My Beautiful Struggle + [prize]

Haunted Halloween with Jana Oliver and a giveaway!

Of Stakes & Lattes
A Short Story
by
Jana Oliver

It’s Halloween night and I’m working. Yeah, tell me about it. I should be out with my friends partying. So what’s keeping me from celebrating one of the creepiest days of the year?

I, Amber Krenau, high school senior and cheerleader dropout hunt the dregs of vampire society. You know, the ones who have no table manners, fashion sense or basic concept of personal hygiene. I swear these guys are worse than some of the jocks at my high school.

Everyone knows that vampires come with their own set of rules: they’re always handsome, irresistible, impossibly sexy. (Think Dean Winchester or Brad Pitt before all the kids.) Somehow the undead guy loitering at the corner of Baker & Peachtree Streets didn’t get the memo. He is in an Atlanta Braves t-shirt that is rusty brown from all the blood stains, his jeans are ripped at the knees and his baseball cap is on backwards. Total loser.

Knowing it’s not going to get any better, I tug out my Port-o-Staker and give it a flip. As usual, the catch hangs up and I have to mess with the hinge to get it fully extended. If this had been in the movies I’d be up against a wall in a heartbeat, the vamp’s extended canines clamping onto my bulging carotid artery. But my target isn’t one of those. Instead he stands there, slobbering. Probably because of his serious overbite.

I’m growing crankier by the minute.

“You… over here,” I call out. A totally sexy vamp would have arched a sultry black eyebrow, challenging me to come get him while flexing a few muscles just for show. This one wipes his nose on his sleeve and ambles docilely toward me like an obedient hound.

This never happened to Buffy.

What is the point of being a vampire hunter if they’re like mindless sheep? All I have to do is jam the stake in the thing’s heart, it does little pyro number and then turns into a mound of ashes in the time it takes nail polish to dry. Yawn..

Five minutes later I toss the cremains o’loser in the Honda’s trunk next to the can of flat tire repair. This is totally my parents’ fault. They said I needed job experience and a college fund since they’d been too busy spending money on salsa and golf lessons to save for my education. As I saw it, I could flip burgers at minimum wage or stake vampires at ten times the pay. No. Choice. There.

A quick text to my employer (Creepy Creatures: If They’re Undead, They’re Gone!™) lets him know the vamp at Baker & Peachtree is toast. Until he had another assignment for me, I am free to roam.

Hustling down the street, I keep an eye open for fanged trouble. Since it’s Halloween I’m way skittish: it’s hard to know who is trick or treating and who is out for blood. Along the way I pass some younger kids from my school dressed like punk fairies (that’s so wrong), a few homeless folks (who are dressed as themselves) and a cop. He is pointedly ignoring the tall woman loitering at the entrance to Meehan’s Pub. From what I can see, he has a reason to be nervous.

The female vampire is into the skin-tight leather look. They all read urban fantasy books to pick up survival tips in case they run into a BKC (butt-kicking chick). Now they dress like the women on the front covers. Luckily they haven’t taken to the honking big swords or the oversized firearms. Not yet, at least.

This is Lola and she’s in a black leather skirt with a red halter top and four inch stiletto boots. There’s a tattoo of some kind of a bird-of-prey on her lower-back, her hair is flame red and her canines capped in gold. I groan at the sight. Lola always gave me a bad case of clothes envy, even if everything she wears is pretty skanky. That’s not hard to do when I’m in jeans, a tee shirt and grubby tennis shoes. Even my hair can’t compete––it’s short, brown and always frizzy no matter the weather.

Compared to the bloodsucker I’m a nobody. No tattoos. No awesome boots. No awesome attitude. Which is probably why I’m stuck with staking the losers.

“Hey, Lola,” I said. She turns and grins, her canines glittering in what little light dared to wander into this part of town.

“Amber. How goes tricks?”

“Same old stuff,” I grumble, halting a respectful ten feet away from her. There is no real point in keeping my distance, she could kill me in a flash and we both knew it. What kept this predator at bay isn’t distance or respect—she owes me one. I’d dealt with one of her former boyfriends a few weeks back, relieving her of his whiny and stalkery presence. So right now everything is good between us.

Until it isn’t.

“How’s your Halloween?” I ask politely, wanting to be somewhere else but near one of the older vamps.

Lola sighs. “Too much competition. Everyone is dressed like me.. or worse. I might have to change my bait or call it a night.” She eyes me thoughtfully. “You can’t take me down, you know.”

“I won’t try unless you think I’m your personal bloodmobile.” Which I am not.

She nods, then yawns on purpose, emphasizing the canines. “How about a latte?”

A latte with a vampire on Halloween? Oh why not?

Lola buys the drinks since her bank account is heftier than mine. We sit and chat about past boyfriends, my senior prom in a few weeks and her new boy toy, Randolph. She claims he doesn’t whine or stalk her. He has only one little fault: he really loves Elvis.

“Better than Justin Bieber,” I reply.

“Ever think of giving up this gig?” she quizzes.

I shrug. “I need the money. College isn’t cheap. I might keep doing this hunting thing once I start at Georgia State, if I can keep my grade point up.”

A large werewolf shuffles by, scratching his chest. I can tell he’s for real by the drool and the flea collar.

“Those things are just a menace,” Lola says, shaking her head.

“Too big and hairy. The only thing I’m good at killing is vampires.” Oh, that was dumb. Will she take that as a challenge?

Lola’s eyes glow more crimson now, like red hot coals, and my body tenses in reaction. The latte saved me. I had the cup at my mouth when she made her move. The drink ended up in her face, which gave me just enough time to avoid her looming canines. For once the Port-o-Staker didn’t hang up and in an instant my weapon is poised at her heart. Lola’s teeth hesitate three inches from my neck.

She leans away and laughs like it’d all been for fun. “You’re getting faster.”

I’m shaking too hard to think of anything witty so I only nod.

“Just making sure you are staying in practice,” Lola adds, then drains the last of her drink. “Maybe next time you’ll be faster than me.” The eyes grow darker crimson again. “Or maybe not,” she purrs.

“Then you won’t have to worry about the senior prom or your grade point.”

That is a threat. I glare at her but she doesn’t care. No way I can out psych an old vampire.

“Happy Halloween, Amber,” she says, then waltzes away in search of a meal.

One of these days, Lola..

It took me a long time to stop shaking, knowing how close I’d come to being a late night snack. Maybe flipping burgers isn’t so bad after all.

When my phone pings with a text message, I jump up in surprise, still wired by the showdown with the bloodsucker. Then I feel like an idiot. Luckily no one cares.

VAMP AT THE HARD ROCK CAFÉ. GOOD LUCK WITH THIS ONE.

“Probably another loser.”

The moment I step into the restaurant and see the sucker in question, I know I’ve taken a step up on the vamp scale. This one has some style. His hair is over-the-top, but the sequins on his jacket are way cool.

The Elvis impersonator grins in my direction. “Hey, baby!”

“Are you Lola’s squeeze?” That would really get me in trouble.

The vamp shook his head, his canines extending. “Trick or treat?” he says, grinning.

“Treat.” A second later the stake is in his chest and he’s no longer quite so stylish.

To my surprise, his fellow diners take up a collection of candy in someone’s glowing orange skull. A guy hands it to me and my eyes widen in appreciation. This is a very hunky dude maybe a year or so older than me. Even better, there are no pointed teeth in sight. But he’s not done yet: He offers me a cocktail napkin with his phone number.

“Call me,” he says and winks. “I really like butt-kicking chicks.”

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.

I left the Hard Rock Café with the ashes of the vampy Elvis, a big skull full of yummy candy and a cute guy’s phone number.

Who said Halloween is just for kids?

Soul Thief by Jana Oliver
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (August 30th, 2011)
Reading Level: Young Adult
Paperback: 339 pages
Series: The Demon Trapper's Daughter #2

Riley Blackthorne is beginning to learn that there are worse things than death by demon. And love is just one of them…
Seventeen-year-old Riley has about had it up to here. After the devastating battle at the Tabernacle, trappers are dead and injured, her boyfriend Simon is gravely injured, and now her beloved late father’s been illegally poached from his grave by a very powerful necromancer. As if that’s not enough, there's Ori, one sizzling hot freelance demon hunter who’s made himself Riley’s unofficial body guard, and Beck, a super over-protective “friend” who acts more like a grouchy granddad. With all the hassles, Riley’s almost ready to leave Atlanta altogether.
But as Atlanta’s demon count increases, the Vatican finally sends its own Demon Hunters to take care of the city’s “little” problem, and pandemonium breaks loose. Only Riley knows that she might be the center of Hell’s attention: an extremely powerful Grade 5 demon is stalking her, and her luck can't last forever…

Prize:

  • 1 winner will receive a SIGNED (personalized!) set of The Demon Trapper's Daughter and Soul Thief — with a Demon Trapper's t-shirt.
Rules:
  • You must be at least 13 to enter.
  • Name and email must be provided and counts as 1 entry.
  • Extra entries are possible and links must be provided.
  • Contest is International and ends November 7th.
  • Once contacted, the winner will have 48 hours to respond.
  • The form must be filled out to enter.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository

* Check out Lisa's Haunted Halloween post.
*Reminder: If you are interested in the COMMENT CONTEST, remember to include your email address with your comment for an extra entry! Please read full entry rules here.