Title: The Dead At Heart
Author: Susanne Leist
Genre: Paranormal Suspense
As vampires descend on Oasis, Florida, Shana turns to Sheriff Sam, the human-vampire who had broken her heart. Their journey takes them from Florida's swamplands to Old Quebec, where Chateau Frontenac's boardwalk explodes before their eyes. Not knowing which vampires to trust, Shana and her friends are forced to choose a side in their fight to save humanity from the evil threat.
Monday 12:30 a.m.
Howls filled the night air. Shana's eyelids flew open. Moonlight slid through the parted curtains, lighting a rectangular path across the carpet. She squinted into the shadowy darkness. Was someone in the room with her? Shana stared at the black shadow lurking beside her bed. It didn't move. After a few seconds, she recognized the armchair. Other familiar objects took form. The dresser across the room. The end tables on either side of the bed. With a sigh, Shana sank into the pillows.
A high-pitched howl jolted her to her feet. She dashed to the window. Black shapes darted across the back lawn, keeping low to the ground. A few of them stood on their hind legs and resembled people, but their deep-throated roars didn’t sound human. The moon cast an eerie yellow glow on the circling beasts. Her hands shaking, Shana grasped the windowsill as she stared at the ominous forms moving closer to the house. Shadows separated to form more creatures.
The door to the room banged open. Linda stepped inside, wearing sweats and a jacket, clutching a flashlight. "Shana, are you awake?" The beam swept through the darkness.
"How could I sleep with the howling?" She met Linda in the doorway.
"The power's disabled. There are no lights.” Linda's voice quivered. “The guards are searching the grounds." She pressed a flashlight into Shana's hand.
Shana whispered, "Animals are creeping across the lawn." She dug through her dresser drawers for a sweatshirt and pants. “A few even walk upright.” After grabbing a jacket from the closet and digging her feet into white sneakers, she paused. Could the animals spot white sneakers? Shana shrugged; she didn't have other ones.
When Linda disappeared into the hallway, Shana raced after her. "Where are you going? We’re supposed to stay in our rooms."
They descended the staircase as eerie howls echoed around them. "I’m staying in the house,” Linda replied as she directed her light across the downstairs’ walls. “I want to check the command center."
"What command center?"
Linda pointed the beam at Shana's face. "After your kidnapping, the vamps worked at the kitchen table. They hung maps on the fridge and pictures on the walls."
After shoving the blinding light from her face, Shana frowned. “Pictures of me?”
The flashlight grasped beneath her chin, Linda replied, “Photos of bloody scenes to keep them interested. Dead bodies. Decapitated heads. You know, the things vampires love.”
She shook her head. “Funny.”
Linda pushed open the kitchen door.
They entered an empty room.
"Now what, Sherlock?" Shana asked.
"I don't know."
As the howls echoed louder, Shana jumped. "Are the animals in the house?"
"How can that be?" Linda clutched Shana's arm. "Where are the guards?"
A black form lunged at them.
She grabbed Linda’s as they raced from the room. The enormous beast blocked their path to the stairs. In the darkness, yellow eyes glared at them. They dodged the multiplying animals and climbed the steps as high-pitched cries resonated through the house. "Hurry." Dragging Linda behind her, Shana rushed to Linda's suite and bolted the door behind them.
“I didn’t know the wolves are so huge." Linda gulped her words between frantic breaths as she leaned against the door. When the animals lunged at the door, Linda jumped back. “If they break through the door,” her voice trembled, “they’ll tear us apart. I thought the vamps could protect us." She slid against the wall to the floor.
Shana raced to the window. Shadows darted back and forth across the backyard. A few forms lay lifeless on the grass. "Men and wolves are fighting. There’s nowhere for us to run." Her gaze flew to the door as it cracked from the force of the wolves’ bodies. She spun to Linda. “The wolves have us surrounded. We can’t escape them.”
Linda ran to the window and pointed. "Wait. Is that William?"
A tall figure marched across the lawn. Shana recognized the confident stride as he approached a melee of men and wolves rolling on the grass. At his shout, the animals raised their heads and scampered away. "William chased the wolves away. How did he do that?"
"The wolves might have recognized him as an original."
Chills raced through Shana’s body as she asked, "Aren't Gregg and many of his vampires, originals?"
A loud noise made them turn. The door burst open, and the animals slunk into the room, backing them against the window. Growls and snarls melded into a cacophony of horror in Shana's head. They filled the room, saliva dripping from gaping jaws, moonlight glinting against pointy teeth. Head canted to the side, one appeared taller and broader. It stepped forward on hind legs and watched them through slanted yellow eyes. His peers, the ones standing upright, gathered around him.
Linda cowered beside her. “What do we do?”
"We fight." Shana's heart raced as her gaze darted around the room, searching for a weapon.
“They appear almost human.” Linda pointed at the tallest one. “It’s as if he wants to speak to us.”
“Not he. It,” Shana yelled. She needed a weapon—an umbrella. There was one beside her bed. "We've faced monsters. We kill or are killed.”
A whistle pierced the silence.
The wolves charged.
Growls faded to silence as Shana spun to Linda.
The wolves vanished, and so had Linda.
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Why is your featured book, a must-read?
No other book offers paranormal, mystery, and suspense in remote or famous locations as The Dead At Heart. My characters leave their peaceful seaside town of Oasis to pursue evil vampires across Florida's swamps to the quaint locale of Old Quebec. Chateau Frontenac and La Citadelle de Quebec are just two of the unique backdrops for my story.
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Winner will be drawn on November 3, 2020.
I have always loved to read. Agatha Christie, Alistair Maclean, Robert Ludlum, and many other authors filled my young imagination with intrigue and mystery. When I wasn't reading late into the night, the TV shows--Murder She Wrote and Columbo--entertained me with murder and suspense tales. Over the years, my taste in TV expanded to include such shows as Supernatural and The Originals. I searched for paranormal, murder mysteries, but found few at the library or bookstore. So, I wrote one. The Dead Game, Book One of The Dead Game series, brings fantasy and surrealism to the classic murder mystery with dead bodies, suspects, and clues. It offers vampires, vampire derivatives, and a touch of romance to spice the motley mix. The story continues in Book Two, Prey for The Dead, as The Dead vampires use an exclusive club in Disney World to infiltrate the rich and famous. As The Dead grow in power, not even the bright sunshine of Florida can weaken them. Linda and her friends join forces with human vampires--known as hybrids--to defeat the evil threatening to control Oasis. A masquerade ball and a romp through the tunnels beneath the town lead to a showdown in southern Florida's swamps. The Dead At Heart is Shana's love story. Will her love for William strengthen, or will Sam lead her on a different path? At Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, Shana and her fearless friends fight for Oasis and their lives. A career in writing has been a big leap for me. Accustomed to the number-crunching field of budgeting and the hectic commodity markets, I left my first career and M.B.A. in Finance behind to pursue my dream. I do not regret my foray into literature for one moment. Fellow authors helped me make my way through the competitive field. I write every day and even tried my hand at poetry. If someone tells you it's too late in life to try something different, they are wrong. It is never too late to follow your heart.
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