Sneak Peek: Chapter One of Blood Bound
With Blood Bound now available for pre-order on Amazon, I thought it would be fun to give a preview of the first chapter! I’m so excited about these characters and this story, and I can’t wait for you all to read it. Thank you so much to everyone who has pre-ordered so far!
I do want to note before sharing this that Blood Bound will have a trigger warning in the opening pages, as it contains some scenes that deal with sensitive and potentially triggering content.
BLOOD BOUND: CHAPTER ONE
That was the number of times they’d stolen the blood from her veins. Once each month since she was brought to the cursed underground streets of Terra Nocturne over twenty years ago. Once each month it would continue until the day she died. Offering, they called it. As though the arrangement was willing and voluntary. As though she chose to come here and give a container full of her blood to feed the creatures who had held her captive since she was nine years old.
If she lived to the respectable elven age of 700, that would bring her number above 8,000.
Gods be good, she would escape before then. If it turned out that the gods were not good, she hoped at least that they were merciful and would grant her death long before she neared that number.
Miria Delien averted her gaze as the long needle pierced the pale skin on her forearm with a sharp pinch. She refused to watch as a clear tube carried her blood to the collection bag hanging on the metal hook beside her. Those things, at least, she could avoid seeing.
But no matter how tightly she closed her eyes to the world around her, she couldn’t escape the sickly odor of the infirmary or the mechanical whirring of the machine that took her blood. It was one of the humans’ creations, a tool to care for the sick on the surface. But in Terra Nocturne, that had never been its purpose.
“Just a few more minutes, and you can be on your way. Is there anything I can get you to make you more comfortable?” The doctor’s smile might have been a reassuring one if not for the pair of fangs it revealed. Before being turned, the doctor in charge of taking the blood offerings had once been an elf. After his transformation, he’d retained his elven features—high cheekbones and long, pointed ears. He still expected his elven heritage to earn him some sort of camaraderie with the elven donors. Perhaps for some of them, it did.
It didn’t get him anywhere with Miria.
“You could start by fucking off.”
“Some water, perhaps?” The doctor’s pencil scratched against the parchment as he marked something down.
“You can drop the bullshit. At least the other vampires who work here don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are.”
“No water, then?”
“Monsters, every single one of you. Including you—no matter how much you try to pretend you’re not.”
The doctor’s only reaction was a slight twitch at the corner of his mouth.
“Does elven blood really taste better than human blood? Or is that only true for vampires who weren’t elves before they were turned?”
“I wouldn’t know,” he said coolly. “I’ve never tried human blood. They stopped trying to keep them down here long before my time. They’re frail creatures, humans. Too weak for frequent enough offerings to be viable livestock for us monsters. They breed and multiply like rabbits. It’s impossible to control their population.”
Miria leaned back in the chair with a scowl and squeezed her eyes shut again.
A bell on the machine chimed, signaling to both of them that the offering was complete. The doctor cut off the flow of her blood and removed the needle, then wrapped a cloth around her arm to stop the bleeding. While she held the cloth in place, he sealed off the bag of blood and put it away in the back room.
He handed Miria three silver coins and a slip of paper that would excuse her from work that evening. “Take it easy tonight. If you start to feel light-headed, go ahead and lie down. I’ll see you again next month. It’s been a pleasure as always, Miria.”
Miria stuffed the coins and paper into the pouch on her hip, then slid off of the chair and let the door slam shut behind her. Outside, the constant darkness of the cavern was broken only by the dim lamps that lined the streets of the Third District. She didn’t wait for her eyes to adjust to the abrupt change in lighting before she hurried away. She needed to get away from that godsforsaken building, needed to clear her head.
At a glance, Terra Nocturne’s Third District almost looked like a city that was lower class, but free. The elves had their choice of jobs and living arrangements. They could choose to live however they liked so long as they paid rent on time and could afford their own food. Some managed to earn their way into the higher-class Second District, where they could have more freedom and live alongside vampires as near equals. Some were even able to make it to the First District as servants or consorts to the vampire nobility who lived there.
But as long as they were forced to give their blood to their captors, as long as they were trapped underground and cut off from nature and the rest of their people, the elven folk of Terra Nocturne would never truly be free.
In the distance, the clock tower rang out eight times to mark the hour—a reminder that on the surface, the sun would just be rising. After what should have been the final bell, the ringing shifted to a more urgent alarm. It echoed through the cavern with an intensity that could only mean one thing.
There was going to be an execution.
At the sound of her name, Miria spun around to see her closest friend, Azalea Nydira, sprinting toward her, holding her brown dress off the ground in her fist. Her long, dark hair fell in waves around her face, tumbling down over the low-cut dress she wore. Her features were soft, with round cheekbones and full lips. Despite the lack of sunlight in the city, her smooth skin had an olive complexion.
Azalea paused for a moment to catch her breath. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Who is it?” Miria’s chest tightened more with every ring of the bell.
Azalea looked over her shoulder at the cliff in the distance. “I’m not sure.”
“Bet it’s Samrith—he’s one of our regulars at the Silver Leaf. Got drunk last night and tried to attack one of the vampires. He got a pretty nasty punch on one of them before he was taken in.”
“Why would he do that?”
Miria shrugged. “He had enough, I guess. He’s lived down here for centuries. Can’t say I blame him for wanting to try to take one of them down with him. I hope I can do the same when it’s my time.”
“Miria,” Azalea hissed. “Don’t talk like that.”
They started toward the base of the cliff, where the Third District bordered the Second. Far above them, a noose hung from the wooden structure right at the edge, waiting for its victim.
Miria searched the gathering crowd until her gaze fell on a familiar figure walking out of a nearby building. Zephyr Tamrien’s unusual features made him easy to find in a crowd. He had the wide, muscular frame of a human and towered over most elves. His dirty blond hair was thick and wild, not the sleek, thin hair elves often had. Even his ears, which boasted multiple piercings, were shorter than the average elf’s. She’d always wondered if there was a hint of human blood in his lineage, but even he had no idea. He’d been too young when he was brought to Terra Nocturne to remember his parents, or where he’d come from.
She waved him over, and he pushed through the crowd to join her and Azalea.
His gaze flicked up toward the noose then back down to Miria. “Not the best way to start off our morning.”
“I’m sure his day is going worse than ours,” Miria said.
Above them, a pair of vampire guards dragged out a frail, lanky man. She could only barely make out Samrith’s face, his eyes wild and terrified.
Miria thought about how she’d spoken to the doctor that morning. Being rude wasn’t an offense that would get her killed, but it would be easy enough for the doctor to lie about it if he wanted her to be punished. It could just as well be her up there someday.
A third vampire strolled out from the watchtower at the top of the cliff. He wore a long, black jacket and had a thin, silver crown atop his dark hair. His pale skin nearly glowed in the pale light. Even before he spoke a word, the presence of the vampire king was enough to silence the crowd.
Miria clenched her fists as she looked up at Lord Nero Cineris, the one who’d brought her and Azalea to Terra Nocturne so many years ago. They owed him a debt, he’d said, because he’d saved their lives from a wolf that would have killed them both. They were both too relieved to be alive to question him at the time, so they followed him to Terra Nocturne, not knowing that paying their debt to him meant they would never again leave the city.
It was bullshit. The only debt she owed him was his death. To spill as much vampire blood as he’d stolen from her.
Lord Nero held up a device to his mouth, amplifying his voice through the cavern. “This man is being executed today for attacking one of our vampire guards. Let his death serve as a reminder to you all that rebellion will not be tolerated.”
He waved his hand, and the guards shoved Samrith onto the platform, ignoring his desperate cries.
All his pleading accomplished was robbing him of his dignity in his final moments.
The vampires pushed him forward, and he swung at the end of the rope. His body jerked as he struggled for breaths he would never be able to take. There would be no snapping of his neck, no quick death for him.
Azalea buried her head in Miria’s shoulder. “I don’t want to watch this.”
Miria wrapped her arm around her friend, but she wouldn’t look away. She wanted every one of her people’s deaths burned in her memory. She wouldn’t forget them. She didn’t care much for Samrith. He was a drunk—an asshole who cheated at cards every chance he got. But he didn’t deserve to die like this. No one did.
As the spectacle ended and most of the crowd began to disperse, Miria stayed, still staring up at Samrith’s body.
“What a terrible way to go,” Zephyr muttered, shaking his head.
Azalea pulled away from Miria and rubbed her reddened eyes. The carefully drawn black lines on her eyelids smeared off on her hands. “He should have known what would happen if he attacked one of them.”
Miria sighed. “He did. He just didn’t care anymore.”
After a long silence, Azalea wiped her eyes again. “I wasn’t coming to find you just to tell you about the execution.”
“What did you want, then?”
“I was just coming to make sure you were okay after your blood offering. You don’t usually…” Azalea paused, biting her lip as she searched for words. “You don’t take good care of yourself. Especially after your offerings.”
“I don’t need you to babysit me, Zel.” Miria scowled.
“I’m not babysitting. Girard asked me to come find you and make sure you don’t drink yourself to death. He’s been worried about you.”
“He should worry about himself,” Miria said, though her tone dropped the bite it had earlier. It was hard to stay angry when it came to the man who’d taken them in and raised them—especially now that his wife, Avaline, had moved on to the After. Of course Girard was worried about his adoptive daughters’ well-being. She and Azalea were all he had left.
And with an execution following her offering, Girard and Azalea weren’t wrong to think she planned to drink what was left of her day away at the Silver Leaf.
Miria looked to Zephyr. “You’ve been quiet.”
Zephyr shook his head. “I’m not getting in the middle of this.”
Before Miria could press him to defend her, a male elf stumbled over to the three of them with a drunken gait, his furious gaze fixed on Azalea.
Miria didn’t recognize the male, but it was safe to assume he was one of the regulars at Madam Leone’s brothel, where Azalea worked. It wasn’t unusual for Azalea’s clients to recognize her out on the streets, or for her to acknowledge them with a smile or a kiss blown in their direction. Miria was used to being the awkward friend at her side. But it wasn’t normal for one of them to stumble up to her in the streets to make demands. Usually, they had more discretion than that.
He grabbed Azalea by the arm. “You still owe me an hour.”
Azalea’s green eyes burned as she shoved the male away from her. “I owe you nothing.”
He shook a small pouch in her face. “My coin’s as good as anyone else’s. I purchased a service that was never delivered.”
A vampire guard paused his patrolling of the street, and for a moment, Miria believed he might intervene. Instead, he leaned against the nearest building and watched the pair of elves in the street like they were an intriguing theater production there solely for his enjoyment.
Miria pushed in front of Azalea, positioning herself between her friend and the man attempting to assault her. “Leave her alone. She’s not interested.”
He turned, giving her a better view of his puffy face. The redness in his freckled cheeks spread all the way to the tips of his ears, which were mostly covered by stringy, dark hair. “This doesn’t concern you! I’m a patron requesting services from this whore.” He spat out the word like an insult, like she was unworthy of him even though he was the one who sought her company.
“Your business isn’t wanted, Aeidan,” Azalea said. “Madam Leone banned you from returning.”
Upon hearing his name, Miria finally realized who the male was. Azalea had come home from work in tears only a few nights earlier because of him. “Of course she banned him. What’s between his legs is so inadequate that he feels the need to hit women to make up for it.”
Aeidan raised a hand briefly before lowering it again, as though he realized that by striking her, he’d only be proving her point.
Azalea grinned. “I’ve seen it myself—inadequate is a kind word for it.”
Aeidan’s already reddened face turned several shades deeper until he was nearly purple with rage. He pointed a shaking finger at Miria and stammered, searching for words, but none came.
Miria wrapped an arm around Azalea and turned away from him.
“I suggest you walk away, friend,” Zephyr said, placing a hand on Aeidan’s arm. “Before someone gets hurt.”
“She’s nothing but a worthless, dirty whore, anyway,” Aeidan spat.
Miria spun around and grabbed Aeidan’s shirt. “Take that back.”
Aeidan grinned. “No.”
She lurched forward. Her head reeled from the sudden movement, reminding her that they’d just taken her blood that morning. The world spun around her, and she struggled to focus on Aeidan.
He took advantage of her disorientation and shoved her away from him. She stumbled back, tripping over rocks in the dirt, and fell to the ground.
Zephyr’s distorted voice called out to her from somewhere far away, somewhere she couldn’t reach. She struggled to focus on his features through the black spots at the edges of her vision until the darkness took over and pulled her down into the abyss.
I hope you enjoyed this early preview! Blood Bound releases January 12, 2020. If you enjoyed the first chapter, don’t forget to one click and pre-order your copy today!