Free Story Friday: An Excerpt from author Kristen Portillo

This is the second book in the Shield series, Castillo

. . . When I open my eyes I am standing in a field of grass and I immediately recognize it – the front yard of the house I grew up in - but the air is pungent with blood and death. The memory of the vampires who tore through my property only a short time before, killing our farm animals and then ushering my daddy, my mama and my brothers and sister to the back of the house, sits like a festering blister at the forefront of my thoughts. The red eyed, long toothed monsters had seen me and I had cowered in front of them but they hadn’t moved to harm me, nor had they forced me to the back of the house with my family. I had fallen to my knees in horror and torment when I had heard my brothers and sisters screaming for my daddy and my mama’s tortured cry for her husband. They had killed my sisters next and I moaned loudly, long wailing sobs of mourning that echoed my mama’s.
Now, I stand staring at my mother who has dragged my older brother, Sebastian, from the back of the house to the front yard. She is rocking him in her lap and her agonized lamentation is devastating. Sebastian sputters and chokes while blood drips from the puncture wounds on his neck. His entire body trembles in her arms as if he is seizing without rest.
“Mama!” I call and my voice breaks. Tears drip down my cheeks and when her sapphire eyes flash to mine her mourning turns to panic.
“Get inside Emmalyn!”
“But Mama!” I move toward her but her eyes go wide and her face turns a frightening shade of purple.
“Get inside Emmalyn and hide! For the love of everything holy, hide like you never want to be found!” she screams at me.
Her shrieks send me charging into the house, but not before I see the yellow eyed, long fanged vampire perched on the peak of our roof like a diabolical bird. I feel his eyes on me, burning into me as I trip on one of our massacred chickens. I imagine he will jump from the rooftop to end me. Adrenaline and fear pump furiously through me as I dash into the house. I can’t close the door behind me. It has been ripped from its frame and lies in long jagged spears on the floor in the adjoining kitchen. Tears roll down my cheeks and my breath comes in heaving gasps. There is nowhere to hide. Our house has been overturned. Furniture is decimated, and chunks of wall and cabinetry lay in splinters across the floor. I turn in circles, trying desperately to wrack my brain for a place to squeeze myself into. Glass shards are piled and scattered across the house. Doors have been pulled off their hinges and turned to sawdust. Iron bed frames are curled into gnarled fingers, poking through the holes in the walls. Resigned, I slide to the living room floor and curl tightly into a corner beside our hearth, shoving myself hard into the brick. My heart is pounding so hard in my chest that I am certain my ribs will shatter. I don’t know what to do. I hear my mother’s soft cries turn to screams.
Terror squeezes my insides, making me want to throw up. My breathing comes in quick gasps and I wonder if I will lose consciousness. I can’t lose consciousness. I will be an even easier target if I pass out. I hear rustling and my eyes flash up to see one of them staring at me from just inside the front entry. My head shakes back and forth involuntarily and I suck in a burning breath. I have nowhere to go. I shove myself back into the wall, as though I might be able to melt into it.   
“Please,” I cry as he approaches me. “Please don’t hurt me!”
He continues toward me, in silence, watching me the way a predator watches its prey. I feel my own eyes grow wider and wider until I think they might pop from their sockets. A high pitched, short scream escapes my lips when he is suddenly crouching in front of me. It was so fast, I didn’t have time blink.
My own wailing sounds distant. “Please don’t hurt me! Please don’t kill me! Please, please, please!”I beg.
He reaches for me and I shriek at the sudden movement. I am hyperventilating.
Don’t pass out. Just breathe. Don’t pass out. Just breathe.
“Shh,” he hushes me and his cold fingertips quickly slide across my cheek, into my hair so that his palm cups my face.
I jerk away, screaming and clawing at his arm in vain. He is completely unaffected by my thrashing. I am able to shove myself up to standing and he effortlessly mimics my movement, never losing the connection between my skin and his. My eyes dart frantically in every direction, looking for an escape. He is blocking me completely into the corner, and my heart sinks into my feet. Even if I could escape, I realize, I am no match for his strength or speed. He moves closer, so that we are chest to chest. There is barely enough room to inhale but he is still, watching me. He waits – for what, I have no idea – and my breathing slowly evens. I sob quietly and tears fall between us to my feet. He rubs small circles below my temple with his thumb.
“Why are you doing this?” I whisper and my chest heaves with a ragged breath. I peer up at him. He looks much more human than the other rabid creatures who had ransacked our house and our family. Where they had been single mindedly focused on killing and destroying everything in their path, this one has indecision in his strangely brown eyes.   
“Look at me,” he says. The smooth lilt of his voice sends an involuntary shudder resonating from my toes up my back.
He uses his free hand to hold my chin in place. My eyes widen again in anxious anticipation. I expect that he will kill me now, but instead he continues to speak, “I don’t want to hurt you,” he whispers. “Do you understand?”
I am paralyzed with fear despite the warmth punctuating his words.
“Do you understand?” he insists more sharply when I don’t respond.
I nod, a quick jerk of my head and my breathing comes in short anxious gasps again.
“Good.” He adds, “Hold very still.”
I instantly become a frantic, writhing animal in a too-small cage, clawing at him, smashing my fists into his chest. Physically, I am no match for him but I can’t just lie down and die – literally.
“Stop!” He grabs me by the shoulders. “Stop it!”
And I melt into hysterical sobs.
“Please!” I beg and bow my head. “Please, don’t hurt me! I don’t want to die,” I whisper again and again.
“What is your name?” he asks.
My eyes flash up to his.
“I will not tell you my name! It is the last thing I have left that you haven’t taken from me!” I scream in a burst of fury. My eyes are wild, full of loathing toward this monster and his kind. I realize his shirt is gripped in my fists.
“I don’t want to take anything from you,” he says and the sadness in his eyes confuses me. Maybe his remorse is genuine. He smoothes my hair with his fingers and I flinch away from his touch. “Please, tell me your name.”
I bow my tear soaked face again, so that my chin is pressed into my chest. My breathing is spasmodic from crying so hard. “Em-Emmalyn,” I finally manage.
“Emmalyn.” He tests my name on his lips. He takes my hand in his large, cool one and squeezes it, as if trying to reassure me. “My name is Nick. I need you to trust me. I know that is hard but if you don’t, more of my kind will come for you and they will take pleasure in causing you pain. I don’t want to cause you pain. Will you trust me?”
I don’t know if it is resignation to my own demise, the fact that I have nothing left to lose, or if he has convinced me of his trustworthiness, but my head bobs in one remorseful nod. He unfolds his fingers and presses his palm to mine. With deliberately slow patience, he laces our fingers. I watch confused and petrified, not understanding what he is doing. At least I’m not hyperventilating anymore - yet. He tips my chin to look at him and I suck in a quick breath.
“Trust me,” he whispers.
My eyes search his and the intensity there is captivating. His lips part as if he might kiss me and he runs his fingers into my hair, wrapping his hand around the back of my head. He pulls my face against him to rest in the space just below his collar bone. His fingertips trail slowly down to my neck and my entire body goes rigid. I can’t move as firmly as he is holding me in place. He extends our still joined hands out to the side, away from us, so that my arm is straight, and I brace against him when I feel something sharp draw across my skin. It doesn’t hurt, but feels wet and then begins to tingle. I try to move my head to see what he is doing but he is holding me immobile. My eyes pop wide open when I feel the pressure of his teeth biting into my arm, causing my own jaw to clamp down. I bite my lip and taste blood. I gasp and try to force myself away from him. He doesn’t budge, holding me so tightly I think I might asphyxiate. I hear myself moan against his shoulder. When he releases my arm there is a red circle engraved in my skin. It blurs as my vision fades in and out.
The trembling starts so subtly that I don’t realize what is happening until it feels as though my body is cultivating an internal earthquake. Fire and ice sear through each cell of my body. My eyes feel swollen, and bounce in their sockets. I am helpless to stop them.
“Ben, come sit with her. She’s turning. If you have to leave her side, confuse the hell out of her. I don’t want her thinking she has a sire to obey,” I hear Nick say to whoever Ben is.
I can no longer see him or the one he speaks to, blinded by the fire and ice that is attacking my eyeballs, and my brain. There is no inch of my body that its satanic tentacles have not invaded. I feel something cool and hard wrap around me, but it does nothing to relieve the convulsive wretchedness. I want to rip my skin from the muscle and the muscle from the bones as little savage parasites tear into them, but I can’t move, immobile, blind, and tortured from the inside out. The only sense that remains intact, allowing me to believe I am still alive, is my hearing. I wait for it – long for it – to fade; hoping silence will come swiftly so that I can be relieved of this agony.
“There’s nothing you could have done,” the one who I assume is Ben says quietly from out of nowhere. I focus on the silence that follows his words, coveting any diversion from my torment.
“They’re dead or turned or gone,” Nick says.
I feel the faintest touch on my face, like a cool feather through the charring, flesh melting fire. I feel my body being moved but can do nothing about it. I feel that cool feathery touch trace down my cheek. It becomes warmer as it lingers, a mild undertone to the incineration that has yet to recede. 
“You couldn’t stop them. We couldn’t stop them. There were too many,” Ben insists.”And who would have known you could turn against him like that?”
In that instant my vision returns with an explosion of light and Nick’s tortured eyes are clear in my vision. The ice and fire implode into my chest like a gunshot and I feel as though someone has ripped my heart from my body through my back. A delicious smell infiltrates my nostrils and in the same instant a searing thirst slices through my throat. Before I understand what is happening I have grabbed the source of the smell and bitten into it.
“She will never forgive me – she . . .” Nick had been saying but his statement trails off.
Something is wrong. I have bitten into something soft and warm and through eyes that see things far too clearly now, I don’t understand how what I am drinking is attached to Nick. Even as it registers in my brain that I have bitten the fleshy pad beneath his thumb I can’t stop gulping down whatever delicious liquid is pouring into my mouth. I pull at his wrist with both hands, greedily holding his palm to my lips like a suckling infant.
“She needs to feed,” Nick tells Ben.
“Anybody left alive outside?” Ben jokes.
“That isn’t funny Suarez.”
My eyes never waver from Nick’s and an emotion that looks like guilt crashes through his. He grits his teeth and his nostrils flare.
“Take care of her,” he tells Ben who narrows his eyebrows.
“What?”Ben immediately renounces the charge Nick has bestowed on him. “She won’t understand.”
Please don’t leave this on me – this plea invades my head, but it is not my own. I am overwhelmed by the foreign thought. When Nick tries to pull his hand away I groan insatiably, holding it to my lips as though I intend to consume it entirely.
“Just take care of her. Confuse her. Don’t let her remember me. Don’t let her kill people. Keep her from being a monster.”
Nick stands, ripping his hand away from my mouth and something inside me aches. I don’t know if it is hunger or something more. I reach for him, start to scramble after him, but Ben restrains me. I struggle like a wild animal to claw out of Ben’s grasp, trying uselessly to get to Nick.
“Take care of her, Ben. She deserves that.” And before Ben can answer, Nick vanishes.