They warned her to be more careful. If she’d listened, she wouldn’t be staring down the ultimate betrayal.
Tru Dennison won’t be burned again. Still reeling from her angel mentor breaking her heart, the half-vampire, half-unicorn shifter greets everyone with suspicion. So when she’s attacked by a witch dead-set on taking her out, the clever woman is stunned when a human saves her by flattening the assailant with a frying pan.
Befriending her rescuer, Tru allows herself to trust again. But her world turns upside-down when she’s issued an execution order for a disturbing target.
Uncertain of the truth and torn between friendship and duty, can this supernatural assassin make the right choice?
Rebel Vampire is the fast-paced second book in the Rebel of the Otherworld urban fantasy series. If you like tenacious heroines, phenomenal world-building, and deeply emotional stories, then you’ll love Brogan Thomas’s latest rollercoaster ride.
Buy Rebel Vampire to open a vein of danger today!
Release date: August 24, 2023
Publisher: Brogan Thomas Books
Print pages: 400
Content advisory: Bad language
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Rebel Vampire: An Urban Fantasy Unicorn Shifter Adventure
I regret my life choices as a mottled orange-and-red tentacle swings at my head. I duck and neatly dance out of the way just as another tentacle sneaks out, grabs hold of my calf, winds its way around my leg, and gives me an ever-so-friendly squeeze. I wince as my bones grind together.
Yeah, it has a heck of a grip. It tugs. Uh-oh. Oof. I hit the tarmac with a thud.
My jumper bunches and the rough surface sloughs off the skin on my back as the monster drags me along the road and towards the portal. With gritted teeth, I tense my abs, dig the heel of my left boot into the road, and my rapid trajectory grinds to a sudden halt as my foot finds a convenient pothole.
Thank fate for the poor state of British roads.
I pull out a knife and, as carefully as I can, slide the flat of the blade between my leg and the sticky limb.
Uh, it’s really sticky.
The muscles in my forearms strain as I use both hands to yank the knife sideways and wrench myself free. I roll to the side and scramble to my feet. Hands on my hips, I take a second to catch my breath. I click my tongue against the roof of my mouth. Ew. I can taste the alien creature; its briny scent is that pungent. Gross.
Cringing with a mouth full of bile, I put the knife away. I peer over my shoulder and fake smile at the Land Rover to reassure the young occupants I have everything under control.
There is no problem here.
The pixie children are out of their seats, bundled up in their coats, and all three kids have their noses pressed to the Defender’s back window.
Page, the youngest, gives me an encouraging wave.
I wave back.
A wide-eyed Jeff grins at me, and then he scowls when Novel, the oldest, grabs a piece of popcorn from his hand and stuffs the kernel in her mouth. He yells, there’s a scuffle, and it looks like… Yeah, he gives the rest of the popcorn in his hand a big lick.
Technically, the snacks were strictly only to be eaten at the cinema.
My eyes drift away from the kids’ antics as I scan the quiet street and side-eye the portal with its wiggling tentacles. My stomach flips, and again I feel sick. The portal is big enough to swallow the entire Defender.
I look back at the kids. It was a close call. They could have died.
We were driving to the cinema to watch the latest must-see kids’ movie. Just as we passed the coach station and the row of new houses on the left, the beam of the headlights showed the tarmac ahead was frosty and the road underneath the bridge glittered like diamonds. Black ice? I took my foot off the accelerator. After the Land Rover slowed, the road ahead cracked and disappeared.
I slammed on the brakes, and we missed the ragged rogue portal by a scant inch.
After I moved the Land Rover a safe distance away, called for a gateway witch to close the portal, and blocked off the road with a temporary ward, the tentacles busted out.
I wash my hand down my face as I rack my brain for a solution that doesn’t involve me up close and personal again with an alien. I come up blank. The spells I have are useless. I can’t use them to contain him as it will destabilise the already-dodgy portal.
My nostrils flare as I take in another stinky breath. I fill my lungs with much-needed oxygen, swing my arms, roll my shoulders, and turn back to my task with grim determination.
“Right, let’s do this. I can so do this.” I rub my hands on my jeans and squint. Bloody hell, are there more tentacles? In my head—so I don’t freak out—I’ve convinced myself this creature is a bigger, otherworldly cousin of our octopuses.
I have my sword in the car, so I could, if inclined, chop him into tiny pieces, but… I don’t want to hurt him. I like octopuses.
I grunt, and my tentacle-squeezed calf throbs as I take a running jump and throw myself at the creature. I’m having so much fun. A manic grin tugs at my lips. I use my entire body to ram, push, prod, and poke him back into the hole in the tarmac.
“He’s just a giant, cuddly octopus.” Uh-huh. A tentacle wiggles out of my grip and slaps me in the face. A suction cup takes the skin off my cheek with a pop. Ouch. “I think I’ll call him Fred.” I give Fred another full-body shove. “Get back in the bloody portal, Fred.”
Hands full and face stinging, I give the creature a final well-aimed push, and it slithers back into the gloom. Yes! Woo-hoo. I scramble out of the way.
“Now!” I yell to the waiting gateway witch.
She sniffs and shuffles her feet.
Gah. Anytime now, Ethel.
Her magic swells into the air, the streetlights dim, and with a flick of her wrist, Ethel’s power slams into me.
Oof. The magic sears. Ow! Ow! Ow! I feel like I’ve been vigorously rubbed with grade-40 sandpaper. Like I’ve been microwaved. I taste blood in my mouth.
Great. Bloody great.
With teeth-clenching agony, I swallow down the pain, and the pain flips into anger. She didn’t have to zap me like that. My hand twitches towards the knife, the urge to bury the blade in the witch is almost a living thing inside me. I have the “You hurt me; I’ll hurt you back and harder” mentality down pat. It’s my mantra.
My breath shudders with the pain again, and my hand trembles as I slide the knife back into the thigh holder. No. I don’t need to do anything daft. Taking out the witch is not worth the paperwork. I bite my tongue so I don’t swear at her and rapidly blink my blurry eyes to focus on the portal.
Ah, I see some of her magic has made it. I watch as the illegal portal snaps closed. “Bye-bye, Fred.”
I sag. With my hands on my knees, I hunch over.
Out the corner of my eye, I spot a determined sapphire-blue creature zipping out with a stick of chalk over her shoulder. Story. Her paper-thin rose-gold wings flutter as she flits about, drawing a complicated circle around the now-damaged ley line to ensure it cannot reopen.
I sag a little more. The icy road looks mighty comfortable. I want nothing more than to drop to the ground in a sweaty, exhausted heap and sleep, but I don’t. I can’t. ’Cause the kids are watching.
Yay. I’m having so much fun.
Yep. This is just what I wanted to do on a Friday night: wrestle with an alien octopus and have my skin burned off by a vindictive witch’s spell. I shake my head. My back clicks as I stand straight and plaster my professional mask back into place.
All I wanted was a single night off. Was that too much to ask?
I prod at the round injury on my face with a wince. I need to shift. My body feels like one enormous bruise. I have sucker marks and road rash, and my poor skin is still burning from the spell. The pain is making me angry. I want to pound Ethel in her smug face.
The demon kiss—the royal mating mark on the back of my hand—has been throbbing for the past hour. Kleric is worried. I try to ignore it. The demon kiss insistently throbs harder. It’s itchy. I groan, clench my fist, and rub the back of my hand against my jeans. Eff off, I think—then moments later utter a silent apology in my head.
Last month I found a way of blocking Kleric. I learnt to build a wall, a shell around my mind. The nosy demon was perfectly okay with it. He said whatever makes me comfortable. It’s a relief not to transmit every dumb thought that enters my head. He still gets the occasional flash, especially when I’m asleep or in pain. I sigh and poke at my face.
Scowling, I allow a trickle of my memories to escape my hold—of the portal, of Fred the otherworldly octopus—with a clear I’m fine thrown in at the end. That should shut him up.
I have a demon mate.
And just like that, my temper recedes. I chuckle and shake my head again, this time in disbelief. Mate. What a load of crud. I mentally scoff. We haven’t even been on an actual date. I don’t even know the guy. I fidget.
At least this one likes me. Yeah, not like the angel. My cheeks glow with embarrassed heat.
Having a mate doesn’t mean shit. I soul-bonded to an angel, and look how that turned out… Prison. White torture. Yeah, all the fun stuff.
A niggly pain of my thumb reaches me, and I stop picking at the skin around my cuticle. Now that is a hard habit to break. I shake out my hand and allow it to flop against my leg, pressing each finger against my thigh so I don’t start picking again at my poor bleeding digit.
The bond with the angel is broken now, so it doesn’t matter.
I scuff the kerb with my boot as I watch Story finish the last curve of the circle—she’s getting superfast at circle work.
I wish fate and magic would butt out of my nonexistent love life. Why can’t I just be normal? I’ve had enough magic nonsense for a lifetime.
Everything would be better if Kleric were here on Earth. Talk about a long-distance relationship. Ours is out of this world. He was called back to his realm to answer some questions. And not just him. All the demons—apart from the scarce few born here—have returned.
Months ago, I stumbled upon some lower-level demons who used a hidden portal to enter Earth illegally. Then, while they were on holiday, they had the bright idea of setting up a blood ring to make money.
Yeah, who does that? Exsanguinate the locals and sell the blood to the highest bidder to make a few quid? I close my eyes and blow a breath through my nose. They killed a lot of good people.
The fallout has been a political nightmare. We’ve been on the cusp of war. Kleric has been away for three endless months while they all try to fix the problem.
I miss him.
Not seeing him makes me twitchy.
Of course I’m twitchy. I laugh under my breath and tilt my head back to stare at the night sky, sighing when I can’t see any stars because of the light pollution. I’ve no idea if what we have is real. If it’s magic pushing us together or… or I’m trying to replace the angel-shaped hole in my chest.
Kleric said I’m his mate.
No one said he was mine.
And Xander. I try not to think about the angel. There is something to be said about loving somebody too hard. Too much. Especially when they don’t love you back.
The entire experience with Xander broke something inside me. And the love I had for him? It crumpled like an old paper cup. Xander. Why did I think of him? It’s like I can’t shrug him off no matter how much I try. I must stop obsessing. It’s like my mind is stuck on him.
Hate will do that, and deep down I know it’s unhealthy and a waste of my time.
Mental anguish will send a person like me barmy. I swallow down the lump in my throat and push the thoughts of Xander away, along with the yucky feeling of my stupidity.
A few kisses and a demon mating mark do not make a relationship, and if I’m honest, I don’t trust myself.
It takes a special kind of bravery to try again with someone else.
I’m sure things will be resolved—if we get to see each other. Meanwhile, these random portals popping up all over town aren’t helping matters. It freaks everyone out. Whoever is doing this needs to get a life.
I have an inkling it’s because we shut down the first illegal portal, and now they think it’s fun to play games. I make the easiest target. Yeah, whoever is doing this won’t be laughing when I chop off their effing head.
Tonight someone opened that portal with the sole intention of swallowing my Defender. I glare down the street. Don’t they say arsonists and criminals hang around at the scene to revel in the chaos? That’s something this portal idiot would be doing. I bet a bale of timothy hay they are still here. Watching.
No matter what some creatures think, magic isn’t infallible, and it’s only a matter of time before they make a mistake. I smile. I’m glad I have micro-cameras recording everything.
“Why didn’t you do your job and kill it?” says a bitter, whiny voice behind me.
How nice. Ethel has come to chat. I have to stop my hand from reaching towards my knife.
I roll my eyes and stiffly turn to meet the witch’s accusing blue gaze. Why didn’t I kill it? It would have been quicker, but I’ve got a thing about killing innocent creatures. I won’t if I can help it. Fred just saw a hole and poked his tentacles into it.
Ethel’s eyes narrow with spite, and her lip curls with disgust. “Executioner.” She scoffs.
My heart misses a beat with the title, but I lift my chin at her scorn. I deserve a pat on the back—aka a fist to the face—for taking on the role.
Oh, it offers me a level of protection, and no one is throwing me back into prison anytime soon. But if creatures hated me for being the weird unicorn-vampire hybrid, they sure do love me now as the executioner. I snort. Not only am I an abomination, but I’m also now a sell-out.
Literally everybody hates me.
Ethel doesn’t bother to hide her abhorrence. No, she makes it perfectly clear which side of the fence she’s on. And it’s not the pro-Tru side. Figures. Her blonde hair is plastered to her temple with sweat, and dark grey circles shadow her eyes. In trying to hurt me, she used a heck of a lot of magic and hurt herself.
Ethel then dares to stare at the pixies and Story as if they are dirt. I sidestep to stand between her and the Land Rover, blocking her view.
I narrow my eyes. “Don’t,” I say in a creepy, soft tone.
Ethel puffs up from my warning and pushes her sweaty hair from her face. “Ever since you took over this region as its executioner, I’ve never been busier. You really need to start doing your job.”
Story zips up from the road like a bullet. Under the glow of the streetlights, the dust from her wings sheds like sparks of glitter as she zooms past my nose and aggressively flies towards the witch’s face.
“Do your job, Ethel, and shut up,” Story snarls. “I don’t know what you are moaning about. You’re getting paid well.” With sapphire-blue hands and arms covered in chalk, Story points her finger, wagging it millimetres away from the witch’s button nose.
“You’re on call, and it took you fifty minutes to get here. Fifty minutes! My kids are in that car.” Story points behind her. “If we are going to chat about who’s not doing their job properly, you might as well look in the mirror.”
Ethel’s mouth drops open.
I stand awkwardly while I watch the pixie and witch stare-off.
Story wins—of course she does. Ethel clears her throat, adjusts her fancy cream coat sleeves, and drops her gaze to the road and the finished circle. With a wiggle of her fingers and a pulse of magic—I’m proud I don’t flinch—chalk puffs into the air, and the lines crackle and glow a pale blue as the spell locks on.
The magic fades, and I do my best to ignore the pain I feel as I go back to scanning the street.
“Let’s talk about you hitting the executioner with your portal magic.” Story continues her tirade. “Did you do that deliberately, or are you that shit?”
“You are lucky the executioner is strong enough to shrug your magic off and has the grace to ignore your petty arse. Anyone else would have been hurt or killed with that stunt. What were you thinking? How stupid can one witch be? Pick a fight with the executioner? Next time you come out to close a portal, let’s hope you don’t trip and fall in.” Story smiles.
It’s not a friendly smile.
Ethel squeaks, spins on her heel, and hurries to her car.
“You’re useless,” Story shouts at her retreating back, “and I’ll be speaking to Carol Larson about your negligence. We’ve got you on camera.”
I wince and scratch the back of my neck; the grit from the road collects in my nails. That isn’t an idle threat. Carol Larson is one scary lady. She’s on the Grand Creature Council, and over the past five years, she has become the head of all the English covens.
Ethel’s car door slams shut behind her, trapping the cream coat in the door. She over-revs the engine, and the gears grind painfully as, with a flash of sparks, the red Fiat 500 careens through the ward and down the road, out of sight.
I don’t think she even paused to put her seat belt on.
I hum as I root around in my heavy magic kit and grab a water bottle to wash away the chalk. My hand hovers over the first part of the circle. I could use a cleaning potion, but those spells are expensive, especially when water and a shuffle of feet will do the job. Plus I can say I used the spell and use it instead to clean my house. Win-win. I hate cleaning.
“Tripping into a portal, huh?” I say nonchalantly. The cheap plastic bottle crunches as I squeeze it. I rub the wet chalk with my boot—then frown. I’m making a right mess. This was a lot easier in my head.
“Well, she was rude. She could have seriously hurt you.” Story drops onto my shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’ve had worse.” I glance down at my favourite jeans—or they were. I wasn’t dressed for a battle this evening, and they’re now ripped and dirty. I notice Story’s chalk-covered hands and dribble some water onto one of Kleric’s white monogrammed handkerchiefs I keep in my pocket like a weirdo, then pass it to her so she can clean up.
“Oh fancy. Thanks. Your face looks sore.” She scrubs her arms.
“Yeah, I’m surprised I have any skin left.” I scuff the last bit of chalk, now a blotchy mess, and sigh with self-disgust. I glug the remaining dregs of water. “Will the kids be okay for another few minutes? I need to shift.” I’m hurting. I don’t think I’ll be able to concentrate enough to drive, and I can’t wait to get home.
“Go for it. They are fine.”
Story returns the handkerchief, and I stuff it back into my pocket. I dig my phone out and place it on the kerb—the clothing-retention spell doesn’t like technology, and to save the phone from becoming a mangled mess, it’s best not to shift with it in my pocket.
“Thanks for scaring the witch and telling her off. You’re my hero. I’m sorry this happened, and I’m gutted the kids missed the film.”
Story glances at the car and grins back at me. “They’re not. They haven’t had this much fun in weeks. Such a wonderful time watching you fight an alien. I’ve never seen them so enthralled. The entire school will know about this adventure by the end of the weekend. If not the entire town.” She nods at the ward, and I can make out the glint of a news van.
There’s a pixie wail from the Land Rover, and an argument ensues.
Story groans. “I spoke too soon. Let me sort them out. Shift so we can go home. You’re like a beacon with your poor skin glowing. It’s so red.” Story pats me on the cheek, and her toes dig into my shoulder as she springs into the air and flies back to the kids.
I watch until she disappears inside the car through the partially rolled-down window. “Jeff! Stop biting your sister. Did you open that popcorn?”
I grin. My face stings, so I allow the shifter magic to wash over me. Before an average person can blink, my molecules vibrate, and my vision goes black as I go from my human form to unconnected microparticles of matter floating around, then re-form into a unicorn.
My iridescent hooves clatter on the tarmac—gah! Such a slippery surface; I don’t like roads. My rainbow mane blows in a salty gust of wind from the sea, and my tail whips against my hind legs.
I blast a big equine snort that echoes off the surrounding buildings and the bridge. Then it’s a full-body shake. I’m overdue for a gallop and some field rest.
When my friend Forrest shifts, she can snap back into her human form without becoming her wolf. Each time I shift, I try, as my unicorn form is cumbersome, but it’s something I’ve yet to crack. With a yawn and a last swish of my tail, I shift back into my human form.
Ah, good as new. The pain in my face and body is long gone. I adjust my tattered jumper and bend to collect my phone.
My scalp prickles.
“Watch out!” screams a woman’s voice.
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