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  • April Wahlin

Read Chapter 1 of Pandora Syndrome Here!

Updated: Nov 30, 2018

Pandora Syndrome comes out March 5, 2019!

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PROLOGUE

~Beginning of the End~


So, there I was, encased in about ten feet of cement, and walled into the basement of an Ahab’s coffee shop. Being buried alive was just about as much fun as you would think. I couldn't breathe, couldn't see, couldn’t move. My skin ached– not just because of the cement, but because the sun was coming up. Terrible as that felt, it was good to know that at least some of my vampiric senses were still firing.


After all my years as an immortal, I still wasn’t a very good vampire. My current situation was an embarrassment to my supernatural race.

     This couldn't really be the end of me, could it? I mean, realistically, the lack of nourishment would eventually make me lose consciousness, but then what? Technically, I should live forever.     

  The cement was still wet, giving me the slightest tease of movement. Unfortunately, every time I tried to dig my way out, a bit more of my flesh ripped, more bones popped, and more ligaments contorted. So, I forced myself to be still.


My thoughts flailed between pain and rage while the faces of my loved ones passed through my mind’s eye. The sheer horror of my situation was quickly crushing the logic center of my brain. Thankfully, my thoughts soon retreated into the safety of memory. They offered something to cling to, something to stem the panic creeping in. So, I let them come.


Unfortunately, they settled on the night of my death. The night all this started. The night I met Remy.

~~~~~~

     I stumbled drunkenly out of the Viper Room. Unfortunately, the poorly lit streets were devoid of my companions for that fateful night. It was to be a pub-crawl of epic proportions along Hollywood’s infamous Sunset Strip. Sadly, it would end up being far more epic than any of us anticipated.

     I still wasn’t exactly sure how I, the Birthday Girl, had managed to get left behind by my brother, Jack, and my supposedly best friend, Rosetta. I thought about flagging down a cab, but as I patted the non-existent pockets on my tight purple dress, I realized that I’d spent all my cash on Long Island iced teas. I regretted wearing the impractical dress, as it had forced me to have my brother hold my ID card. My currently MIA brother.


Though I had to admit, the dress did a lot for me. Curve wise I was always more Bettie Page than Betty Cooper, a figure that was less popular with the fashionable eighties’ girls of today. I was also the complete opposite of the tan skinned California blond stereotype, what with my pale complexion, dark eyes, and black hair. Thankfully, with the dress, high heels, and metric ton of makeup that Rosetta had forced me to wear, I was right on par with the dolled-up club goers of the Hollywood night scene. However, now that I was tipsy, lost, and pissed off, I doubted I cut a stunning figure.

     Only a few stumbling stragglers like myself were left outside the club at this hour. I thought about looking for a payphone, but aside from my lack of change, I didn’t even know the number for our apartment, seeing as how I’d only moved in with my brother the week before.

     Tears threatened my eyes. Even if I’d known the number, he likely wouldn’t answer. I’d seen Jack with a busty blonde earlier, and late as it was, he would undoubtedly be too drunk or too “distracted” by said blonde to be any help. So I doubted there was any way short of magic to conjure up my asshole sibling.       


Dejected, I wandered around the side of the club and into the parking lot.


In my drunken state, my emotions were going haywire. The situation had finally overwhelmed me. So I yelled. It was a furious, inarticulate sound that trilled on until I was out of breath. It didn't help, but it felt good.


Disoriented, I slunk toward the black façade of the Viper Room, leaned against the wall, and closed my eyes.

     Awesome, Dora. “Happy birthday to me,” I half-sang aloud.

     In response, I heard the sudden snap of my stiletto heel. Scrambling to catch myself, my hand scraped the side of the building and I slammed unceremoniously onto the ground. Angrily, I ripped off what was left of my heel and chucked it across the parking lot, followed quickly by Rosetta’s glittering accessories, which flew through the air like little shooting stars. I’d catch hell for that, but I didn’t care, served her right for ditching me.

     Leaning back against the wall of urine soaked nightmares, I gave in. The terrible night had won. With choking sobs, the tears came. Mascara began rolling down my cheeks in thick, black streams. My breath hitched and my chest constricted. I sucked in air, but it wasn’t enough. All I could do was sit there and shake with strangling, uncontrollable sobs as the panic attack began.

     “You never came to find me,” a deep voice suddenly whispered in my ear.       


My panic turned to shock and I scrambled back to find the most handsome man I’d ever had the good graces to flirt with hovering over me. I remembered marveling at him back in the bar. It had been unladylike of me, but it was my birthday after all. Sadly, I’d gotten little more than his name before he’d disappeared into the depths of the Viper Room.

     Remy stared down at me with a thin smile, his blue eyes seeming particularly bright in the dim streetlight, almost silver. His features appeared sharper than they had in the club, his perfectly styled deep brown hair now a frame of blackness around his masculine face.


As I studied him, I felt my body relax and my breath begin to calm. His eloquent brows were arched with just the faintest hint of worry. I also noticed a tick in the muscle of his jaw. Whether it was holding back a laugh or a curse, I wasn’t sure.

     “Where did you come from?” I managed after a moment, my voice coming out in an emotional rasp.

     “I came from the bar,” he teased.

     “Yeah, I know–” I began to say, but then stopped myself. “Never mind.” I sighed, dabbing at my eyes with the mesh sleeve of my dress.

     “Why are you crying?” he asked, crouching next to me.

     “I’m all right,” I croaked.

     “I did not ask if you were all right. I can see that you are not,” Remy replied with a cool voice. I shivered a little at the sound. “I asked, why are you crying.”   

     “Right,” I sighed dismally.

     I looked up into his eyes, they were understanding and calm, making me feel like I could tell him anything. Unfortunately, instead of calmly stating my situation, my words poured out of me in a flood of verbal incontinence.

     “Well, I got ditched by my brother. I don’t have money for a taxi. My makeup’s a mess. I broke a heel. I lost my friend’s earrings…” Remy just stared down at me. “And now you think I’m a hag.”

     I shifted awkwardly, trying to hide my face from him.

     “I think no such thing,” he replied and placed a finger under my chin, gently lifting my face up to meet his.

     Our gazes locked and the place where our skin touched seemed to almost hum with an electrified connection. I felt inexplicably drawn to him. His eyes fell to my lips then and my blood heated.

     “Listen. I could give you a ride,” he told me with a scoundrel’s curve to his lip.

      The logic center of my brain fired up then. Captivating or not, Remy was a stranger and I was staggeringly drunk. I considered my options as I looked around the alley replete with garbage, and worse. I really didn’t have much of a choice. Either I got a ride with him or I spent the night in the alley.

      I nodded and tried to stand, but immediately lost my balance. I was nearly back on the filthy ground when Remy’s arm snaked around my waist to catch me. I barely had time to gasp before he had me on my feet, steadying me against the wall. He was warm. Well, warmer than I was at that moment, and he smelled like good musky cologne. I felt dizzy with the scent of sandalwood and fresh water.

     “You–You’re strong,” I stammered as I tried to take a step, momentarily forgetting about my lack of heel. He tightened his grip, saving me from stumbling anew. “My hero,” I breathed.

     “What makes you think I am a hero?” Remy asked darkly, his lips suddenly inches away from mine.

     My “stranger danger” instincts should have lit up then. Instead, my heart leapt and I felt… at peace, like fate had brought me to this terrible alley just to gift me this moment.


Remy’s baby blues peered down into my dark eyes. There was intensity there, and yet something hesitant, as though he were waging some internal war. For a moment, I thought he might pull away.

     I tightened my arms around him, attempting to keep him close. Remy’s will seemed to dissolve then and his strong lips descended upon mine. My mind reeled. They were smooth, firm, and tasted lightly of brandy. My mind spun as that electricity between us seemed to intensify.

     Remy broke the kiss, giving me a moment to catch my breath. His lips caressed the corner of my mouth, traveled across my cheek, to my jaw, and then down to my neck. Shock and pleasure coursed through me as he feathered kisses along the sensitive flesh.

     Just then, movement across the parking lot caught my eye. My ecstasy faded as two dark figures with intent strides headed our way. One man wore a greasy faded t-shirt; the other sported a threadbare flannel. I stared at them over Remy’s shoulder, my heart still racing as he continued trailing kisses along my neck.


I wondered if these menacing figures had been watching me as I’d stumbled around drunkenly. I’d have been embarrassed about having an audience if it hadn’t occurred to me that, if not for Remy, I’d have made a wonderfully helpless victim.

     “Remy,” I whispered. “There’s–”

     “I know,” he breathed into my neck, causing me to shiver. “Between the chaotic bar and thug-ridden parking lot, we never seem to have a moment to ourselves.” He pulled away then, inhaled sharply, and frowned. “They are armed.”

     As if on cue, the metal of their guns glinted in the dim streetlight. Remy turned quickly, keeping me protectively behind him.

     “Evening, gentlemen,” Remy called firmly, greeting them as though they were pointing friggin daisies at us. “What can I do for you?”

     One of them laughed as they came to a stop several yards away.

     “Take a guess, asshole. We’re here for your money. Hand it over and everybody gets home.”

      The second gunman nodded, thrusting his weapon forward for emphasis.       


Remy stayed cool while somehow managing to hold me upright. “And if I am not inclined to surrender my funds?” Remy asked the men.

      “Then we shoot you, take your money, and your slut,” the other said simply.

      As I stared at their guns, a sudden wave of drunken bravery coursed through me then. “Great!” I slurred with as much dignity as I could muster. “This is just the perfect cap to my night!” I was apparently in the mood for jokes.

     “Shut it!” the first gunman spat, pointing his pistol at me then.

Something in me suddenly snapped. I felt bold, like fire was rushing through my veins. I was invincible, or at least the alcohol circulating through my system thought I was.


   “No, you shut it,” I yelled, taking a surprisingly steady step forward despite my lack of shoe. “I’ve had an epically shitty birthday and you clowns aren’t helping. So, go play somewhere else before someone gets hurt.”

     Remy glanced back at me with a raised brow and a smirk, looking amused by my little outburst.

     The muggers just stared.

     “Besides,” I said, continuing my belligerent eruption. “I don’t have anything to take. Do you see any pockets on this outfit?”

     The robbers seemed confused by my blatant disregard for their guns. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you why they didn’t scare me. It’s like I suddenly thought I was Wonder Woman or something.

     “You better get control of your bitch,” the gunman in the flannel said with an angry spray of spittle.

     I realized then how manic he was. I’d made a mistake. The guy clearly wanted to pull the trigger regardless of whether or not we gave him anything. I pulled on Remy, wanting him to leave with me, but he was solid as a statue, stopping me in my tracks. Flannel tracked me with his gun, ready to fire.

     I don’t know which one actually pulled the trigger, but I heard the loud crack just before I was thrown back against the wall of the club. My chest ached and I felt like I was falling in slow motion, the scenery tilting and shifting around me until I was staring up at the street lamps.

     I blinked hard as Remy filled my vision. There was a wild, stunned look in his bright eyes. His lips moved, he was talking, but I couldn’t hear him. It was as if someone had turned down the volume on the world. A slow thumping echoed in my ears. I tried to speak, but my mouth wouldn’t respond. I was cold and my vision was going blurry. 

     I finally managed to read Remy’s lips. He was telling me to keep looking at him. Despite his urging, my head tilted down and I saw the bloody flesh where my chest used to be. My head swam in horror and everything went dark.

~~~~~~

Yep, I died behind the Viper Room before River Phoenix. There may not be much I can say about my death, but I had that little claim to fame.


Remembering how my lifeblood had pooled out around me all those years ago made me reassess my situation. I might have been walled up in a coffee house basement, but I’d been through worse. I steadied myself, and logic finally came.


The cement was hardening around me but my tomb was just that, a place for me to be held. It was likely that this entrapment couldn’t kill me. Even if my lungs and heart stopped, none of which sounded pleasant, it might not end my potentially eternal existence. I mean, at least nobody was there to stake me, burn me, or chop off my head.         


However, there was a far worse option than dying. Err… dying again, I guess. The horrifying truth was that I could potentially live out eternity in a cement coffin. Had I just discovered a tenth level of hell?

     You would think that having been a vampire for a few decades, I wouldn't have been so easily tricked into this situation. Then again, I'd spent most of my eternal life largely ignoring the supernatural world and clinging to a layabout existence. To be fair, it’s not like I’d ever given much thought to joining the ranks of bloodthirsty night stalkers. I’d never wanted to join a coven or revel in bloodlust. I’d liked being human and I’d managed to cling onto my humanity like a security blanket.

     I contemplated my past; who I’d been, the decisions I’d made, the people I’d loved, the ones I’d let down through the years. In the end, I didn’t think I was that bad of a person. All I’d ever really wanted, even after becoming a vampire, was to play video games with friends. That was my usual, most natural state– shooting hordes of bad guys with a controller in my hand and a friend at my side. It seems trivial, but it was Heaven for me. All I’d ever wanted. Oh, and to not be buried alive. That wasn’t too much to ask, was it? Ignoring the strange absence of air in my lungs, I forced myself to put away the self-pity and continued retracing my steps. Maybe the answer to my current plight was there somewhere.

~~~~~~


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