Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pet: Chapter One

The following content is provided for free as a sample of Pet, the second book in the Lost Humanity series, by H.S. Kallinger. Please feel free to share this page, but be kind and don't copy and paste the text elsewhere.



H.S. Kallinger

Book two of The Lost Humanity series

Chapter One


I yawned and stretched out, bumping into the soft, naked redhead next to me. I sighed, rolled over and cuddled into her. My wife. Thinking the word just thrilled me. I buried my face in her hair, and she rolled toward me with a smile.

Hi, you,” she said, stretching. I ran a finger down the center of her body while admiring the view.

How did you sleep?” I asked.

Fine,” came a voice from the other side of my wife. A beautiful blonde head popped up from the other side of Sarah to smirk at me.

Good morning, Jamie,” I said.

Afternoon, Zack,” she said, rolling back over to have Sarah spoon her.

Morning, Sarah,” I said, pushing a shock of red hair behind her ear.

Good morning, sweetie,” Sarah said, kissing me before she snuggled down against Jamie.

I don't think any of us has seen this side of a morning in years,” Jamie commented in her usual, contrary manner.

Technicalities, honey,” Sarah said.

Lukas doesn't say 'good morning,'” Jamie pointed out.

Lukas has had, like, a thousand years to get used to being nocturnal,” Sarah said.

You've had over three,” Jamie said.

Good afternoon, Jamie,” I said, rolling my eyes and reaching past my wife to poke her in the ribs.

Thank you,” she said, smirking at me again over her shoulder. She squealed when Sarah bit her, and I tickled Sarah, who shrieked with laughter. She collapsed onto her back, giggling, and I crawled on top of her to kiss her.

Hey, guys, give it a rest,” Jamie said. “You're going to hurt yourselves.”

I was just kissing my wife,” I told her, and Jamie rolled her eyes and shook her head.

Newlyweds,” she muttered and sat up.

I've got to pee,” I said, moving to sit next to her. “So it's not like we can do anything anyway.” Jamie looked down at my lap and then back up at my face, her eyebrow raised. “Despite appearances.”

If you say so,” Jamie said. “And I don't care if it's your honeymoon, I get her tonight.”

All to yourself?” I asked, trying to look cute and sad at the same time.

Yup. You've had her for three days. I'm sure Lukas misses you,” Jamie pointed out. I perked up at the thought.

You're right. He's back from Portland tonight, huh?” Lukas was our missing fourth. He seldom stayed in the bed all day with us, since it creeped out all three of us humans to wake up to him in his 'sleeping' statewhich very much resembled death—but he still liked to fall asleep with us. “By the way, I am glad to have you back, Jamie. How was Hawaii?”

Not as much fun without you guys,” she admitted, kissing my cheek. “But still a lot of fun. I've got to get to class.”

She leaned down to kiss Sarah. Sarah took Jamie's hand and kissed the ring on it. She couldn't legally marry Jamie, but that didn't stop her from putting a diamond ring on her finger and calling Jamie her wife. Jamie only had one ring, unlike Sarah and I.

I looked down at the ring on my left hand—the one from Sarah. It was a black and silver titanium band. Sarah said I was just too much of a klutz for anything softer. I just thought it looked really cool, so I didn't care.

On my right hand was a ring from Lukas that was a little more elaborate. It was black tungsten with a woven platinum inlay and a small, vivid blue diamond. I was honestly terrified of finding out how much it was worth. I had a strong feeling it was more than I made in several months. I don't think anything could have reminded me more of Lukas, though. The diamond was almost the color of his eyes when he was happy.

It made me feel like the ring I got him was cheap. It was tungsten, too, although his was dark with inlaid gold and a laser cut dragon designed after Viking styled jewelry. It cost half of what Sarah's did, but men's rings just seemed to cost less in general.

I touched Sarah's left hand and looked at the ring that I had been paying off for the last year. Such a tiny thing for so much money. Two different colored gold bands interlocked with the engagement ring, which had a large, ruby heart in another color gold. The two diamonds that went to the sides like shooting stars were all the stones that the wedding band part of the ring added. She said she wasn't crazy for diamonds, and I took her at her word.

For the umpteenth time, I adore it,” Sarah said, and I looked up at her and grinned sheepishly. “Rubies are my favorite stone, I promise.”

Okay, I have no choice but to believe you,” I said with a wink. I kissed her again and finally retreated to the bathroom. She walked past me to turn on the shower, and I knocked the seat down for her on my way into the water. I hopped behind the glass and started getting clean.

I'm going to go shower with Jamie,” Sarah told me.

Okay,” I called out to her. “Do you need me to do anything for breakfast?”

Just pick what we're having. I don't care; I'll cook whatever,” she answered as the door shut.

I reflected on how different my life was now than I had imagined it would be three and a half years ago. Back then, I was a student Emergency Medical Technician, just going wherever life seemed to point me. I didn't question anything, and I felt like I was drifting without any direction or purpose. One of my classmates talked about going down to Florida for winter break, and I thought that sounded like a great idea, so I booked a ticket. That was a classic example of how I ran my life at the time.

I never saw if he was on the train with me. We were only acquaintances, so it wasn't like we'd want to travel together. I ran into Sarah by accident after tripping on the bus stairs during a transfer while avoiding some random guy I bumped into. My accidental flirting had led to meeting Jamie, who was going out with Sarah already.

We ended up hanging out for the rest of the trip, and we had a pretty good time when we were all awake. There were several hours while they were asleep that I was bored out of my mind, though. When we pulled into the station, our train exploded, literally, and I believe it was the friendship I made with them that saved my life. The guy who was in the seat next to mine fell and broke his neck when our train was bombed onto its side. Because I was sitting with the girls, I was closer to the window and suffered less physical trauma.

An anti-vampire group had been aiming for a group of vampires due on the train that night and had detonated their bomb too soon. No one was quite sure why, since the one who actually detonated it blew his own head off when he found out he killed a bunch of innocent college kids. What's more, the people who didn't die, like us, were taken by vampires.

Some were fed to newly changed, some were changed, and the rest of us were taken as slaves. I was, as far as I knew, just a run of the mill guy who liked boobs, books and video games. I didn't care much about vampires and had never 'noticed' another guy. Then suddenly, there was an arrogant, undead Viking standing in front of me, telling me that my life was forever changed.

He pulled us from the train moments before it melted in flames—we never would have made it to safety on our own. We found out later that a few newly changed weren't able to tear themselves away from the bodies on the train and ended up burning. Vampires were more flammable than people, probably due to the lower moisture content in their bodies.

Over the next few weeks, we were beaten down and used against each other—poor Jamie was to be the whipping boy for the group—but the vampire was persuadable. He said he saw something in me that I'd never seen in myself, and he forced his way into my bed. While he later apologized, it was certainly a big part of what he used to break me.

Lukas was nearly a thousand years old, from the days of the Crusades and Vikings, on the border of Germany and Denmark. He was a Christian knight and bulldog for the church for over half a century before he had his faith shattered and joined up with the Vikings that destroyed it. He made a fortune in pillaging and art collecting over the centuries, but money couldn't buy him the position he wanted.

We were just pawns in the game he had set up to usurp the local head vampire of his position as master of the territory. Lukas had been his second—and lover—for two hundred years, which was a betrayal, as he had been convinced to join Sébastien as his equal. Once we were broken, we were given more and more freedom.

Lukas made what he considered a mistake, though. He was entranced by the three of us. When he couldn't actually have Jamie, because she was a lesbian, he even let her off as just food to keep Sarah and I as he fell in love with us. His long-held beliefs that vampires were superior and humans were nothing but servants, food and bed partners was challenged.

Somewhere in all of that, I went from a frightened, young, straight guy to someone suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and from there... a young man in love with a male vampire. I fell in love with Sarah, too, and grew to love Jamie. I loved all three of them in totally different ways. Sarah was fun, gentle and promiscuous. Lukas was confident, passionate and volatile. Jamie was curious, analytical and unpredictable.

Now I couldn't imagine living without any of them. They were my world, and for the first time in my memory, I felt like my life had meaning. I owned a used book store and game café that I kept stocked heavily with banned books and a healthy horror section. I had finally padded the sci-fi/fantasy section bigger than the romance, and I loved going to work. In my spare time, I read and played guitar. If it hadn't been for Lukas's cruelty and disregard for our lives, mine might never have really begun.

I turned off the water and grabbed my towel from the rack just outside the glass door. I wrapped it around my waist and then stepped out to grab one for my hair. It was longer than I tended to keep it because both Sarah and Lukas preferred it that way. I still cut my bangs in the way that made them stick out in just the way Sarah fawned over them... and I dealt with random jackasses giving me hell for it.

I ran a brush through my hair and slid some gel through the bangs so that they wouldn't be insane. I went into the kitchen, poked around in the fridge and picked bacon and eggs for breakfast. I pulled out two grapefruits and cut them, putting one half of one in the fridge and the rest on plates. Jamie and Sarah came into the kitchen, laughing and split up to tackle breakfast. I put our plates on the table and then went to pour us each a glass of milk while tossing some bread in the toaster.

I was responsible for the easiest parts because I was useless with things that didn't go in the microwave or other timed cooking device. Sarah had tried to teach me how to cook, but after I set our kitchen on fire not once, but twice, she gave up. My mom had tried when I was younger to the same effect. I put out the drinks and got more plates down for the girls to put the food on. We sat together and had a pleasant breakfast.

Do you have a class today?” I asked Sarah. She didn't usually teach on Mondays, but sometimes she picked up random, one-day classes around town.

No, I think I'll come hang out at the book store today,” she told me.

I've got a few boxes of books that need shelving. You can take the register while I do that,” I suggested.

See you guys later,” Jamie said, standing up. She leaned over to kiss Sarah. After, she placed her dishes in the sink and then kissed me on the forehead on her way out.

Bye!” we called after her.

Love you!” Sarah called.

Love you, too!” Jamie called back right before the front door shut.

Want to take a walk before we head out?” Sarah asked.

Sure,” I agreed and took her hand. We went out and enjoyed the nice weather, although some clouds were rolling in, and we decided to cut our walk short before we ended up being caught in a surprise April shower. We made it back and got in the car just as the first drops started to fall. It didn't take long to get to work. We sat outside in the car for a few minutes when we got there, waiting to see if the rain cleared up any while we talked about the next Elder Scrolls game that was coming out.

Remembering my earlier musings, I looked at the rings Jamie and Lukas had given Sarah. Jamie's was a simple gold band with a diamond, but it had been her mother's—the only thing she had left of her. Lukas had gone for simplicity, so as not to overwhelm her other rings. It was white gold with a stone for each of us. His was a blue tanzanite, Sarah's was an emerald, mine was a sapphire and Jamie's was a stone he had to tell us was black opal. Surprisingly, it matched Jamie's eyes. In fact, he'd matched all our eyes pretty well.

I thought back on the day I'd given her the engagement ring. It was last June. Sometimes I still felt like a dork for waiting so long to ask. I had assumed that she'd just stay with me, and I'd always heard you shouldn't rush into marriage, even if you were certain that you'd found 'the one.'

I'd seen the wedding ring first, but the price put me off until I saw the engagement rings. Three stones for three of us. The ruby heart was so perfect that I knew I had to buy them. Thankfully, there was a very nice layaway plan. It took me 8 months to buy it while still having enough for my bookstore fund, but I made the last payment a few weeks shy of my goal, so I had plenty of time to arrange everything.

Jamie,” I called before she followed Sarah out the door. Sarah stopped and turned around. “I just wanted to say something to Jamie for a sec; you can go ahead.”

Sarah waved and went out to the car, since they were carpooling that day.

What is it?” Jamie asked, curiosity in her eyes. I pulled her back inside and shut the door.

I'm going to ask Sarah to marry me,” I said, producing the little crimson box with the ring inside. Jamie smirked.

Took you long enough,” she said.

Well, I was supposed to be sure, right?” I said.

I just figured you weren't playing favorites,” Jamie said with a teasing laugh.

Well, I also want to make sure that it's okay with you,” I admitted, and her eyes started sparkling.

Why, Zack Henderson, are you asking for my permission to marry our lover?” Jamie's lips were twitching. I was quiet for a moment, giving her a dark look.

Do I have it?” I asked, and she burst out laughing.

Of course you do, you dork,” Jamie said, practically picking the word from my brain. “Although I want a kid out of it.”

She kissed my nose and then turned and left.

I told Lukas next, and he pretty much echoed Jamie that I had wasted time. It was such an obvious answer that I felt silly being nervous about asking, but I was. I had everything set up with Lukas and Jamie beforehand, and I was sure something would go wrong.

It was the night of her twenty-seventh birthday. We had dinner reservations at a really nice Italian restaurant, so we were all dressed up. Lukas had her birthday cake delivered to our table for dessert, and I just about kicked him. Lukas loved getting her cakes with a dragon theme, and he also loved foreshadowing gifts. This dragon was jealously guarding a horde of gems, at the center of which was a gum paste diamond ring, right on the tip of a claw. I shot him a look, and he winked at me. Sarah totally missed it, though, thankfully.

After dinner, I asked Sarah to take a walk with me while Lukas and Jamie stayed behind to pay. I took her down and across the street to the park and held her hand in the light of the fountain. She leaned her head on my shoulder, and I sat down on the stone bench, pulling her to sit next to me.

She leaned closer, and I ducked my head to kiss her, sliding off the bench to kneel in front of her. She was smiling fondly at me until I reached down to grab the ring where I had stuffed it in my pocket right before we left. Her eyes went wide when she saw the little box.

Sarah Jane Gallagher,” I began, opening the box, and she started grinning. “Will you stop being my pretend fiancée at hospitals and be my real one? And then, you know, marry me?”

She jumped me right there, and I banged my head on the cement, but I didn't care, because her answer was pretty clear.

Took you long enough,” she said, breaking the kiss.

Time to go in,” Sarah said, breaking my reverie. We climbed out of the car and hurried inside. The first hour was as slow as usual, and I was glad for the company. We had two customers in the store when the front window crashed in. I ducked behind the counter as glass sprayed into the store and something smashed into the register. I backed away in confusion, my heart jumping into my throat and tried to see what had flown through the window.

I found a brick with 'Necro Fagget' written across it. I looked up at my shop window, which was destroyed, and my eyes started burning with anger.

You could have at least spelled it right, you fucker,” I muttered. Sarah touched my shoulder, and I turned to her wide, frightened eyes and hugged her tightly. One of the customers had run outside right after it happened and came back in, shaking her head.

Black hoodie, gray sweatpants,” she reported. “I couldn't see for shit.”

Thanks, anyway, Kim,” I said, sighing and let go of Sarah. I pulled out my phone and called the police. Sarah reached for the brick, and I stopped her. “Don't touch it. Cops probably can't get anything off it, but it's still all the evidence we have.”

Good luck, man,” said the other customer as he skittered out of the shop.

Hey!” Kim yelled.

Let him go,” I said, listening to the phone ring. “It doesn't matter.”

The dispatcher came on the line, and I told them what had happened, who I was and where we were. The whole day, which had started so wonderfully, was fucked.

Steve, the guy who owned the coffee shop joined to us, brought us all coffee and sat with us until the cops arrived. My busted window attracted a lot of attention, and he had to go back to his shop to keep up with the demand, but I was grateful for the effort. The police came, asked a bunch of questions and took the brick. They confirmed that it was a hate crime and not just name calling or vandalism, and I wanted to shrink away and hide from the look of condemnation in one cop's eyes.

In my other life, I never would have been the victim of a hate crime. In this one, I'd already suffered two. The first wasn't even directed at me, but changed everything I had ever believed about myself. I didn't advertise that I had a male lover, nor that he was a vampire. When Lukas came into the shop, he always stayed platonic and respected boundaries for my safety, even though Petaluma was normally very friendly to alternative lifestyles. There were assholes everywhere—this just proved it.

It was his being a vampire, more than our being lovers, that put me at risk. I might get jumped for being gay, but my chances of being killed for being with a vampire were much higher. Where I grew up, I'm pretty sure I'd have been lynched by now. Instead, as people heard about what had happened and why, they started coming into the shop, offering to help.

I had to hide in the back for a while because I was overwhelmed. Both from the attack itself and the positive response from our neighbors. I kept seeing the words 'necro' and the misspelled 'fagot' and turning them over in my mind. 'Necro' was, of course, short for necrophiliac. My mom had been mad at me for using the derogatory 'grave robber' to describe myself, but it wasn't on par with 'necro.' I supposed I should be grateful that 'corpse-fucker' didn't fit.

I splashed water on my face in the bathroom and went back out to find that all of the glass was already cleaned, and someone had brought a huge piece of plastic that five people were duct taping to the front. I got on the computer and looked up a windows and siding shop to come out as soon as possible to replace it. Then I joined the people clearing out the books from the front to separate what was water damaged from the rain or scratched by glass to mark down.

All the while, Sarah stayed at the register while people bought books. We'd never done terribly, but when people were pissed off about how someone was treated, dropping a couple dollars to help the shopkeeper was apparently considered the appropriate course of action. I certainly wasn't complaining. As three o'clock hit and my usual gamer crowd started showing up, the store was totally presentable—except for the semi-transparent plastic eyesore that was my front window.

The window people arrived around four and took measurements. I was given an estimate that made me flinch, because I'd have to ask Lukas for the money, but I gave them the go ahead. This was the only place that could get it done in under five weeks that didn't have horrible ratings. In the meantime, I had workers in to measure for one of those metal curtains that mall stores close up with. That would only take half a week, so if I was lucky, I wouldn't get robbed blind in the meantime.

We spent from eight to ten packing up all the rare books and dismantling the game room. Anything valuable was gathered up. The kids playing there helped us take it down and loaded it up in the truck Jamie had rented for us.

We'll bring back a screen and a couple systems tomorrow,” I promised them and they cheered, even if that meant that they had to share and take turns. I really loved my customers. Jamie hugged us both and helped get the last of the books that were worth much, including my entire 'new' section, out of the store. We stood outside as I locked up and said good-night to everyone who had stayed to help.

When we got home, only Lukas's car was in the garage, so I parked the truck in the driveway behind it. Sarah parked my car on the street, then took Jamie to go get her car from the U-Haul place. I hurried inside with increasing enthusiasm. I'd had one crappy event today that wasn't going to ruin my reunion with the vampire I only half-jokingly called my husband.

Lukas was waiting on the couch, signing some papers when I came in. He stopped what he was doing and disappeared to reappear next to me in the blink of an eye, wrapping his arms around me. When I kissed him, my whole body came alive, and it was easy to put aside everything I'd been through to follow him back to the couch, shedding clothes along the way.

We were wrapped up in the afterglow when Sarah and Jamie walked through the door.

Ooh, let me get my camera,” Sarah said, grinning at me. I stuck my tongue out, but didn't move from my comfy spot, lying naked on top of the man I loved.

Where should we order dinner tonight?” Jamie asked, walking past us to put her books on her desk.

Are we not eating out?” Lukas asked. The girls looked at me.

You didn't tell him?” Sarah asked.

I was too busy saying 'hi,'” I explained.

Well, I do believe we have established that you were happy to see me. What happened?” Lukas asked, running his fingers through my hair.

Someone threw a brick through the shop window,” I said, sitting up. Lukas's eyes narrowed.

Was there a reason given?” he asked.

It had some hate words written on it,” I said.

What words?”

Does it matter?”

Yes.” Lukas was frowning deeply, and I sighed.

It said 'fagot,'” I began, staring at my fingers. My nails really needed to be trimmed. And cleaned. “And 'necro.'”

Himmel, Arsch und Zwirn!” Lukas swore, sitting up and swinging his legs off the couch. He reached out to grab his boxers from the coffee table.

It's not a big deal,” I said. “I filed a police report and a bunch of customers came to help clean up, including taping up the window. We have the expensive stuff in a truck in the garage and—”

Incidents like this are rarely isolated,” Lukas said quietly.

It might be, though,” I said, trying to hold onto some hope.

That is a very specific attack,” Lukas said. “One, the other, and I could believe it was possibly a random attack. I will call and discover if any other human slaves or companions have been attacked. I do not like this.”

I didn't really like it much, myself. It will be, like, a month before I can get my window replaced. And... well... It was frightening.” I continued looking away, and Lukas put his arm around my shoulder.

A month?” Lukas said. “That is not right. Did you call the owner of your building?”

I'm afraid he'll pull my lease if he finds out about this,” I said, sighing. “I really like my location and don't want to have to move.”

I will make some calls. A month is a long time for a store to not have a front window.”

No kidding,” I said. “But they told me that they had to measure and cut for it.”

I am admittedly not an expert, but I do not believe that it takes four weeks to cut glass,” Lukas said.

I don't know. If you can get it done sooner, great,” I said. Lukas nodded, kissed my head and stood up, pulling his underwear on. He retrieved his jeans, and I grabbed my own boxers and started getting dressed. Jamie was still waiting to know what I wanted for dinner. “Feel like pizza?”

Which place?” Jamie asked.

I really want Ameci's,” I answered. “I want a salad with the pizza.”

I wish Jack in the Box delivered,” Sarah complained.

Feel free to go drive through,” I told her.

Meh,” she said. “Ameci's is fine. I'll just get a sandwich.”

I'll go order,” Jamie said. Sarah shot me a meaningful look as I pulled my shirt on.

I'll... go unload the truck,” I said, grabbing a jacket. Lukas looked up from his phone, back and forth between the girls and then followed me.

How was your honeymoon?” he asked as the door to the garage opened.

It was great, even if everyone else went on vacation for it,” I said with a laugh. I opened the back of the truck as Lukas started speaking to someone on the phone. I unloaded it slowly, listening to the manner with which Lukas talked to the people on the other end.

I frowned as I became aware that I'd talked to the exact shop he was speaking with, and he had already been given a better time estimate. Still, he hung up and called another place. On his third call, as I got the last of the electronics out and put them on shelves, he hung up looking satisfied.

Three days,” he said.

How the hell did you manage that?” I demanded. “Especially since they were probably trying to close?”

You must know how to speak with people.”

Lukas began helping me pull out boxes of books, which weighed more than the electronics. He frowned down into one of the boxes.

You have a lot of this book,” he commented. I glanced over his shoulder.

Oh, those are all different issues of the same manga,” I said. Lukas looked at me askance. “Japanese graphic novels.”

Lukas continued to stare at me blankly, so I set down my box and opened it up to show him. I handed him a book.

See? They're stories with pictures.”

Children's books?” Lukas asked, examining it.

Not that one, it's rated M, which is for 'mature.' The reason it's wrapped in plastic is that it has graphic sex inside,” I told him, settling it back into the box. “Try to keep all these boxes together. I have to buy these new because almost no one trades in manga when they can resell it for more online, and these are expensive. I have trouble keeping stocked, since I'm selling two to three dollars less than the major bookstores.”

I thought your bookstore sold secondhand books?” Lukas inquired.

Well, yeah, but Sarah requested that I carry these. I think just so she can get the discount. I get boxes of them at overstock prices through a dealer that a customer hooked me up with, so I'm making a nice profit on them. I do also get in new regular books occasionally.”

Sarah reads these?” he asked, raising his eyebrow. I looked down at the manga he had been looking at.

Not that one. Usually...” I looked through the books until I found a copy of one of her favorite manga. “These are her favorite.”

I put it in his hand and corrected how he held it, since it, like a lot of manga, was read right to left. I explained that what we considered the back was the front. Lukas read the jacket blurb and started laughing.

Does she not get enough of this in our bed?” he asked.

That one's romantic,” I said. “I don't think we ever had a lot of that.”

Lukas frowned and looked at the books. The next thing I knew, he was pulling them out of the box.

Hey! YAOI sells for more than any of the others!” I protested. He gave me a look, and I sighed.

YAOI?” he asked, finishing pulling the rest of the issues.

Some Japanese acronym,” I said. “Means guy on guy. Women and teenage girls eat it up. At first, I used to warn some of the customers about what they were buying until I realized that I was totally deluded about who read those things. It doesn't surprise me at all anymore who brings them up to the counter.”

Sometimes I forget how naïve you are,” Lukas said with a chuckle.

Yeah, well, don't expect those to be really pornographic. Most of the junk glows or is blurred or something. I haven't looked through that one myself, but, in general.”

I have much lovelier 'junk' to look at, thank you,” Lukas said, patting my butt as he took off with my merchandise. He set it on the hood of his car and came back to finish with the rest of the boxes. As we closed the truck, I saw the pizza guy, and Lukas went out to meet him and pay. I followed behind, mostly just to watch his ass in the jeans.

It wasn't like we could go inside yet. One of the girls would come out to let us know when it was 'safe'. In the meantime, I could enjoy ogling my husband, so that is what I did.

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