Here's the draft first chapter of Magic of the Vampire Prequel Novella: Want / Need. This section still needs edits and revisions, so it may be nothing like the content that ends up in the published edition! But I hope it's fun for readers to get a look at it now, in all its original, messy glory!
She sat there with her chin lifted, her eyes bright and hard, and her hands steady, in the middle of a room filled with vampires. The exposed flesh on her forearms and neck was pebbled, every hair standing on end in response to my presence, and not even her scent betrayed a tremor of fear.
Very lightly, I reached out to better feel her resonance. As I remembered, her magic was hard, heavy and unyielding, drawn tightly around her as though it were fine, layered scales of body armor. And warm, always so warm, like steel left too long in the sun. I pulled back before she could sense me there at the edges.
I stood at ease in our sparsely furnished living room, leaning unnecessarily but habitually against the door frame with my arms folded over my chest, and watched as she stared down the demons around her. It wasn’t our intent to intimidate her—not that I believed she could be intimidated—it was just the most natural way for us to be. There were seven of us and only one of her, and none of us required a chair.
“I never wanted you here,” she said, her voice thin but as cold and unforgiving as a silver blade.
Perry nodded. “We know. But want and need are two different things.”
Maggie Quinn grunted and shifted irritably against the soft cushions of the deep, wing-backed armchair Perry had procured just for her. I smiled a little to myself and wondered if my father had meant to give the tiny woman a seat so large it had the feel of a throne about it. Knowing Maggie as well as I did, I was sure she’d consider the gesture no less than her due.
“I don’t know that I need you here either,” she mumbled, low enough to be unintelligible to anyone but a vampire with supernaturally sensitive hearing, and Maggie knew that very well.
Perry’s mouth quivered with amusement, but he allowed the comment to pass. “Maggie, we have some catching up to do. It’s been thirty-five years since I last saw you.”
Maggie’s face darkened, and she repositioned her shiny black leather purse on her lap. Her grip on the handles tightened until her knuckles whitened, then relaxed.
“There’s nothing we need to catch up on,” she said shortly, “and no point looking back. You’re here now, so let us just deal with what’s ahead of us.”
Perry shot me an indulgent look, and I raised a brow in shared bemusement. What Maggie wanted, Maggie got, but I had to agree with her this time. I saw no point poking at memories that would be uncomfortable for us, at best, and nothing short of agonizing for Maggie.
“All right,” Perry agreed, settling himself at one end of a long grey sofa, the only other item in the room aside from rows upon rows of tall timber bookcases. “Where would you like to start?”
Leo followed Perry’s lead, lowering himself into the sofa, and the mood in the room shifted just a little, to something more cordial. Felicity folded her legs underneath her and sat down on the floor, her hands laced together in her lap. Adeline and Noel remained standing, as did Van. I hadn’t intended to move, but then I took the last space on the sofa for Maggie’s benefit. I didn’t want her to think we were deliberately looming.
Maggie looked at Perry suspiciously, but then shook her head ruefully and shrugged. “They’re back.”
The emotion in her voice was palpable. Felicity glanced at me, and Adeline looked to Noel. We all heard it and knew it for what it was.
Perry reached out and carefully placed his pale, frigid hand over Maggie’s warm, swollen fingers. He waited until she lifted her eyes to meet his, blue boring into black, and he returned her gaze intensely. When he spoke, his voice was soft, soothing, sibilant, and I could sense the magic in his words.
“That’s why we’re here.”
Now it was Maggie’s turn to look bemused. She was too wily to fall for Perry’s charms, and her mouth curved a little as she cocked one eyebrow at his efforts. Perry chuckled softly and pulled back his hand.
“I never wanted you here,” Maggie said again, this time without the heated defiance. “It was Harry’s idea, and Meredith’s, but I came to agree with them eventually. You wouldn’t be here unless I had agreed. You understand that, don’t you?”
“Of course,” Perry agreed easily.
Maggie pulled a pair of wire-framed reading glasses from her purse, followed by a thick notebook. She flipped open the cover and I saw that the pages were covered in tightly scrawled lettering. I could have read it from here, had I wanted to, but I averted my eyes. Maggie would tell us what she wanted us to know.
“I moved here five years ago, immediately following that last… attack.”
Her eyes were on the page in front of her, her voice tightly controlled, but my senses were too keen to miss the tiny quake in her words, the subtle tremble in her fingers. My understanding of Maggie went into rapid revision.
She was strong, yes, but life had knocked her since we had seen her last. The Callaghan coven may not terrify her, but there were things out there that did.
She cleared her throat roughly. “It was quick and unexpected. Gwineth was strong in the dream, but not strong enough, and even at her age still much too innocent about certain things.” She paused, as though debating whether or not to go on, and then her eyes flickered to me. “The demon who murdered her was an incubus.”
I stared back blankly, unblinking, and she returned to her notes.
“We had no advance warning and Harry was too far away to reach us in time. Afterward, it was clear that our position was no longer safe, so I decided to relocate here, to be close to the O’Brien clan.” She turned the page. “In that time, things have been relatively peaceful. I’ve had no indication that we were under immediate threat, but all that changed about six months ago. There’s been unusual activity in the dream—denser energies at every other turn, reappearances of banished demons, more traffic in general, both disconnected and distinctly malevolent.” She sucked in a breath and clenched her jaw, and we waited. “Seth, would you agree?”
It had always pained her to admit that she and I had anything in common, yet we had played this game for years and there was always an undercurrent of affable banter to our conversations. This time, I sensed it was different. Now that we knew it was an incubus that had taken her grandchild, I tried to be more sensitive as I answered.
“I would,” I said carefully. Perry looked at me sharply, and I went on more quickly. “A gradual increase in activity, certainly, and more demons, particularly in the last six weeks, but nothing coordinated, and nothing that concerned me.” I leaned towards Maggie. “And nothing that concerned you either, is my guess.”
“No, not immediately,” she admitted reluctantly. “And then, six weeks ago, as you say, things started moving more rapidly—and an Earthside demon came.”
Perry nodded, as did Leo and Van. Harry had already given his report on Soldier attacks: two in the last six weeks, when there’d been none for five years.
“I foresaw each arrival in the dream,” Maggie continued, a little defensively. “Neither of them had the gift, thank heavens, and neither circumvented me.” Her hands clenched together, and she looked challengingly at Perry. “I saw them coming, and we were prepared.”
“I know, Maggie,” Perry said gently, and she nodded once in return.
“But now,” she said, looking again at me, “I sense something greater on the horizon.”
“It could be that the changes to the dream and the recent attacks are unlucky. Simple coincidence.” Her back straightened and her mouth opened, but before she could argue, I added, “However, I’m inclined to agree with you. This could well be something greater.”
Her shoulders sagged and her responding nod this time was slower, a touch sadder, as though part of her wished my opinion were different.
“I can’t say for certain what that is yet,” she said, “but it is the reason you are here. Harry and I agree that whatever is coming will require all of us to stand and defend.”
It was Leo who answered her. “We’re ready,” he assured her.
“I’m sure you are, Leo,” she replied, biting her lip against a smile. Leo was always ready for a fight.
Maggie looked at her watch. “It’s almost time for me to leave, but before I do, there’s something critically important I need to tell you.”
Maggie looked at each of us in turn, to be sure she had our complete attention.
“It has to do with my great-granddaughter, Riley. From a young age, she resisted the old stories, and as much as I tried to share them with her, she just as stubbornly turned away. When we could not convince Riley otherwise, her mother and I made the decision to allow her to choose her own path for as long as it was safe to do so. And, after Gwineth passed, I continued to honor that agreement. Even now, Riley is obstinately opposed and barely tolerant of what she refers to as my superstitions. She’s almost eighteen, and still yet to learn the truth of our world—demons, Harry’s clan, you, and me. She knows nothing at all about her own magic.” Maggie’s tone hardened suddenly. “And I do not want her to know, not until she turns eighteen. I will give my great-granddaughter this gift, if it’s the last thing I do.”
“We will not be the ones who tell her,” Perry promised.
Maggie scanned Perry’s face, her brows drawn and mouth flat with suspicion, but she seemed satisfied with whatever she saw there. “See that you do not. I still have hope that I can save her from this life altogether.”
Adeline’s chin lifted at this, and Van took an eager step forward.
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Have you found it?”
Maggie was already shaking her head, her hands raised defensively. “No, Van, not yet, but as the dream changes, so do the ways I explore it change. I’ve walked many new paths these last few weeks, and it may be that this time of upheaval presents our best chance of locating the magic, finally.”
“Would it not be wise to have a companion, Maggie?” Perry asked. “With upheaval also comes the unknown, and with the unknown comes danger. If you won’t take Seth, could you not reconsider your plan and have Riley accompany you? What difference will a few more months make to knowing the truth?”
This wasn’t the first time we’d discussed the possibility of Maggie and I walking the dream together, but there were risks to both of us, and everyone in the room knew it.
Felicity’s face was frozen—with fear for me, I was certain, and scarcely concealed frustration that our father would offer my services so willingly. She glared at the wall just over Perry’s head, and he pretended not to notice.
I shared none of Felicity’s concern. Maggie would not welcome me into her mind, under any circumstances, and I didn’t fear she’d accept Perry’s offer.
“I think not,” Maggie said tightly. “I will not invite a demon into my dream, even if that demon is your son, Perry. And you should not want it, either. The danger to him is just as great, if not greater, than it is to me.”
I smiled a little to myself as Maggie deliberately avoided my eyes. We disagreed on who was the superior dream walker between us, and it was an argument neither of us could win. I would not enter her dream without consent, and she would never give it, so neither of us could ever know the other’s strength.
“And Riley?” Perry pressed.
“No,” Maggie said curtly. “Do not forget your oath.”
“Of course not. Do not think of it again.”
She pushed herself out of the chair and shuffled to the door. Perry walked beside her, but she refused his arm. Outside, a blue hatchback was idling on the drive. Harry sat behind the driver’s seat, his fingers tapping on the wheel as he watched us through the windscreen.
“Be sure you know your business, here,” Maggie admonished by way of goodbye. “There’s an attack coming, and we need you to fight. The future of magic depends on it.”
“We know, Maggie,” Perry replied, his patience with the bristles on this woman apparently never-ending. “We’ll do whatever it takes.”
Maggie slowly made her way to the car. As we watched it disappear down the long drive, I briefly wondered at Maggie’s interpretation of the dream. She hadn’t been alive long enough to experience the ebbs and flows I had lived through, those periods of unrest and the surges in activity that would fade away given enough time. She was scared, and she may have had every reason to be, but I was yet undecided about what it all meant and not convinced she knew anything I did not.