The Living Night:Part One(Vampire Thriller Book 1)

By: Jack Conner

Chapter 1

When the sun went down over the Sahara, Ruegger stuck his head above the sand and scanned the horizon for assassins.

Clear. For the moment.

He stood, dusted himself off and lit a cigarette, feeling the cooling desert wind against his neck. It was so peaceful here. So hot during the day, but when the sun disappeared the land cooled rapidly. As a vampire, Ruegger was only able to enjoy the last of the day’s heat before the cold of night took over, and he relished it.

Sand stirred. He turned to see Danielle emerging from the ground and brushed at some of the sand around her lips.

“We survived another day,” she said, and kissed him.

“Now to start running again.”

She shook an arm, and sand spilled out of her sleeve. “At least it’s better than tunneling through dirt.”

Too true. Tunneling didn't afford much sleep, whereas some rest could be had sitting on a camel—not much, but some. He could see the exhaustion in her beautiful face, and the fear. Though also a vampire, Danielle was much younger and therefore more vulnerable than he was.

"The hunt ends tonight,” he promised. “One way or another."

As they checked their weapons for sand clogs, Danielle swore.

“What is it?” he asked.

She pointed. A sandstorm boiled up from the south, blotting out the stars. Before it moved a string of dark figures—the death-squad, surely, ready to continue the pursuit across land.

“Damn,” Ruegger said. “Let’s hurry.”

They picked their way over to the camels, which they’d led along by psychic means during the day while the two vampires tunneled. He helped her mount, then climbed astride his own camel. “Ra,” he said, and the animal set out. Danielle rode at his side, looking half ready to slide out of her saddle.

“Want some more blood?” he said.

“You don’t have any left to spare, babe.”

He bit back a curse. “I’m sorry I got you into this.’

“Hell with that. I’m the one that wanted to come.”

But I’m the one that let you. When she’d learned of his habit of going on a vision quest every decade or so in the Sahara and asked him why he hadn't gone on one since they'd been together, he hadn't known what to say. Under the premise of their anniversary, she’d demanded to go with him on one. Now here they were.

“You couldn’t have known the abunka would show up,” Danielle said. “Besides, if there’s a hit out on us, they would go after us anywhere. Hell, coming all the way out here to get us probably slowed them down.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But why are they after us in the first place?” It had been a strange hunt, with the abunka (a race of immortal distinct from vampires) and their abilities to tunnel through sand at speed. It had certainly kept Ruegger and Danielle busy.

“We’ve made plenty of enemies,” she reminded him.

Too true. “They must be renegade.” Traditional abunka lived only in the ground, but these only went below during day. Neither race, abunka nor vampire, could survive the sun.

“They’re pretty handy underground, though,” Danielle said. “Anyway, tonight we reach the pillar.”

“And Triboli, if he’s there. Are you strong enough to face him?’

“Like a bull.”

Frowning, Ruegger watched Danielle. Sand plastered her face and tangled her hair. Her lips were dry and cracked and parted slightly as if she didn't have the strength to keep them closed, and he was sure he looked just as bad. They required human blood on a regular basis, sometimes feeding more than once a night when they were in a city (only small sips, never a kill ... unless the person deserved it), but it had been too long now and, in heading toward one of the twenty or so sacred pillars scattered throughout the desert, they hoped to find a source of blood. And cigarettes.

"That the last one?" he said.

She nodded, the dark-stemmed clove crackling between her lips. She corkscrewed atop her bumpy perch to catch a glimpse of their pursuers less than a mile behind and slapped the flank of her camel to make it go faster.

He glanced up at the moon, half full and waltzing across the clear sky, a hot wind having blown up from the equator. He focused on the wasteland before them, trying to sort through the billowings of the sandstorm …

"Bingo!" called Danielle. "I see it."

A sudden clearing of the storm had revealed the pillar, about a hundred yards ahead.

"Is that what I think it is?" she said.

He examined the structure more closely. Three camels were tied to a post outside it. Probably one rider, he thought—one animal to ride and two reserves. Ruegger and Danielle kept reserves, as well.

"Looks that way," he said.

"Think …” She swallowed. “Think it’s Triboli?”

He heard the fear in her voice. If Triboli had reached the pillar ahead of them—if he’d fed …

"We'll be all right," he told her, hoping it wasn't a lie.

They drew near the pillar and he hopped off his exhausted mount, then helped Danielle out of her stirrups.

"I hope this place has got some cigarettes," she said.

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