Scanguards Vampires #10
After twenty years incarcerated in a vampire prison, Luther is finally free. But before he can close this chapter of his life once and for all, a kidnapping thrusts him back into the world of Scanguards and into a confrontation with the vampires whose mates he very nearly killed two decades earlier.
Actress Kimberly “Katie” Fairfax has turned her back on Hollywood and now teaches drama at a college in San Francisco. When Scanguards owner Samson’s daughter disappears during a performance, Katie blames herself for inadvertently putting Isabelle in the path of danger. Realizing that Luther may be the only one who can rescue Samson’s daughter, she forges a tenuous alliance with the inscrutable stranger. As passion ignites between them, they not only have to fight against the unknown foe, but also against the darkness within themselves that could destroy them before they can rescue Isabelle.
The eight-by-eight windowless cell had been his home for twenty years.
Luther West didn’t look back as he walked—ahead of Dobbs, the Kevlar-clad vampire guard—toward the end of the long corridor lined with similar cells. Cells that held other vampires; criminals just like him. Bright light illuminated the corridors in the massive concrete maze located somewhere in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Luther glanced up at the fluorescent tubes above his head. To a visitor they would look ordinary, but Luther knew better. From a control room, the flick of a switch activated the UV tubes located inside the casings. Any vampire caught in the corridor once the UV lights were switched on would slowly, but surely, incinerate.
A painful death. And an effective deterrent for anyone trying to escape.
Apart from that nifty gadget, a vampire prison wasn’t much different from a human prison. The idea was the same: punish the perpetrators and keep them away from decent people so they couldn’t harm anybody else.
Well, it had worked.
The UV ray guns the guards carried to keep the prisoners in line fulfilled their purpose. Though painful when applied, they ordinarily left no permanent marks on a vampire. The consumption of human blood and an uninterrupted sleep cycle assured that a vampire’s skin healed without scarring. However, some of the guards had been crueler than others. And those prisoners who had a hard time submitting to authority and accepting their fate found out the hard way that even a vampire’s body could scar.
Luther had been one of them.
To teach him who was boss they’d lowered his already meager rations of human blood to a near-starvation level and interrupted his sleep cycle every thirty minutes so his vampire body couldn’t heal. One week of such treatment, and scar tissue grew over the burns caused by the UV rays, making the disfigurement permanent.
Luther’s back and chest bore witness to his early years of defiance. He’d learned his lesson. He subsequently became a model prisoner and kept his true feelings to himself, biding his time. But he’d made enemies early on, and some people held a grudge longer than others.
“Release day?” The voice came from an open cell. He recognized it as that of Summerland, another guard, one who never missed an occasion to show Luther who was in charge.
Luther turned his head instinctively, though he knew the question wasn’t meant for him. Behind him, Dobbs stopped, and Luther did the same, anticipating the order to wait.
“West’s time is up.” Dobbs jerked his thumb at him then looked back at the guard inside the cell. “What you doin’? Thought that V-CON was released last week.”
V-CONs—it was what the guards called the prisoners: Vampire Convicts.
Luther glanced past Dobbs at Summerland who motioned his blond head toward the interior walls. “Yeah, he was. But he didn’t take all his junk with him.”
Summerland continued to rip posters from the walls. Movie posters, pictures of beautiful women, actresses most likely. Movie stars. Or maybe singers. One of the women looked vaguely familiar. He’d probably seen her on the screen. A blonde with a rack like Raquel Welsh and eyes like a wild cat. Green like emeralds. The vampire who’d previously occupied this cell clearly had good taste in women. Not so good taste in movies though, if the posters were anything to go by.
Access to movies and television shows was one of the privileges for good behavior. The ex-prisoner must have exhibited model behavior, since he’d even been allowed pictures from the outside. Or he’d bribed a guard.
After all, the prisoners were vampires, and many of them had already lived a long life and accumulated fortunes with which to buy certain services. Luther knew of prostitutes being smuggled into the prison by the guards in exchange for large sums of money. Being a guard at one of the few vampire penitentiaries was a coveted position. It was rumored that many guards had retired as rich men.
Though Luther could have paid for hookers, he never asked for such favors. A woman was the reason why he’d spent twenty years in this hellhole. Women were trouble with a capital T. He would make damn sure to stay away from them. Another lesson he’d learned: never trust a woman’s feelings. No matter how much she tells you she loves you. Not even if she carries your child.
With a grunt, Luther pushed back the rising memories and the anger that welled up with them.
“Watch that mouth of yours, West,” Dobbs admonished. “You’ll get out of here soon enough. When I’m ready. Even if some people don’t like that fact. Right, Summerland?”
Summerland narrowed his eyes and shot a venomous look at Luther. “Oh, he’ll be back one day.”
Luther pulled one side of his lip up in a show of derision. “Don’t count on it.” Without waiting for Dobbs’s command, he pivoted and continued walking in the direction they’d been heading.
He heard the guard’s footsteps behind him, but they were suddenly obscured by a noise up ahead. Angry shouts and grunts echoed down the corridor. The moment Luther turned a corner, he saw the reason for the commotion.
A massive, clearly pissed-off prisoner was fighting tooth and nail against his two guards. The guards, Norris and MacKay, were both armed to the teeth, but the convict didn’t give them a chance to employ their weapons.
Fangs bared and eyes glaring red, underscoring his aggression, the V-CON struck out with such ferocity and skill that the two well-trained guards had to use all their strength just to stay on their feet.
“Ah, shit!” Dobbs cursed. He pressed down the button on his radio. “Corridor seven. Hostile V-CON, two guards in distress. Employ UV lights. Repeat…”
“Fuck!” Luther cursed, whirling his head back to Dobbs. “Are you fucking shitting me?”
On his release day he would get a last dose of UV rays? What the fuck was that supposed to be? A goodbye present?
But Dobbs merely shrugged and pulled his protective shield over his face. The rest of his body was already adequately protected by his gear, right down to the specially designed gloves.
“Fucking asshole!” Luther charged toward the melee. If he could diffuse the situation quickly enough, Dobbs would have enough time to cancel his command. No fucking idiot prisoner would get him burned on his release day!
“Over my fucking charred body!”
Livid, Luther barreled into the aggressive convict, taking him by surprise. The idiot hadn’t expected to be attacked by a fellow prisoner. Big mistake.
Slamming his fist into the jerk’s face, Luther yelled: “You’re not going to screw up my release day, you bastard!”
A fist flew straight at him, but the V-CON had no idea who he was dealing with. Luther might have been imprisoned for twenty years, and rightly so, but he’d lost not a bit of his lethal fighting skills. At best he was a little rusty, but his muscle memory returned with every second he pounded into the guy.
With stoic calmness Luther accepted the blows the other vampire managed to land.
Another punch, and his opponent finally landed on his back. Now that the hardest part was done, Norris and MacKay jumped back into the fray and restrained the V-CON’s arms.
But subduing the prisoner had taken too long.
Luther heard the tell-tale clicks of the light tubes on the ceiling.
“Fuck!” he cursed just as the lights flickered for a moment.
Then he felt the burn.
UV lights blasted him as if he were standing under the midday sun.
“Call it off, Dobbs! Fuck!” Luther screamed, whirling his head toward the guard.
He saw Dobbs fumble for his radio and drop it to the floor.
Pain searing through his body, Luther lunged for the communication device and grabbed it. He pressed down the button. Behind him he heard Norris and MacKay dealing with the V-CON who was now screaming with pain.
“Disengage UV lights in corridor seven,” Luther yelled into the radio. He’d heard the guards often enough to be familiar with their commands, their way of speaking.
“Who is this?” came the crackling reply.
The stench of burnt hair and skin—his as well as the other prisoner’s—rose into his nostrils, making him nauseous.
The radio was suddenly ripped from his hand.
“It’s Dobbs. Disengage UV lights in corridor seven immediately. V-CON subdued.”
Seconds later, the lights flickered again. Luther collapsed to the floor, this time not from pain, but from relief.
“Everything under control,” Norris now confirmed.
Luther slanted him a look, scoffing. Yeah, everything was under control now—no thanks to the guards. This was Luther’s doing. But before he could tell the guard what he thought of his comment, a shiny boot kicked him in the side, knocking him against the wall. Automatically, his fangs descended and his lips peeled away from his teeth, showing his attacker his pearly whites.
“Summerland!” Luther hissed under his breath. Figured!
He’d saved the guards from severe injury and possibly death, and this was his thanks for it?
The boot came his way a second time. Luther reached for it, but Summerland was jerked back.
“Let him be!” Norris ordered.
Luther glanced past the stunned guard, witnessing how Norris still held on to Summerland’s shoulder.
“Better help get the newbie settled.” Norris motioned to the subdued vampire whose face and hands were covered in angry blisters. He’d gotten the full brunt of the UV lights, lying on his back when the lights had come on.
Luther had been able to look away from the rays, but his nape and the back of his head had sustained significant damage—nothing some human blood and a good day’s sleep couldn’t fix.
“And I’m not gonna be the one writing up the incident report,” Norris insisted. “I’m due for my vacation.”
MacKay who held a UV gun to the head of the V-CON—whose hands were now tied with silver shackles—grunted in displeasure. “You sure know how to pick the right time, leaving the rest of us to deal with this newbie.” MacKay hit the butt of his gun against the prisoner’s temple. “Who doesn’t fucking know what’s good for him.”
“Let’s go, West,” Dobbs ordered. “Unless you like it here so much you wanna stay longer.”
In spite of the pain that radiated through his head and traveled down his spine, Luther jumped up, not wanting to show the ungrateful guards that he was hurting. He gave a nod of acknowledgment to his jailor, and continued his walk out of the hellhole that had been his home for twenty lonely years.