Deleted Scene: Halfway To The Grave
The Original Chapter One
***Author's note: This is the original beginning of Halfway to the Grave that I later cut before submitting to agents. It features a shyer, teenage Cat before she became her vamp-trolling, wise-cracking self. The old beginning has an explicit violence scene, as it shows Cat encountering her first vampire. Once you're done, you'll see why I had to cut this from the manuscript before I shopped it to agents. Its innocence-lost, homicidal-tendencies-found theme of a teen girl in this opening didn't match with the older, sexier version of Cat that was in the rest of Halfway to the Grave.***
When I left my house that day, I'd had absolutely no intention of killing anyone.
I'd been looking for my boyfriend, Danny. I met him a few weeks ago when his car broke down near my grandparent's orchard. Driving late at night was one of the ways I escaped from the taunts of other kids over my illegitimacy. That's how small this town was. People still cared about things like that.
Of course, if you compared being illegitimate next to my father being a vampire, it hardly measured up.
Not that my neighbors knew that. Neither did my grandparents, who my mother and I lived with. People didn't believe in vampires. Only my mother knew what I was. The man who raped her almost seventeen years ago had redefined the term "necking." At least that explained her distant, suspicious nature when it came to everyone, especially me. My mother hated vampires with a pathological passion, and I was half-vampire. Whether I'd wanted to be or not.
Danny hadn't called me all week. I called him Monday and left a message. Tuesday, I called again. Wednesday, I left a more worried message. Had he called but my grandparents hadn't told me? They thought I was too young to date, so that wouldn't have surprised me.
By Thursday, I imagined all sorts of horrible things that might have befallen Danny. He was a victim of a robbery. Or a car accident. Food poisoning. In jail for driving while drinking. My mind was an endless supply of bad possibilities. When Friday came, I was nearly sick with worry. I knew there were other, more terrible things that could have happened to Danny. Things no average police department would know about.
Without telling my mother where I was going, I set off for Danny's apartment. He lived an hour away in Columbus. When I pulled up to his apartment, I flew out of my truck and pounded on his door. No answer, and his car wasn't there. Okay, no luck here, but someone had to know if he was okay.
After a few wrong turns, I found his friend George's frat house where Danny had taken me the previous weekend. I parked out front and pushed my way through the milling college kids.
A guy stopped me on my way to George's room. "Who are you?"
I smiled up at him. "I'm Catherine. I'm looking for George, I was here last week. He, uh, helped me with my license."
George was a counterfeiter, in addition to being a college student. Last Saturday he'd made me a license showing I was twenty-one. Danny already had one. That was the point, so I could go to the places Danny went to.
"Wait here, I'll see if George is still around."
A few minutes later George came down, looking confused and slightly irritable.
"Cathy, what're you doing here? You didn't loose your I.D. that fast, did you?"
"George." My voice cracked a bit from strain. "Have you seen Danny? I haven't been able to get a hold of him all week. Is he all right?"
Something I couldn't name passed over his face. "Yes, Danny's fine. In fact, I think he's at Galaxy, the club the two of you went to last week. You remember where it is?"
"Um, George, we never made it last weekend." I knew my face was red, but I didn't let it stop me. "Can you give me directions?"
Reluctance was written all over him, but I persisted. When I had the directions, I thanked him and left, so excited to know Danny was okay, I forgot to wonder why he hadn't called me.
Galaxy turned out to be huge. Their doors were open, the sounds of music spilling into the parking lot. I walked up to the entrance hesitantly but with determination, not about to let a thing like nerves stop me. At the door the bouncer gave a hard look at my fake driver's license, holding it under his light and comparing it to my face. I tried to look blase and smiled as if I didn't have a care in the world. All I need is to go to jail for possession of false identification, I thought, but he finally waved me inside.
The music was pounding, and it seemed like hundreds of gyrating bodies were all around me. My plain white tee shirt turned hues of neon in the fluorescent glare of the lights. Pushing through the dancers was like walking through deep water. When I found my way to the nearest bar, I scanned the people around it. No Danny yet.
"Buy you a drink?" a voice behind me asked.
I whirled, smiling, but it wasn't Danny. An unknown guy in a red shirt grinned at me.
"No thanks," I said, and turned back to the crowd. From my viewpoint, I noticed there were several bars in the club. Wading once more through the living barricades, I reached the other side in what seemed like an hour. My head had started to pound along with the music, and my eyes were sore from the flashes of light scoring the room.
The second and third bars were no more helpful. Despair began to set in that George had been wrong and Danny wasn't here after all. I leaned against the wall, glancing at the second floor of the club. People were gathered by a banister that overlooked the main floor. As I watched, a familiar sandy-colored head came into view.
"Danny!" I yelled, but to no avail, as he wouldn't have heard a bullhorn in this noise. With relief, I pushed my way to the stairs and sprinted up them toward Danny.
The broad smile of greeting I wore dropped from my face when I saw him more clearly. A blonde girl was in front of him, her hands on his chest. She was grinning as he leaned down to kiss her.
I stared, shocked, as Danny put his arms around the girl. After a long minute, he broke the kiss – and finally noticed me.
"Oh, shit," he muttered.
I heard him. I shouldn't have with all of the background noise, but my hearing wasn't normal. Neither was my eyesight, and I absorbed every emotion on his face as he looked from her to me.
"Catherine! Er...what are you doing here?"
Danny stepped back from the pretty blond, who gave me a belittling glance as she took in my jeans, sneakers, and tee shirt.
"Is this the girl you were telling me about, Danny? The one you just broke up with?"
It was a gasp of outrage, not a question. My hands balled into fists and I took several deep breaths to calm down. Control your anger. You can't let anyone know what you are.
"Can you give me a second?" Danny asked the blond. She tossed one more snotty glance at me and then smiled.
"Sure. I'll be at the bar."
Danny waited until she'd walked away before speaking again. "Catherine, I was going to call you, because I've been thinking. You're just sixteen; I'm almost twenty. You're too young, it wouldn't work out between us."
After everything he'd said to me the previous weekend, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"You told me you cared about me, that you'd never felt this way before, that I meant so much to you..." Every item was ticked off in a low hiss. "That was five days ago, Danny! And now you've changed your mind?"
My anger covered the hurt welling inside me. Desperately, I wanted him to take back what he'd just said.
Danny lowered his head, flicking his gaze around him to see if anyone else was paying attention to this scene. The dimple in his chin wrinkled when he pursed his lips, seeming to choose his words.
"It's like this, Catherine," he began in a tone he'd never used with me before. "I thought we could have some fun, and you seemed into it as well. Right until it was time to actually have fun, and then you got all coy and hesitant. So I told you what you needed to hear. Get over it, it's not a big deal. It wasn't even that good. Now go on home, isn't it past your bedtime?"
Danny turned around without another word. He went to the bar, slung an arm around the smirking blond, and walked away. I watched them go, transfixed, while emotions slammed over me.
I had been used, plain and simple. Used like the stupid hick farm girl I apparently was. All week long I'd been worried about Danny. Worried and happy and ignorant and disposable. Tears began to trickle down my cheeks. When I first began dating Danny, I thought maybe there was a chance I could live a normal life, despite what I was. Hopelessness felt so much harsher after I'd been allowed to hope.
My hurt was soon followed by despair. It must be my bloodline. Maybe I was being punished for the evil inside me, no matter that it wasn't my fault it was there.
"He isn't worth it."
I didn't know who the voice belonged to behind me, but without turning around, I nodded.
"I guess he isn't." My voice was a rasp. I barely recognized it, either.
"Have a drink with me."
"Okay." Still I didn't turn around, but kept my eyes on Danny and his blond until they disappeared into the crowd.
A cool hand touched my arm, making me flinch at the twinge of static electricity. I let the guy lead me to the nearby bar and sat on the stool as if in a daze. My unknown escort ordered two gin and tonics. When a cold glass was pressed into my hand, I finally glanced at my new companion.
My first thought was, "he looks familiar. I know him," before realizing his face was entirely foreign to me. Black hair brushed his shoulders and his skin was almost the same pale shade as my own. But such skin. Smooth, opalescent...like cream poured over diamonds. Hazel eyes looked right into mine with a stare that seemed to pin me to my seat. The air around him held a faint crackle, like somehow, he'd managed to harness an electrical field as a coat.
Yeah, you could say I knew right away the man sitting next to me was a vampire.
"You're staring," he chided me, but it didn't seem to bother him.
"Yes, I'm staring," I agreed, shock making me numb. Right next to me sipping a drink was a real live – sort of – vampire. I couldn't stop looking him up and down. After months of hearing about vampires, here was one in the flesh. My mother had said they looked just like normal people, but she was wrong. With the perfection of his skin and that tingling energy coming off him, I couldn't understand how anyone thought he was human.
A sudden fear gripped me. Could he tell what I was? Was that why he'd stopped me? My stomach gave a frightened lurch. I grabbed the gin and tonic, downing it in one swallow.
The vampire gave me a surprised glance before ordering another one.
"Thirsty, aren't you?" he remarked.
"Aren't you?" I blurted out, then nearly choked. Smart one, Catherine.
"Of course." He brought his glass to his mouth and took a sip, then smiled. "That's better."
I suppressed a scoff, my mother's words ringing in my head. They're demons, Catherine. Monsters. All they want to do is trick people so they can get them alone and kill them.
We'd see about that. "What's your name?"
My tone was steady, but nerves made me gulp my second drink as quickly as the first one. It was finished before he answered me.
"Anthony what?" I stared right into his eyes now, challenging him. A strange peace had descended over me. It was a savage serenity, but with purpose. Danny dumped me, I had no friends, and my life was a constant source of shame for my mother. What did I have to lose? This vampire was out for blood, but maybe I could turn the tables on him.
"Anthony Dansen. What's yours, beautiful girl?"
I knew he'd probably given me a fake name, and after Danny, I never wanted to hear another man call me Catherine.
"My name is...Cat." And you are my mouse, or I am yours. May the best beast win.
He smiled, confident and predatory. "Cat what?"
I looked at his hair. It was so dark, it could have belonged on a bird's wing.
"Isn't that unusual? One half on the opposite spectrum from the other."
With an answering, cold smile, I finished my drink, signaling the waiter for another one.
"You have no idea."
After nine more drinks, I allowed Anthony to convince me that I was in no shape to drive. I was kind of surprised that I wasn't drunk from all the booze, but so far so good. Anthony was very considerate, helping me as I pretended to stagger toward the exit. He'd even been a great listener as I told him how I'd been dumped by Danny. Why not? One of us was going to be dead by sunup, so no need to worry about him repeating my humiliating confession. Anthony had oozed sympathy, too. It was a good act. If I hadn't known what he was, gullible me might have bought it.
We stopped by my truck so I could get my purse, since I insisted I couldn't leave without it. What he didn't know was that inside the bag was a gift my mom had given me. One that may or may not prove effective now.
I gave Anthony directions in the exact opposite of where I lived. If I died, I didn't want him to look up my family. My driver's license was the fake one, so the address on it was bogus. In short, I was as ready as I was ever going to be.
When I climbed into his car, a lovely dark blue Passat, I put my purse between my body and the interior door. Then I pretended to snooze as we got underway, surreptitiously reaching into my bag to wrap my fingers around a large silver cross. I wasn't praying; inside the cross was a dagger of the same metal. Some kids got new cars on their sixteenth birthday. My mom had given me a big cross that had a hidden switchblade in it. Soon enough I'd find out if silver actually killed vampires, or if crosses repelled them. I would have liked to have a piece of sharp wood, too, just in case, but I hadn't figured on running into a vampire.
Anthony drove in silence for about twenty minutes before he turned off the highway onto a lesser road. I knew this because even though my eyes were closed, I could feel the ground change from concrete to bumpy dirt and gravel. Still, I continued my sleeping act. After about fifteen minutes, Anthony stopped. My hand tightened around the cross until it ached. Since my heart was pounding now, which even I could hear, I quit faking sleep and opened my eyes.
In front of me were rows of trees. Through them, I could see the silvery outline of water. If you wanted to suck someone's blood and dump their body in a secluded place, this spot was postcard-perfect for it.
"Where are we?" There was a tremor in my voice that wasn't feigned. I was completely alone with a monster who would most likely kill me.
"I wanted to pull off and spend some time with you. You don't like the sound of that?" Anthony made his voice sound vulnerable and sexy. Quite an act, but then practice probably made perfect.
"I want to go home. I'm tired, a little drunk, and I think we should leave."
There. I'd said it firmly. If I was crazy and he was just a regular guy looking for a good time, he'd put the keys back in the ignition and drive off. No harm, no foul. To my complete lack of surprise, he smiled instead and touched my cheek.
"You're beautiful, Cat." He moved closer, leaning until his mouth was inches from mine. "Kiss me."
His voice dropped to a lower, deeper octave. Smooth as the air outside. He didn't wait for my response, but kissed me, his mouth slanting over mine.
Anthony's lips were cooler than mine, but I'd been braced for him feeling cold and gross, and I was surprised when he didn't. The thought flashed through my mind that he was a much better kisser than Danny had been, too. That was completely absurd, however, because we were here to kill each other.
"Anthony, don't." I pressed against his chest. It didn't move him an inch. My right hand tightened more on the concealed cross. "I want to go home."
He stopped kissing me and lifted his head.
I screamed, unable to help it. Sweet holy Jesus, his eyes, which had been hazel at the bar, now glowed a clear bright green. A cruel smile wreathed his face, and yes, poking out from underneath his lips were teeth. Pointy, murderous-looking teeth.
"I'm sorry, Cat, but you won't be going anywhere tonight."
His voice lost that seductive tone and was positively frightening. My heart hammered, seeming to be stuck somewhere in my throat. For a few moments that seemed to stretch longer, I watched Anthony bend toward my neck.
"Your eyes are glowing," I whispered. "Guess what? Mine can, too."
Anthony glanced up at me right as I struck. My hand flew out, and with all my strength, I plunged that cross dagger into his back, aiming where I guessed his heart would be.
He howled so loud, it shook the windows. Then he reared back, trying to reach the weapon in his body. I held on, knowing if I let go, it would be all over. With a savageness I didn't know lay in me, I twisted the blade, wrenching it from side to side. Anthony backhanded me so hard, the window cracked when my head hit it. In the split second I let go, he grabbed for the knife.
I kicked at him, my body braced against the door. Since both his hands were clawing at his back, Anthony's face was unprotected. My shoes landed with a solid thunk, snapping his head back. When his fist arced at me again, I threw myself forward, ducking to avoid his blow and groping for the knife.
Fangs sank into my shoulder. I screamed as Anthony tried to chew his way up to my neck. His fists beat on my back until every one of my ribs felt broken. The pain was so great, I knew at any moment, I'd pass out and never wake up. But even if I was going to die, maybe, just maybe, I could take him with me.
I focused all of my remaining effort on the dagger, missing it twice before finally grabbing it again. It was slick with blood, and I curled my fingers around the arms of the cross to anchor my grip. Then I scissoring it madly left and right, my vision blackening as Anthony continued to tear at my shoulder and crush me with his fists. With the last bit of strength in me, I gave the dagger one final slanted thrust.
All at once, Anthony's mouth went slack, his arms dropped, and he fell onto me as if unconscious. Even through the haze of overwhelming pain, I smiled.
My last thought before the darkness claimed me was, this one's for you, Mom.
Feelings returned slowly to me. My back ached. Something heavy was on me. My leg was twisted. My shoulder hurt. I tasted blood in my mouth. I was still alive.
That made me snap my eyes open. The first thing I saw was Anthony's face. It was grotesque. His mouth hung open, his tongue lolled out, and his features had somehow sunken and withered. He was on top of me, and I was contorted at an odd angle so that I was halfway under the glove box. The blood I'd tasted in my mouth was his, since it had run in a disgusting red trail from the hamburger of his back down to my face. I spat it out, terrified, because I'd clearly swallowed some of it.
I pushed at Anthony's body, but couldn't get enough traction to get out from under him. Fumbling, I reached behind me and groped around for the door handle. Ah, there it was. One tug later and the door spilled open. I wiggled backward, twisting, until I got enough space between us to kick Anthony back and fall out of the car.
From my vantage point in the dirt, the car looked like a pig slaughter. Blood was splattered on the windshield, dashboard, and seats. Add that to a ripped up man in the front, and there was no way I could drive this into town to get my truck. Somehow I didn't think the police would believe me if I told them the thing I'd killed in it was a vampire. But honestly, officer, he tried to suck my blood! No, better not try to go public with this. So, then. Unless I wanted to go to jail, I had to get rid of the car and the body. But how?
I gave Anthony's corpse an assessing look. Could I burn him? It would be hard trying to torch him with just the cigarette lighter. To be honest, I was a little surprised that he hadn't spontaneously combusted. They always did in the movies. Maybe he wasn't really dead after all. The thought chilled me. All right, first things first. I needed to make sure the thing in the car really was a corpse before I worried about disposing of one.
I got up, leaning cautiously over the open door. The dagger still stuck out of Anthony's back like some macabre trophy. With a grimace, I rolled him over so he was face up.
My stomach gave a sickening lurch. Anthony looked even worse that he had before. His skin was like cracked leather, his lips were pulled away from his teeth, his hands claw-like, and his chest seemed to shrink within itself. If he wasn't dead, he was doing an Oscar-winning performance of it. Still, I wanted to be sure, so I looked around the backseat for another weapon. Some part of me was afraid if I removed the dagger, Anthony would leap up and attack me.
The backseat was useless. There was nothing, not even a toothpick. The glove box was empty of everything but registration papers, which were not to Anthony Dansen, but to a Felicity Summers. I said a quick, silent prayer for Felicity, although I knew it was probably too late. Then as a last resort, I got out and opened the trunk.
I spoke aloud, shocked into doing so. The trunk looked like a Hannibal Lecter starter kit. There was an ax, oversized garbage bags, duct tape, a shovel, extra clothes, and baby wipes. Baby wipes? Mentally I shuddered at the thought of why they were there. As horrifying as the objects were in the trunk, they were tailor-made to suit my purposes. Already I was thinking like a murderer.
Another tremor passed over me as I realized, belatedly, these things were here for me. It made my blood run cold to know these items would have been used in my body's disposal, if Anthony had had his way. A feeling of vengeful satisfaction coursed through me. Never again would anyone be bled and killed by this vampire. Now, to sure he was really, truly dead. After a moment of contemplation, I picked up the ax.
Two hours later, I was finished. Sweat stuck to me, and I felt like if I showered a thousand times, I would still never be clean. But it was done. Anthony's head was buried about a quarter mile into the woods. His body was hidden half a mile away in the opposite direction. If that didn't ensure he stayed dead, I was all out of ideas. After debating with myself about what to do with the car, I settled on cleaning it as best as I could with the baby wipes. Then I opened all the windows and pushed it down to the edge of the lake. With luck it would sink to the bottom and never be found. As though I were dreaming, I watched the car founder in the water for a few moments before it disappeared. Then I looked down at myself.
My jeans and tee shirt were ruined. I stripped to don the extra clothes my would-be murderer had provided – and then stopped short, gaping at my shoulder.
There was no wound. Sure, it was still red from blood, mine and the vampire's, but where there should have been messy punctures from Anthony's teeth, there was nothing but smooth skin. Seized with memory, I gripped my ribs. They should have hurt. In fact, I shouldn't have been able to do any of the things I'd done in the past few hours, what with the beating Anthony had given me. But I felt...fine.
Panic surged in me. How did I heal that fast? Sure, I healed faster than anyone else when I scraped my knees or got a cut, but nothing like this had happened before. Oh no. What if...?
In desperation, I pressed my fingers to my throat. Relief coursed through me when I felt my pulse's strong, steady beat. Then I held my breath for as long as possible before gasping and gulping in air. Okay, I still needed to breathe and my heart was still working, so no, I hadn't turned into a vampire.
My head spun with possibilities. Could his bite have affected me this much? What about his blood? How much of it had I swallowed when it dripped into my mouth?
It was all too disturbing to contemplate. Later, I would think about it. Right now, I had a murder to cover up. I pulled on the spare shirt. It was too long, but style was the least of my concerns. Next came the pants, which I rolled at the legs and the waistband. My bloody, ruined clothes I stuffed into one of the garbage bags. When I was further away, I'd bury them, but not too close to the body – either piece of it. With the last of the baby wipes, I scrubbed the blood from my hands, face and shoulders. No wonder Anthony had the wipes, they really did the trick. At last, I stuck the crucifix in my pants. There. I'd done the best cover-up and body disposal I could. Hopefully, no one would ever find the remains of the vampire or the car. It was time to leave. I had a very long walk ahead of me.
When I finally pulled into the driveway of my house, streaks of sunlight crept over the horizon. It had taken me over two hours to find my way back to the club, then another hour and a half to drive home. Never in my memory did I feel so exhausted. The sound of the truck must have woken my family, because one by one, they came out of the house. My grandparents were in their nightclothes, but my mother wore the same dress she'd had on yesterday. Obviously she'd never been to bed. The look of relief on her face when she saw me turned immediately to anger, and she was at the truck window before I even had time to open to door.
"Where have you been? Do you have any idea what time it is? I've been worried sick! So have your grandparents. They called the police! What...?"
She stopped when she caught sight of my strange clothes as I got out of the car and stumbled toward the house. Her speechlessness lasted only a moment, however.
"Whose clothes are those, Catherine? Answer me!"
I opened my mouth to explain when my grandfather walked up and grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me hard.
"You think you can run all over, doing God knows what? You will not bring more shame to me! It's been hard enough after what your mother's done. I won't stand by and let you be the same, you–"
He cut off his tirade when I grasped his hands and pulled them off me. For a few silent moments, we glared at each other, me with angry weariness, and he with shock at the strength in my grip. Then I turned my back on him and went to my mother, reaching in my pants. I'd kept one souvenir, just for her.
"Hold out your hand." My voice was harsh, but my eyes weren't.
She stared at me before stretching out her hand. Into it, I placed a small, hard object.
"This is where I was and what I was doing. I'm strong enough, and I know what it takes, so it's what I'll be doing from now on, I promise you."
She stared at the single curved fang in her hand for a long moment, tears overflowing her eyes. Then she reached out and touched my cheek with more tenderness than she'd ever shown me. Finally, she wrapped me in her arms.
Tears came to my eyes as well, because at last, I knew I'd made her proud of me.
My grandfather stomped over. "What in the Sam Hell is going on? Justina, I'm not finished with that girl yet."
"Oh yes you are."
My mother's tone was so vehement, my grandfather gazed at her as if she'd grown a second head. She patted my shoulders before speaking again.
"Leave her alone, she was doing a good thing. I am her mother, I am responsible for her, and I say it's okay."
With her arm still around me, my mother led me into the house. My grandparents gaped after us, but didn't move to stop us. My mother had never spoken up to them before or overruled their wishes, so they were even more shocked than I was. I knew I'd always remember her standing up for me, but I didn't have the energy to dwell on that. As soon as I got to my room, I fell on the bed and passed out.
Later that night, I got up and ate dinner as though nothing happened, and my grandparents never mentioned it again.
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