Vampire's Embrace: A Vampire Queen Series Novel, Page 1Joey W. Hill
A Vampire Queen Series Novel
Joey W. Hill
Vampire Queen’s Servant
Ready for More?
About the Author
Also by Joey W. Hill
A life she didn’t plan…
From the author who “defies all cliches of the genre”, comes a new standalone book in the Vampire Queen series…
It's 1941, and Nina signs up to serve with the Australian Army Nursing Service in Singapore. What happens to her when the city falls to the Japanese will shatter Nina all the way to the soul. But fate seems determined to give her more than she can bear. When her twin sister dies in a car crash, Nina is informed that she must take her place as an InhServ, an Inherited Servant, groomed from childhood to serve a vampire master.
Even as she rages against her fate, she is baffled at Lord Alistair's insistence on having her as his servant. But that's not the most confusing thing about her new Master. The ways in which he commands her surrender to him lead her to a terrifyingly different understanding of her will and her dreams. By binding herself to him, can she become whole again, but in a way she never expected?
As always, my editing team deserves huge thanks for the story improvements their input provided. Thank you, Judy, Lauren, Debi, Sheri and Angela, for helping Alistair and Nina put their best foot forward. Also a fervent thank you to Kristen, who reminded me to trust my instincts.
A special thanks to my Aussie beta reader, Kath, who ensured I didn’t make too many gaffes on language, geography or, worst of all, Australian Rules Football. Alistair would have never forgiven me for that.
To my “Nurse Team;” Fran, Karen, Jarylynn, Judy, Kelly S, Kelly L, Trish, Stephanie, and Lee. The generous and resolute nature of those in this profession was entirely evident in your feedback, ensuring Nina didn’t commit errors in her patient care she would never make. While reading through Nina’s experiences, many of you shared your own perspectives and emotions as nurses, which meant an unexpected gift of your critiques was a better understanding of the kind of person Nina would be, so I could add even more life to this fabulous heroine.
To my readers. Thanks for continuing to join me on my journeys with my characters. However many we have ahead of us, I am grateful for all of them, and every one of you.
To my husband, who handles the highs and lows, and still loves me, even when I’m at my most unlovable.
NOTE: I have some mentions about the history in this book, but to avoid spoilers, I’ll save them for my end Author’s Note. However, one important note. Yes, there were hand-held vibrator devices and sex toys in the 1940s. I checked. :>
Copyright © 2018 Joey W. Hill
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Cover design by W. Scott Hill
SWP Digital & Print Edition publication November 2018 by Story Witch Press, 452 Mattamushkeet Dr., Little River, South Carolina 29566, USA
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the publisher, Story Witch Press, 452 Mattamushkeet Dr., Little River, South Carolina 29566.
Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/). Please purchase only authorized electronic or print editions and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted material. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
The publisher and author(s) acknowledge the trademark status and trademark ownership of all trademarks, service marks and word marks mentioned in this book.
The following material contains graphic sexual content meant for mature readers. Reader discretion is advised.
Digital ISBN: 978-1-942122-79-1
Print ISBN: 978-1-942122-80-7
The battlefield was so close they could hear the sharp staccato gun reports and constant rushing booms from heavier artillery. Nina knew she wasn’t the only one who felt the vibrations in the pit of her stomach. Ambulances and lorries with casualties had been arriving throughout the night, Japanese snipers making it too dangerous for the wounded to be transported in daylight. Her tin hat had to be with her at all times, a bloody nuisance, but fortunately she only had to don it when the air raid sirens wailed. The hospital was north of Singapore, which was getting the heaviest concentration of the bombing.
The beds set up in the school’s concert hall were full, the overflow patients installed under the marquees set up at the tennis courts. The hospital had arrived here less than forty-eight hours ago, but all of them—nurses, orderlies, doctors and support staff—had transformed the commandeered school into a serviceable facility. They’d had to move repeatedly in the past few weeks, so they’d all become quite practiced at breaking down and setting up in record time.
Before the first set of ambulances had arrived, Nina had prepared intravenous lines, positioning the IV poles and hanging bags to be ready to run vital fluid into the incoming critical care patients. She laid out extra linens and pajamas on the cots. Under the marquees, she’d set out trays with bandages, scissors, and other supplies necessary for the arriving casualties.
They were a general hospital. Normally, a soldier needing further care than the dressing station near the front lines was sent back to a casualty clearing station, where emergency surgery or other stabilizing measures could be taken. After that, he might be moved to the advanced care available at the general hospital. However, the front was so close now, their hospital had become the casualty clearance area as well.
The tension permeating the staff and patients had built with every relocation, because they all knew the enemy was closing the distance between them. But Matron stayed upbeat, firm. Tend to your duties, girls. Follow orders. Care for our boys. Just prior to the heavy Japanese attacks on the Australian lines, she’d even invited each woman to have tea with her in her quarters. A reassuring, one-on-one, “how are you holding up” that helped them keep their wits about them as things became progressively more unstable.
As the casualties arrived, a card pinned to each man’s shirt informed the nurses and orderlies who was in the worst shape, but that could change en route, so Nina double checked in case a man with a white card needed to b
e upgraded to the higher priority red. Some men bore the faint imprint of an “M” on their foreheads, written there in indelible pencil. It told the staff they’d already been dosed with morphine for pain.
Even as she moved swiftly to handle other tasks, Nina’s gaze was always moving over the men on cots or stretchers she passed, making sure no one’s needs in her assigned area were being overlooked.
It was hard to believe that mere weeks ago, the war had barely intruded into their lives at all. She and her mates in the Australian Army Nursing Service had seen very little action compared to their counterparts in the Middle East and Europe. Articles written a few months before had even resulted in some scathing backlash toward the personnel posted here, who were depicted as having ample opportunities to enjoy the picture shows, restaurants and shopping Singapore had to offer. In truth, she’d felt no different from any young woman given the chance to indulge in an overseas adventure to see the world.
But Matrons Drummond and Paschke had not overlooked their training even a single day, drilling them over and over to ensure they were as prepared as possible, able to carry out their duties under the most stringent conditions. When the war had finally arrived, they’d been ready. Most of her fellow nurses wrote home once a week. Nina suspected many were grateful not to have much time to do so now, for how could one describe it? To anyone who wasn’t in it, there was no way to do it. No movie, no book, could depict the reality, the unimaginable brutality, that mankind could wreak upon itself.
She had no idea when she’d last eaten, slept. When she wasn’t assisting with the arriving soldiers or the nurses attending the doctors in the operating theater, she patrolled her rows of injured in the recovery ward. At times, she spoke gently, touched a hand, took a too-brief moment to offer comfort.
As bad as many things were, that affected her the most. Those flashes of stark eyes in the semi-darkness, a man hungry for a single gesture of reassurance. An ounce of hope that he’d be okay. That he’d see his mother or girlfriend again. Be able to fall asleep on the veranda on a sunny day, his dog draped over his feet. Be able not to remember this, not to have his every waking thought and sleeping nightmare invaded by screams of wounded and dying friends, gunfire, the blast of exploding shells.
The nighttime was worst for the men, as anxieties were exacerbated by the mandatory blackouts, and the near constant sound of battle nearby. There’d been terrible rumors about what the Japanese had done when they overran the hospitals farther north. Sister Marjorie said it was just propaganda to fire up the men. The generals routinely sneered about the Japanese soldiers, asserting they had genetically hampered fighting abilities.
Nina had a hospital of men who’d seen firsthand evidence to the contrary. Many obviously feared what would happen if the men who’d inflicted their wounds reached the hospital.
A conversation between two men thankfully pulled her out of that dark track. “The whole damn team,” one of them said. “He got everyone out, except Mort and Pete, and he went back for them after putting me in the bus. Last I saw him.”
“I saw him before that. Against that patrol of Japs…”
One of the men was sitting up on his bed, his arm in a sling. The bandage around his head was stained with blood. Nina leaned in behind him to check the wound. He glanced back at her, nodding his gratitude, though his mate, stretched out on the other bed, didn’t seem to notice her. His eyes were on something inside his head.
“He wasn’t… No one could have done what he did. Moved like that.” His Adam’s apple bobbed. “He tore them apart, Rigby. With his bare hands. Like an angel of death…”
“You’ve gone wobbly. It was Alistair, Charlie,” his friend said, crisp and sharp. His shoulder twitched under Nina’s hand. “Just Alistair. The one you called a useless shit. Said he bought his way out of a uniform.”
“He still wasn’t wearing one. But he was there. How was he there? We last saw him in Brisbane, drinking cognac and smoking a cigar like an arrogant prat. A ghost. He moved like…” The male shuddered. “It was like he wasn’t human.”
Nina cleaned her hands and moved from Rigby to Charlie. He’d lost a leg above the knee yesterday, so Rigby was likely right about Charlie’s disoriented state of mind. Plus, men saw all sorts of things in the horror of battle. Some of it they turned into unlikely stories that would help them better manage the meaning of the images. Though admittedly this seemed like just the opposite, something the man didn’t want to believe he’d seen but couldn’t deny. His gaze was haunted, more than she usually saw, which was a lot.
Touching his cheek, she knew his perspiration was fever-induced, not the relentless tropical heat. One of the reasons they kept the recovery ward so dark was so they could meet blackout restrictions yet keep the curtains pulled back from the windows to allow some air flow. Even with their aversion to the battle noises, the most traumatized man preferred that to being shut up in a hot box. She’d get a cool cloth on him, ask the orderly to stop by and change it out as often as possible.
“Better stop your ranting, Pug,” Rigby advised, sending her a wink, though his face remained tight, unsmiling. He had a long, bony face with an assortment of freckles, marred here and there by crimson-colored nicks. “The pretty nurse won’t let you take her dancing.”
“I have so many offers, I’ll be dancing until I’m a grandmother,” she said. “But I’m sure I can fit in another.”
She had learned to smile even when it was the last thing she felt like doing. They needed a woman’s smile sometimes more than they needed medical care.
Charlie’s gaze turned to her and cleared somewhat. He had a squarish face dominated by large dark eyes, a combination that did remind her a bit of a pug. Aussies loved their nicknames. Probably half of her mates in the service were known more for that than their actual names, herself included. Doe, they called her. For her blondish-brown hair and brown eyes, long legs and height.
“You need to put us one-legged blokes at the head of the line, Sister,” Charlie said, with an attempt at a smile. “We’ll do ten times better what the others need two to do.”
Her heart tightened. These men were the best in the world, and she didn’t care if anyone thought she was biased. Yes, a good many of them had a hard time of it at night, their trauma making them susceptible to anxiety, but the nurses knew that because they were trained to recognize it, not because of any excessive whinging. Most of them carried on with one another like this and flirted outrageously with the nurses, even in their worst moments, and would act dismissive if anyone got too clucky over them.
“I’ve no doubt,” she said lightly. “Is there anything I can get you lads? The orderly will be by to change that dressing soon,” she added to Rigby. If Gray was overwhelmed, she’d do it.
She wasn’t surprised when they said they were fine and asked her about two other men, apparently the others they’d mentioned. It took her a few questions to narrow down which ones they wanted to know about. When she did, she answered them without hesitation, though her voice was sympathetic. Most the lads preferred the information to come straight out, no cushioning it.
“Jonathan died while the doctors were working on him. We’re monitoring Horace for complications from his wounds, but we’re hoping he’ll be fine. If he stabilizes enough to be in recovery, I’ll try to make sure he’s put as close to you two as possible. You serve in the same unit, then?”
“Yeah, but we were a team before.” Rigby’s gaze had met Charlie’s at the news of Jonathan’s loss. His jaw tightened, but when he spoke, his voice was even. “We all played footy together. Enlisted together.”
“Mates. That’s good.” One of the staff nurses bending over an unconscious Gurkha rifleman caught her eye and Nina swiftly moved away, with a look of regret. “I’ll check back with you later. Try to get some rest. Hold on there, Temple,” she called, catching the young nurse’s attention.
A woman had to be at least twenty-five to be in the AANS, but she had a sneaking suspicion
Temple—like herself—had lied about her age. But Nina had entered the hospital nursing school in Sydney at sixteen—again lying, saying she was twenty—so she’d had almost five years out of school as a staff nurse and was promoted to Sister before she came here.
Whereas Temple had barely obtained her certification and minimum amount of experience before coming to Singapore. While she would be an excellent nurse once she had more time, she hadn’t yet learned how to shuffle efficiently the million bits of information a nurse in these conditions needed to manage.
“Don’t remove his knife,” she told the girl. “It was left belted on him on purpose. He has to be conscious and give his permission for its removal. It’s part of their code of honor.”
“Oh, of course.” The young woman, whose real name was Greta, scrubbed a hand over her face, rumpling her pulled-back curls. They were coiled as tight as Shirley Temple’s in this humidity, so they’d nicknamed her accordingly. “So sorry, Sister Nina. I knew that from the morning lectures.”
“Carry on. You’re doing fine. It’s a lot tonight.”
They’d gone from treating a scattering of tropical diseases, sports injuries and the occasional Australian battle casualty, to caring for hundreds coming through their doors every night, including those from the British and Indian Army units. Nina wasn’t sure how the girl was remembering her own name, let alone anything else.