This is not my character.
While Cynthia Hlady is taking a long vacation from penning illustrations for school, I couldn't wait to find other talent for Blood Money. So I hunted down the talents of Ana Lamas.
She is very good, but doesn't have the rapport that Cynthia and I have. Still, Ana is a joy to work with and still very talented...
This is not Makayla.
What you see above is a wonderful character, but she's not the main character for Blood Money.
Here, let me show you something...
The Devil's Dagger (Pyromage)
The Silent Road
The King's Thief
Handle with Care
At first glance Makayla doesn't look all that different from Liam, Kai, Jake, Dan, and the others. But if you look closely, you'll see it in the eyes. The eyes express more emotion than any facial expression.
Ana is very talented. She's got something really great. And what she illustrated is a beautiful character, but where it falls short is emotion. It's easy to express emotion within facial expressions. Tilt the head, tighten the lips, adjust the pose. But a person and characters soul is expressed in the eyes.
They are also an extension of yes.
I'm on the hunt.
What that means exactly might be that I ask Ana to try again. Or I may wait until Cynthia gets back. Or I may try again with another illustrator. I'll keep you posted.
For now, I have another excerpt for you!
Excerpt from BLOOD MONEY
© 2019 S.N.McKibben
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted, with the exception of a reviewer who may quote passages in a review, without written prior permission from the publisher.
PLEASE NOTE, THIS IS A ROUGH DRAFT. SPELLING, PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR ERRORS WILL BE CORRECTED BY A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR WHEN THE FINAL VERSION IS PUBLISHED.
THIS MAY OR MAY NOT BE THE FINAL VERSION IN THE BOOK.
all characters, places and setting are from the imagination of the author. Any resemblance is strictly coincidental.
Yellow eyes followed me as I walked near the edge of festive college students all pretending to be something they weren’t. For the fifth time I faced my friend, Lilly. But I didn’t look at her. No, my eyes traveled back to my faded blue Honda sitting in the parking lot of yet another rave.
“You won’t find any answers in your car.” Lilly’s topaz eyes sparkle in mischief.
“They’re all insane.” I glanced back to the throng of people and pulled the delicate silk scarf around my neck higher.
“Maybe.” She stepped forward, looking into the crowd. “But your appointment is waiting for you.”
Lilly knew just enough about me and my mission to hopefully point me in the right direction. Or rather, a person in the right direction. While this “appointment” Lilly said was a long shot, for my mother’s sake, I had to try.
The celebration was an invite only party. Lucky me, my friend secured the whereabouts, and everyone was tight lipped about what went on here. Not that anyone was doing anything illegal. Well, except for drugs maybe, but if anyone besides their inner circle knew what went down, it was likely the police would show up. If my vanilla mocha drinking butt got put in the slammer… well, I’d heard women inmates were hard core. I shuttered, not at the company behind bars, but because it reminded me too much of my past.
But the drugs weren’t the unusual part of this rave.
The same pair of cat-like eyes staring at me from inside the edge of partygoers tilted, daring me to enter the fray. The man attached to those eyes was a blond, tall, gorgeous pretender.
He wasn’t the only one wishing to be somebody else. Something else.
A sea of black lace, gothic motif and a range of contacts from color enhancing to pupil altering relaxed my nerves. The monsters I dealt with did everything within their power to fit in. These people were doing anything to look like vampires. If only they knew the reality.
Mr. Gorgeous Pretender smiled and flashed a pair of porcelain canines far longer than any humans.
“Dear lord, is that Diego Sanderson?” I whispered over my shoulder to Lilly.
But she was gone.
Typical. She always left the fun part to me.
“What’s your name?” Mr. Gorgeous loomed over me. He held an air of superiority in a black suit that could make a girl swoon. But he reminded me too much of the monsters that drained my kind dry over and over. His vertical slit iris contacts were too spot-on, his needle thin canines too life-like, and he spoke without a lisp that real people with removable teeth could not imitate without practice. Lots and lots of practice.
He stared at me, waiting for an answer, bemusement curving his lips.
Catatonic helplessness rooted me to the spot. I looked everywhere—anywhere else. I tried shaking off the terror, assuring myself with the blade under the ankle of my jeans, and reasoning with all I knew about real vampires. His skin was too rosy to be undead. If I could reach out and touch him, I bet I’d find warmth. His pupils didn’t dilate. But there was so much he had right. The motions, the look, the insufferable confidence. Everything was too coincidental for him not to have at least seen an eternal damned.
Mr. Gorgeous’ near likeness threw me off and made me revert to an eight-year-old child. Alone. Afraid. And running from monsters with nothing more than an antique blade. The heirloom was longer than a knife and shorter than a sword, but it was all I had left of a world I’d left behind along with my mother.
His smile faded and a film of concern clouded his face. Then he blinked and wrapped his hand in mine. Mr. Gorgeous radiated heat. “Hey,” he said. “Are you all right?”
A true vampire could imitate life, but his human reaction made me feel better all the same. I broke out of my fright and started breathing again. “Fine. I’m fine.”
He smiled with his sharp teeth once more in impish delight. “You seem new to the scene.”
“And you seem to have joined it because you like to scare the crap out of people.” I flashed an angry look his way.
“Guilty.” Mr. Gorgeous laughed and pulled back. “I do like watching people’s reactions. But I like frightening beautiful, young ladies the most.” He held out his hand. “Thomas.”
A wave of relief let the last of my tension go. He wasn’t the man I was supposed to meet. “Makayla.” I shook his hand.
“Beautiful name for a beautiful lady.”
Oh, a charmer. “Thank you.” I started looking around. Diego, the person I’d made an appointment with, said he’d be wearing a suit. Which was why I thought Thomas was my buyer. If he had been, I might have declined.
“What brings you here, Makayla?” He purred my name.
“I’m meeting someone.” Within the ocean of vampire goth’s, I hoped Diego would wear something other than black.
“How much for an ounce?” He eyed my neck.
I pulled back and faced Thomas. “How do you know I’m not meeting a friend?”
He raised a hand and tickled the ends of my neck scarf. “You’re not the only donor who wants to cover their scars.”
I stepped back. “I already have an appointment.”
“So formal.” He smirked enough to let his fang pinch his lower lip.
From twenty feet away, a pair of glasses shimmered and through them, back eyes fixated on me. A dark haired, olive skinned kid in a blazer and khakis came strolling over. His lopsided smile and shorter stature disarmed any panic button that might have triggered from being spotted. I hated being seen. Being seen meant trouble.
“Excuse me,” I dismissed Thomas and stepped up to the new guy.
“Hello,” the new guy said. “Are you Makayla?” He looked behind me and frowned.
“Yes. Are you Diego Sanderson?”
His attention came back to me and he nodded with that disarming grin.
Oh, thank the lord.
Diego was no taller than my own five-foot nine height. Messy, short, black hair, nerd glasses hiding his soft brown eyes and a face that screamed naïve, take advantage of me made a world of difference relieving my apprehension. “Donating” my blood to wanna-be vampires paid the rent but made for nerve-wracking first meetings.
Behind me Thomas’s buttery voice sent my spine rigid. “Sanderson.”
Diego flicked his eyes over to Thomas, grinned and nodded. “Hi Tom.”
In etiquette terms, Diego might as well have slapped Thomas in the face. Shortening a vampire’s name, even a wanna-be vampire, was like telling him his rank and title were worthless. I knew of some humans that didn’t like their names shortened. But these people weren’t vampires, or rather pretending to be vampires. A group of humans that had no idea about the horrors they badly portrayed.
“I was not done talking with the lady.” Thomas stepped closer to my back and dread sunk all the way to my feet. He might not be a vampire, but he ignored personal space like any other undead.
“She came here for me.” Diego extended his arm, inviting me into refuge.
A warm hand settled on my shoulder and words whispered in my ear. “Don’t go with him, Makayla.”
Diego remained smiling but his eyes grew intense. He was no longer looking at me, but at Thomas.
The pause in conversation sent the tiny hairs along my neck to stand on end. Thomas’ hand slipped off my shoulder and Diego broke out in another grin. This one triumphant.
“Makayla, let’s talk away from prying eyes.” Diego swept past me and back towards my car.
I looked back to find Thomas ramrod straight, lips pressed thin with a look of pity in his eyes. “It was nice to meet you, Makayla.” Then Thomas turned disappeared into the fray.
“Wait!” Damn. Thomas seemed the best candidate for finding out information, but I pulled myself together and followed Diego towards the parking lot. Catching up to him was easy even if he marched on a mission, but I didn’t let my guard down.
“Excuse me, Diego, that’s far enough.”
He turned and flashed wide eyes of worry but managed a pleasant grin. I was beginning to see how he used his innocent look to his own favor. I held out my palm. “This is as far as we go.”
Diego took my hand in both of his. Brown doe eyes peered into my soul. “Kayla, I understand about your reservations, but I need you.”
His puss-in-boots power of cute harmlessness nearly undid me. Voices in the back of my mind, soft but insistent offered assurances. He won’t hurt you. You can trust him. There’s nothing to fear. Go with him. Gentle, invisible hands pulled me forward.
“Stop.” I shook my head and tried pulling away from his hold, but he didn’t let go. “I don’t know if you’ll hurt me, I don’t believe I can trust you, there certainly is something to fear from you and I’m not going with you.”
His eyes widened as his lips parted and his face paled. “There certainly is something different about you.”
I tried tugging my hand free again, but he held it firm. “Let me go.”
“What?” Oh god. What have I gotten myself into? I craned my neck to see if I could find someone, anyone. Where was Lily when I needed her?
“Kayla!” Diego grabbed the back of my head and pulled me into his chest. “Don’t make me do this.”
“Let me go!” I struggled.
“If you go with me now you can name your price.” His eyes pleading, still soft, urged me to take his offer.
“I can’t name my price if I’m dead!”
The look of horror on Diego’s face couldn’t be faked. But I brought my knee up between his legs.
He swerved, and snarled, bringing down the mask of innocence he represented so well. A faint red light glowed from inside his pupils and his grip ratcheted tighter.
Oh shit! How had I misjudged him so badly.
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