When Amanda asked if I would like to contribute to Zombiepalooza I answered her with a resounding, “Hell yes!” Then I had to figure out what exactly I could contribute. I write YA paranormal romance novels and while they have a lot of magic and hot boys in them, they aren’t very scary. Actually, they aren’t even spooky. So I came up with the bright idea to excerpt a short story I was working on called Day of Sacrifice. Witches, human sacrifices, people burning alive, ass kicking angels? Day of Sacrifice has all of these, which makes it more appropriate for Halloween and Zombiepalooza to be certain. And just because it’s fun, I’m giving away copies of all three of my books. Details after the excerpt.
Day of Sacrifice blurb:
With only three days left until her twenty-first birthday, her Day of Sacrifice, Flora Hamilton should be living it up. But when another Supernatural family puts a hit on her she’s forced to go into hiding with Julian, her gorgeous new Guardian Angel. Sometimes running for your life isn’t so bad.
Day of Sacrifice Playlist
1. Running with the Wasters-The Takeover UK
2. Halo- Beyonce
3. I Feel it All- Feist
4. Bleeding Love- Leona Lewis
5. Angel- Natasha Bedingfield
6. Lights Out- Santigold
7. Sleepyhead- Passion Pit
8. Electric Feel- MGMT
9. No One- Alicia Keys
10. All These Things I’ve Done- The Killers
Day of Sacrifice Excerpt:
Flora opened her eyes just in time to see the wide, pink, unlined palm of her Guardian Angel swinging toward her face. Not again. Rolling onto her back, she felt the force of the near smack as it blew her bangs back off of her forehead. Her Guardian may be quick, but Flora’s instincts were pretty flawless, even when she was hung over. From her position on the plush carpet of the hotel suite floor, she grinned up at Maggie, a sinister giggle escaping from the corner of her mouth.
“I quit,” Maggie yelled, the power of her voice making the crystal chandelier quiver. “You’re the most insufferable Sacrifice I’ve ever been assigned to. You were responsible for your mother’s death, do you want to destroy the rest of your family with your immature antics?”
“That’s a low blow and you know it. Fauna and I can’t help it that our being born caused our mom to go off the deep end and kill herself.” Gods her head hurt. “And my ‘antics’ aren’t always immature.” Like nine times outta ten, sure, but...
“I don’t want to hear your excuses.” The Guardian spat, cursing Flora, a tiny globule of foam landing near her left ear.
“C’mon, Mags, don’t get your wings in a bunch. I’m almost twenty-one. I’ve got to live life to its fullest while I can. I’ll be dead in three days.” Flora sat up, hoping Maggie was done trying to inspire respectability in her through violence.
Her head was pounding and her mouth tasted and felt like a badger died in it. She struggled to remember the exact details of last night’s party. The suite was trashed. Two marble tables were upended, Champagne bottles strewn across every surface that had remained upright, and the hot tub overflowed with magenta soap bubbles. The sight of the bubbles kicked a flash of memory loose in her head. She slowly looked down at her body. Yeah, not so much wearing any clothes. Uh-oh.
She met Maggie’s furious gaze. “Okay, I can see how this looks,” Flora said, attempting to sound reasonable. Guardians loved reason. “But, I’m still a virgin.” She took a brief physical inventory. Yup, still feeling virginal.
Maggie threw a cushy light-blue hotel robe at her charge. “Don’t waste your words on me Flora, you’ve disobeyed and embarrassed me one too many times. I put in for a transfer after your last debauched incident and it came through this morning.” She flexed her majestic iridescent white wings once, rising a foot off of the floor. “May the Gods have mercy on my replacement Guardian, the next three days until your Day of Sacrifice will be the longest of their eternal life.” She shot Flora one last disgusted glare and disappeared.
Julian held out the black ceremonial robe embroidered with sacred images in gold and silver thread. After a moment, he dropped it over Aiden’s shoulders when his charge didn’t put forth the effort to slip his arms into the sleeves. They were standing in Aiden’s bedroom before a full-length mirror, his parents waiting downstairs to accompany them to his Day of Sacrifice. Aiden was Julian’s seventh charge. It never got easier. They’d all made it to their twenty-first birthdays and to their Day of Sacrifice ceremonies under his guidance. He’d helped prepare them all for slaughter, delivered the same speech to seven terrified young men.
“Hold your head up high. Your sacrifice to the Gods on this day will allow your family to thrive. They will gain the favor of the Gods. You have lived a good life and I have been proud to be your Guardian.”
Aiden swiped the back of his hand across his eyes, causing the robe to slide from one shoulder. Julian quickly pushed it back up.
“Thank you for protecting me,” Aiden said, trying to choke back the next round of tears. “You’ve been a wonderful Guardian and a good friend.” He stared at his reflection in the mirror and put the ceremonial robe on, tying the front closed over his naked body. He squared his shoulders. “I’m ready.”
Flora got up carefully from the floor, clutching the robe to her bare chest, fighting the vomit making its way up her throat. She was viciously hung over and pissed that yet another Guardian Angel had given up on her. They didn’t understand what it was to be your family’s Sacrifice, to be born to die. Sure, Guardians should be allowed to be a little grumpy, they did have to spend their entire lives looking after Sacrifices until their twenty-first birthdays, their DOS as she liked to call it, but at least they never had to die.
No one but another first born of a Supernatural family could know what it was like. The responsibility was placed on their shoulders from their first breath. Some Supernaturals bore the birthright better than others, werewolves in particular. Having been born with an intrinsic bond to their pack, they prided themselves on accepting their fate with honor.
Vampires had it the easiest. Since they couldn’t reproduce, all they had to do was turn one human virgin every twenty-one years, releasing their pure soul to the Gods. Of course, by their nature, they turned a human more often than once every twenty-one years. More like every twenty-one months. The Gods’ favor shone greatly on them.
Witches, like Flora, Sorcerers, Shamans, anyone who appeared human and had to use magic to wield power, their treatment of the Sacrifices could be called indifferent.
Although they didn’t have to go to school or learn magic or do anything for themselves- they could eat and drink and shop and watch TV until their eyes bled, as long as they remained alive with their virginity intact for their DOS- the life of a Sacrifice still wasn’t easy. If they didn’t live up to their end of the bargain, and few had ever dared to test this theory, they were hunted down by assassins and killed. Their family would be stripped of their supernatural abilities by the Gods and shunned by the community. Essentially, they were rendered human.
A shiver ran through Flora as she stepped under the hot stream of water cascading from a hidden spigot in the shower ceiling. She lathered her straight shoulder length black hair with lavender shampoo, taking in deep breaths of the scent, concentrating on bringing herself back to a normal, healthy, well-rested state. She muttered a brief healing incantation. Just because she hadn’t been required to go to school and learn magic, didn’t mean that she hadn’t.
Rejuvenated from her shower, she ran her hands over her body, dressing in jeans and a green hooded sweatshirt. The outfit was the complete opposite of the thigh baring red mini-dress she’d been wearing at Aiden Grant’s pre-DOS party last night. Well, at least what she’d been wearing before the hot tub incident.
She did a quick magical sweep of the hotel suite, righting the tables, dropping all the Champagne bottles into a recycling bin in the kitchenette, draining the hot tub of its scummy magenta water.
Now all she had to do was wait for Maggie to come back and guard her until her replacement showed up. No matter how much Maggie disliked Flora, she was breaking major protocol by leaving her unattended. All the Guardians got angry when Sacrifices had parties, especially DOS parties, fearing that they were all going to die of alcohol poisoning or drug overdoses, or do something crazy like take turns deflowering each other. But usually after the Guardians had given the Sacrifices a stern talking to, perhaps a swift slap in the face, they came back around and business proceeded as usual.
Flora flopped down on the couch and turned the TV on. Aiden’s sacrifice would be on soon, and while she detested attending DOS events, she could be more detached, more studied, watching it on TV. She wasn’t the only one that was that way. What all Sacrifices desired, besides having never been born, was to not look scared when they were strapped to the stone altar in the middle of the city square. Not to cry out in pain as their major arteries were sliced open with the ritual knife. Not to be betrayed by their bloody naked bodies on display. Complete composure. Dignity. The Sacrifices watched the ones that came before them and challenged themselves to do the same or better.
Settling into the corner of the couch, she checked the messages on her cell. Aiden’s procession into the square began. There were seven messages from her twin sister Fauna-Flora’s name was the only bullet she’d dodged, seeing as she was born a minute before, thus becoming her family’s Sacrifice and Fauna becoming what her parents considered to be their oldest child.
“Hey, Flor,” Fauna said, genuine concern in her voice, “I really need to tell you something. Please give me a call as soon as you get this. It is very important!”
Flora listened to the next three messages. They were all like the first and imparted no more information. She wondered why her sister wouldn’t just tell her what it was she wanted to tell her and get it over with. Fauna was a bit of a drama queen when it came to her, guilt-induced she sometimes thought, and could make a big deal out of her getting a paper cut.
By the fourth message, it seemed Fauna had figured out Flora wasn’t going to pick up. “Fuck you! Seriously. I know you’re at Aiden’s party and I would come and find you if anyone would ever let us non-Sacrifices in the loop. But no, you guys...” She sighed. “Okay, it is your right to have something that the rest of us can’t be a part of, I get it. But you’re my fucking twin and I need you to call me back. I love you!”
The next three messages came hours later, after midnight, presumably while Flora was passed out. She dialed her sister without listening to them, if Fauna had said the word fuck twice and let herself be recorded saying it, what she needed to tell Flora had to be important.
Fauna answered her phone, whispering. “Thank Gods. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said, looking away from the television and a close up of Aiden’s face, his expression blank. “How are you? You sound like you’re having an epic conniption.”
Ignoring her remark, Fauna lowered her voice even more if that was possible. “Where are you?”
“At the Genevieve. I’m watching Aiden’s--”
“Who else is with you?”
“Uh, no one. What’s with you?”
“Tell Maggie you’ve got to get out of there now and get into hiding.”
“What do you mean, ‘you can’t’,” she hissed, “let me talk to her.”
“Maggie quit and her replacement hasn’t arrived yet.”
“Oh, crap. Get out of there now! Don’t come home, uh, go someplace public, go to Aiden’s ceremony.”
“That is the last place I’m going. Will you tell me what’s happening?” She stood up from the couch and searched for her shoes. She spotted the high heeled boots she’d been wearing the night before and quickly cast, changing them into tennis shoes. “You’re freaking me out.”
“Some seriously bad stuff went down at work yesterday.” Fauna had been working at their father’s company as a junior accountant for a little over a year. Seeing as Flora didn’t have a future, her father hadn’t bothered to offer her a job. Not that she wanted to be a boring-ass junior accountant, marketing was more her thing, but it would have been nice if he’d offered.
Fauna continued. “Dad...he had a business deal with Robert Fitzgerald that went south. The Fitzgeralds’ next Sacrifice isn’t of age for another six years.”
Meaning that they would get little help from the Gods to keep their manufacturing business profitable and that none of the other Supernatural families would want to enter into dealings with them.
“And that has what to do with me?” Leaving the television on, she headed toward the suite’s private elevator, jabbing the down button with her thumb.
“They’ve put a hit on you.” Flora knew that was what her sister was going to say, but she’d had to ask, regardless.
She kicked one of the stainless steel panel doors of the elevator, denting it slightly. It needed to move faster. Now.
Aiden removed the robe and handed it to Julian, who folded it and placed it at the foot of the Grant family crest.
Squeezing his fists to his sides, Aiden gave one last stoic nod to his mom and dad and then allowed himself to be led by the High Priest over to the sacrificial stone. He lay down. Julian was standing close enough to him to see that the chill of the stone raised goose bumps on his skin.
This was always the point in the ceremony when the Guardian wished he could take some sort of action. Beg for his charge’s life or transport them away. He knew what it felt like to die. He’d bled out under a tree during The War against the humans. The Supernatural side had won, but at a great cost to the community. A community that had a short memory and was easily swayed by the Gods. Julian had given his life for them all those years ago, but had been given his soul back when he became a Guardian Angel. Aiden was not so lucky. Soon his pure soul would belong to the Gods and he would exist no more.
The priest strapped his wrists and ankles into the leather restraints and began chanting and moving the dull side of the ritual knife over his body.
The giveaway for Stacey's books runs a bit different than the other Zombiepalooza contests. Most other giveaways end on the 28th, but since hers starts on the 27th, that doesn't give much time to enter, so the deadline is extended. Here are the rules for Stacey's giveaway:
1. To enter to win one of three prize packages from Stacey Wallace Benefiel, comment on this blog with an email address to contact you in case you win.
2. The giveaway runs from today until November 5th. On November 6th, the winners of all three prize packages will be chosen by random.org and will be contacted. Winners have 72 hours to reply before their prize defaults to the next runner up.
3. Only one entry per giveaway. (But you can enter as many different Zombiepalooza giveaways as you want.)
4. US only. Sorry to our international friends. :(
Grandprize- Glimpse and Glimmer (your choice paperback or e-book) and a copy of Day of Sacrifice (only available in e, only 28 pages long, easy to read on the computer)
Third place- Day of Sacrifice
Stacey Wallace Benefiel is the author of Glimpse and Glimmer, the first two books in the Zellie Wells trilogy, and Day of Sacrifice: The Prophecy, the first short story in the Day of Sacrifice series. The final book in the Zellie Wells trilogy, Glow, will be available summer 2011. The next book in the Day of Sacrifice series, Rebellion: The Outer Territory, will be available early 2011. When Stacey isn’t writing she’s thinking about writing or what she’s going to make for dinner.