but only to move to her throat. Red’s pulsing eyes met his and her grin faltered at the anger burning just as brightly in his gaze. They both knew if he wanted to punch a Red-sized hole through the thick walls, he could easily do so. She stayed still, like a ragdoll in his inhumanely strong grasp, pressed hard against the wall.
“I wanted to surprise you.” Her voice rasped.
“Surprise me? Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting to come home to you killing someone in our bed. After we JUST agreed to keep this place separate from all that. This was supposed to be our sanctuary! So yea I’m fucking surprised. I guess I’ll give that to you - you certainly succeeded in surprising me! I gotta tell you though, Red – I’m not too happy about this particular choice of surprise.” His grip tightened and he shook her ever so slightly each time he repeated the word “surprise”. He was angry, incensed enough that his words had taken on more of that old Irish tilt in addition to the rumbling growls.
This was their home, albeit only for the last three months, but he had hoped to be able to finally settle down here for a while. They had been moving around for years, running or chasing depending on circumstances, and they were both in need of a change. Gabriel had considered a lot before purchasing this property. It was exactly what they needed; a decent enough sized house with attic storage and a partially finished basement, a two-car garage, and a fenced-in yard with a garden, a large deck and a pool off to the side. In the back corner of their sprawling yard was a workshop. If Gabriel’s pack ever needed to come to stay with them for a “family reunion”, the six bedrooms upstairs plus the two extended spaces in the basement would suffice with a bit of doubling up. It was in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of town with decent enough distances between the neighbors that they could turn the music up as loud as they wanted and not be worried about any noise complaints. But the biggest draw of all was that it was surrounded by a National Forest. Coming home to find his girlfriend murdering an innocent girl was not ever a part of what he had wanted when he had finally thought about settling down. Gabriel suddenly felt her body tense as those pulsing eyes flashed with their own anger in response and her wrists attempted pushing against his ironclad hold.
She tried to speak but his fingers around her throat had tightened too much. He wasn’t concerned with suffocating her, the death magic running through her already meant that she didn’t need to breathe much, but he could still make it hurt and cut off her ability to speak. However, he always seemed to forget – that wasn’t much of a problem for her either. She pushed her thoughts into his mind with a defiant shout.
“I wasn’t breaking our agreement! I wasn’t going to kill her Gabe; I just needed to taste her. To make sure it was true before I told you.” Before he could respond, her voice continued its echo through him. Her eyes flashed at him again.
“We finally did it.” It took him a second and he frowned at her, but then Gabriel’s grip faltered for just a moment as he realized what her words meant, and Red’s smile returned.
“No…” He whispered in disbelief and slowly turned back to the girl who was just beginning to regain consciousness. She was moving slowly, gradually looking around the room and Gabriel finally released Red just as the raven-haired girl blinked sleepy lilac eyes up at them. When Red spoke this time, it was out loud.
“Yes my love, it’s true. She’s a descendant. I can still taste the old power, it is faint but, it is wild and it is there.” As if a moment ago he hadn’t strangled her against the wall, Red was now affectionately at Gabriel’s back, hands trailing across broad shoulders and down muscular arms. She let the edges of her nails push against his flesh the way she knew he enjoyed. Her head came to rest on his shoulder as they both looked down at the still semi-dazed girl giggling nervously in their bed. “I found her. We have our leverage. He cannot refuse to grant us audience now.”
About the author
Reading books has always been my escape & that's greatly influenced my own writing styles. Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Thriller - taking folk or fairy tales & twisting them inside out, dangerous romance - I love to write. You've been warned.
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters