Chapter 1

My eyes snapped open, but they might as well have still been closed. All around me was darkness. Cold, oppressive darkness. Hunger gripped my insides like a vice, but a hunger I did not recognize. The taste of iron filled my mind and my mouth began to water like a starved dog looking at a piece of raw steak, so fresh it was still oozing blood.

Blood. It hit me like a punch in the stomach. I was craving blood. Confusion and disgust filled every inch of my being. What was wrong with me?

My attention returned to the darkness around me. Where am I? I thought, moving my limbs in an attempt to get my bearings. Damp material moved around my limbs and caved in around me with every move I made. I sniffed, quickly recognizing the smell: dirt. The earth was loose, as if it had been recently disturbed.

Terror gripped my chest, sending me into a panic. Realization hit me so hard that I was overcome with physical pain. I began to frantically try to dig myself out.

By now it was clear. I had been buried.

The soft earth was easily pushed aside by my frenetically-moving arms. Before long, my hands felt fresh air, sending waves of relief coursing through my veins. I quickly pulled myself up, out of the shallow grave and onto the slightly damp grass surrounding it. The sky was dark, though the full moon illuminated the world with an eerie glow. My eyes scanned my surroundings, trying to find anything familiar, but I did not recognize where I was. The grass I sat on was part of a small clearing in the middle of a dense wood. Crickets chirped happily in the background, filling the air with a sense of calm and serenity I would have basked in had it not been for the situation I was in.

Peering apprehensively down at the grave, I gasped. The grave was far too big for one single person. A small wall of dirt separated the two halves of the grave and barely-distinguishable footprints marred the soil, telling me that somebody else had climbed out before I had. My blood ran cold. I covered my face with my hands, filled with a fresh new wave of emotion. Something was wrong here, far more wrong than a psychopath burying two human beings alive, and I couldn't figure out what it was. Quickly, I dropped my hands and looked around me. No one was there, but I still didn't want to linger. Whoever had buried me may return to make sure the job was finished and would not be too happy to find me alive.

I jumped to my feet, looking around to see which way I should go. Unable to see anything past the trees, I picked a random direction and ran. I had to get out of these woods and find a house, a highway, any place with people who could help me.

The trees whipped past me at an unnatural speed. I attributed it to my adrenaline, or maybe just an after-effect of my disorientation. Mentally shaking myself, I kept running, focusing on going in a straight line. My ears strained to hear any kind of noise that would tell me where I was. The sound of the woodland creatures was nearly deafening, but I hear no cars or people. I felt more alone and scared than ever.

Suddenly, the howl of a distant wolf rang out through the quiet night air. I could tell it was far away, but it still heightened my anxiety, making me increase my speed. Another wolf answered back, then a third, creating an unnerving chorus in the distance, a perfect theme song for my desperation.

After a few minutes of running, the trees thinned, revealing a deserted road. I skidded to a halt, looking back and forth for any cars, but I saw nothing. Gazing left and right, I tried to see if there were any signs that would tell me where I was or what town I was near. There were none near me. I weighed my options, my thoughts racing, fueled by panic and adrenaline. There seemed only one course of action for me. I had to pick a direction and walk until I found a sign.

Suddenly, the wolf song rang out again. I jumped. It was much closer than it had been before. And this time, it sounded more like a battle cry than a song.

Taking a deep breath, I turned right and began running down the highway. After a few moments, a large sign came into view. Shreveport, 5 miles, sported the sign in big white letters. I wracked my brain for any memories of a place called Shreveport. Nothing came to mind, which made me even more worried. What had happened before I was buried? How far was I from home?

I began to think back to home. My little apartment in Joliet, Illinois brought a smile to my face. It was a small, one bedroom apartment, with scratched wood floors and chipped walls, but it had a special place in my heart. I worked hard to pay for that apartment. I was the manager at Hot Topic in the mall and, believe me, working in a store mainly catering to obnoxious teenagers was a stressful job. I couldn't help but love it, though. There's something special about earning your own money, instead of stealing.

I would never have to steal from anyone ever again. Those days were in my past.

A loud howl behind me shattered my peaceful thoughts. That source could not be more than a few hundred feet away. I immediately stopped, looking around for the source of the sound. The snap of a twig brought my fears to realization. My head slowly turned to my left, painfully aware that I would not find a friendly face looking my way.

I was met by a pair of menacing yellow eyes. A large, gray wolf stepped out into the moonlight, baring its teeth at me. Slowly, emitting a throaty growl, the wolf advanced on me. My mind screamed at me to run, but my feet were rooted to the ground in terror. Helplessly, I watched as two more wolves, equally as terrifying and vicious, emerged from the trees. They surrounded me, staring at me hungrily like I was a cornered deer.

It very quickly became obvious to me that I was being hunted.

"Please, God, just let me get out of this alive," I pleaded in my head, my eyes jumping from wolf to wolf, careful not to miss any signs of an attack. I took a few steps backward, my feet meeting the cold concrete of the highway. The wolves followed me step-for-step, their eyes betraying a desire for my flesh.

The gray wolf, obviously the leader of the three, shattered the silence with a deep growl. The other two followed suit, the harmony of their growls enveloping me in a feeling of desperation. After everything I had just survived, this was not the end I foresaw. I dug myself out of a grave, managed to find my way out of a dark, terrifying woodland, all without having any idea where I was or how I got there. I could not die by being eaten by wolves. My story could not be over so soon.

It was then that my survival instinct kicked in deep within me. Anger pumped through me, burning through my veins, decimating any feelings of horror that remained. A low, guttural snarl escaped my throat, followed by a strange clicking sound within my mouth. I was surprised by these sounds, but did not let them distract me. I could not afford to shift any of my attention anywhere else.

Without any warning, the lead wolf lunged through the air, his jaws open and aimed straight at my throat. Reacting on instinct, I threw out my arms, grabbed the wolf by the neck, and threw him behind me with a powerful swing of my arms. I had no time to marvel at my own actions before both of the other wolves jumped toward me. With a quick sidestep, I managed to dodge one, but I unfortunately stepped directly into the path of the other wolf. His powerful jaws clamped down on my arm, eliciting a scream from me. I fell to my knees, using my other hand to try to pry the wolf's razor-sharp grip from my arm. Before I could succeed, one of the other wolves clamped on to the shoulder of my free arm, pulling me back onto my back. Screaming, I writhed, trying to throw these wolves off me, to no avail. I knew this was the end, but I could not bring myself to give up. If I was going to go down, I was going to take one of these wolves down with me.

The third wolf gripped on to my leg, throwing his head from side to side in an attempt to tear my leg from its socket. With a swift kick, my other foot connected with the wolf's head right in the joint of his jaw. Yelping, the wolf flew several feet, landing hard on his side near the tree line. He quickly recovered, though, and bounded back toward me.

As his padded feet met the pavement, I heard the distinct sound of a car approaching. Headlights illuminated the wolves, who all released their grips on me to look toward the advancing car. With a screech of tires, the car slid to a stop only a few feet away. The headlights were blinding as they pointed straight at me. The driver's side door flew open and a figure stepped out. I had trouble making out the details of the person's appearance because of the bright headlights. Before he or she could come close, my attention was ripped away by the growls of all three wolves. Their lupine faces were all pointed directly at the emerging figure.

With calm steps, the figure advanced on the wolves. I could now tell he was a man, very tall, with blonde hair and a menacing expression on his face. He was dressed all in black, making him look like an angel of death with the backdrop of the bright light and dark forest. I could not bring myself to move as I watched the standoff before me. The wolves glared at the man, who suddenly opened his mouth to snarl terrifyingly back at them. I was shocked to see fangs in the man's mouth. Shit, I thought, he's a vampire.

Almost too quickly to follow, the vampire attacked the wolves. He went for the leader first, grabbing the animal by the neck and with a quick twist, snapped its neck. When he dropped the dead wolf to the ground, its form suddenly began to quiver. On the ground before me now lay a hairy, muscular man. I shrieked, jumping up to my hands and knees and crawled away, desperate to get away from this nightmare. Behind me, I could still hear the sounds of struggle, but I could only think of one thing: getting away.

Suddenly, the sound behind me stopped. Risking a glance back over my shoulder, I saw the tall vampire crouched above a naked male body, his mouth dripping blood. Horror rooted me to my spot as those vampire eyes turned to me. What was he going to do to me now?

The vampire walked toward me slowly, his face contorted in a look of disgust. When he reached me, he loomed over my cowering form, glaring at me with eyes of blue ice.

"What is wrong with you, vampire," he demanded, grabbing me by the upper arm and yanking me to my feet. "There is no reason those wolves should have been overpowering you."

I stared at him for a few seconds too long, confusion covering my face.

"I am not a vampire," I whispered shakily, trying to take a step back. His hand was still wrapped around the upper part of my arm, a little too hard, holding me to my spot. His glare became angrier with my words as his mouth opened slightly in a sneer.

"Do not insult my intelligence," he sneered. His eyes looked me up and down, taking in the full detail of my appearance. I looked down at myself, also. My body was still covered in dirt, though dried blood mingled with it on my slender arms and legs. My clothes were ripped, revealing pale, firm skin that I did not recognize. My strawberry-blonde hair fell over my shoulders, clumps of dirt tangled in it. I gasped when I looked at my limbs. There should have been nasty gashes and bite marks marring my skin, but my skin was clear. I would not have known the attack ever happened if it weren't for the dried blood.

Suddenly, a look of realization colored the vampire's face. His eyes met mine and he seemed to study me, trying to decipher if what he thought was true. His face morphed into the image of irritation.

"You're a new vampire," he stated, already knowing it was true.

I wanted to protest, but then all those strange happenings of the night flooded my brain: being able to dig myself out of the grave so easily, running at unnatural speed through the woods, kicking the wolf at least twenty feet without the slightest effort, it all suddenly made sense. That was the reason I had been buried in the woods, and not only buried, but with someone else. I did not know much about vampires, only what I heard in the news ever since they "came out of the coffin" years ago, but I did know they were born by being buried with their "makers."

My whole body crumpled to the ground. My hands covered my face as I began to sob uncontrollably. This could not be happening.