by D.K. Janotta
Release Date: September 5th 2015
Summary from Goodreads:
Living at home is driving seventeen-year-old Astrid Sonnschein nuts. She's desperate to leave her parents behind, and why not, with stepfather George a foul-tempered old vampire, and Mom - well, the less we say about Mom the better.
And our heroine has another compelling reason for getting out of Dodge. If she stays home much longer she's in grave danger of being transformed forever, and the last thing she wants is to become the newest Nosferatu.
So it's off to Rosenberg High and relative safety. Except it's far from safe when her relatives are holier than holy Aunt Jean, beer-swilling couch potato Uncle James and devious, cat-loving cousin Emma. And that's just evenings and weekends. Astrid Sonnschein's schooldays teem with teeth-sinkable challenges, the man of her dreams refuses to play by the rules, and the plethora of pitchfork-bearing peasants are beginning to mutter.
Peasants-schmeasants! It's when the full moon rises that Astrid's real troubles begin ...
You can read the first chapters of
‘Fifty Percent Vampire’ here
Astrid meets Mike.
We were halfway through a shrill rendition of Give Peace A Chance when a group of young men swaggered up, sporting haircuts like Angus’s, their hands in the pockets of paramilitary jackets similar to the one I’d last seen him wearing. Before any of them uttered a word I sensed trouble. “Hey little girls, you think our Marines are sitting pretty over there?”
I rolled my eyes in disgust. Even an idiot like me knew there were no American soldiers serving in Syria. Maybe these morons were confusing it with Iraq. As they came closer and closer I heard Jenny and Rocio whimper but Rachel kept on singing and I followed her lead.
A man reached forward and grabbed my pole. I lost hold and it flew out of my grasp. Rachel stumbled and fell to the ground as the guy wrenched our banner away from her. That made me see red so I lunged at the attacker, snatched the pole back from him, and with my free left hand shoved him hard in the gut. He staggered back from the force of my blow, doubled up in agony. My show of bravado seemed to signal to the girls that I was now their protector and every last one of them crowded in a huddle behind me. At the back, Jenny had had the good sense to dial 911 and I heard her urgent calls for help.
The gang howled obscenities that made me blush but kept their distance as I stood my ground. A teen girl able to knock one of them down had made them wary, but I had no idea how long that wariness might last. After a while Rachel and Rocio found the courage to start shouting back at them, but all that did was make matters worse. I breathed faster and faster. The men were moving nearer again and any second the situation was going to boil over.
And then we all heard it. The slow clip-clop of a horse’s hooves on concrete. Coming steadily closer. Both sides stopped yelling and turned to look. A sturdy bay horse with gentle brown eyes was approaching us, chewing nonchalantly on its bit, bobbing its head as it came. In the saddle sat a broad-shouldered young man in uniform, helmet and shades. He steered his horse between our rival groups, pulled slowly back on the reins, and brought his mount to a standstill. Sitting high above us with his hands crossed on the pommel he surveyed the scene like a cowboy counting cattle on the range.
“Howdy, Officer Hanson,” said Rachel shyly.
The pole fell from my hand with a clatter and the horse skittered back a step. Officer Hanson? As in Mike Hanson? Poster boy of Rosenberg High? My heart fluttered and my legs began to quake. If this was really him he was more gorgeous than his photo. At that moment I was ready to lie down right there in the roadway, roll over and let this godlike creature dismount his horse and scratch my tummy—well, not really, but I would have done it if he’d ordered me to. Given the expressions I saw on their faces, most of my friends would have been down there alongside me.
“Okay, you guys, break it up. I need you to disperse immediately,” said Officer Michael Hanson calmly, his deep voice full of authority. “Go on home. The slightest resistance from anybody and I’m calling for backup.”
“Hey,” exclaimed Rachel. “We weren’t doing anything wrong! Tell those jerks to leave, not us.”
Officer Hanson’s face turned slowly Rachel’s way. “You heard me, sweetheart. Go home. If I don’t see dust settling in the next thirty seconds I’ll take you in first.”
I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think any of us could. My hero was threatening to arrest us. No fair. The idiots who attacked us should be the ones getting arrested. Our opponents made catcalls and retreated, whistling and laughing at their injured buddy who was still moaning and clutching his stomach. Officer Hanson sat patiently watching us from on high.
“Okay, okay, we’ll leave,” grumbled Rachel. “But this was a legitimate protest. Freedom of assembly still exists in this country.” She stooped to snatch up the fallen banner, thrust it back into my hand, and stormed off. The demo she’d spent so much effort on was ruined.
Officer Hanson called after her. “Missy, go back to school and reread the First Amendment. I think you’ll find it’s freedom of peaceable assembly.”
It was at that moment I made my mistake. As a friendly gesture to our rescuer (and, I have to admit, an attempt to get myself noticed), I stepped forward and reached out to pat the horse’s muzzle. No sooner had I done so than the stupid beast laid back its ears, flared its nostrils and reared up squealing. Officer Hanson slid alarmingly sideways.
People all around us were yelling “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” and the girls screamed and retreated as I backed into them. Iron horseshoes flashed high above me in the sunlight and I feared the horse’s hooves were about to shatter my skull. In panic, I waved the banner in its white-eyed face. Officer Hanson yanked back the reins and gripped hard with his legs and the terrified animal wheeled round in a tight circle, ready to smash blindly through anything that got in its way.
The men scattered. Poor Officer Hanson had lost a stirrup and looked about to lose his balance again and come crashing down on the cement road. Somehow he managed to cling on and after a few seconds regained control. The horse continued to dance a while and then stood quivering while its rider leaned forward to pat its neck and rub its ears, calming and soothing it as it whickered and snorted nervously, tossing its head. “Take it easy, big fella, take it easy.”
Officer Hanson removed his sunglasses and stared down at me. “Please don’t do that again, Miss,” he said quietly.
“Um, Sonnschein,” I muttered, and looked at my feet. “Astrid Sonnschein.” I’d gotten myself noticed alright.
I should have known the horse would react that way. It had sensed my non-humanness. Several years ago, both Angus and I had desperately wanted to learn to ride, but we failed miserably. Angus attempted to mount up once, and to his credit managed to stay in the saddle for several seconds while the enraged horse jerked him around like a mustang at a rodeo. But in the end he lost his grip and was thrown to the ground, and broke several bones. The experience shook him up so much he never tried to ride again.
Instead he procured for himself a big Honda Fireblade motorcycle, something without a mind of its own. I never dared ask him where he got it.
Embarrassed, I apologized to Officer Hanson and hurried after my friends. We reconvened at the coffee shop.
“Where’d you learn to punch so hard?” asked Rocio, examining my hand for damage. “I thought those guys were going to eat us for breakfast.”
“Where I come from you learn self-defense early,” I replied.
“I guess,” said Jenny. “And we’re all truly grateful.”
To my embarrassment they all lined up to hug me, after which Rachel ordered sodas for everyone and acted bemused when I didn’t want a sugar boost too. Especially after Officer Hanson’s horse had almost knocked my head off. We decided we’d had far too much excitement for one day, said goodbye and went our separate ways.
I stumbled home to Wicket Lane in a total daze. So that was Mike Hanson. Good job, Astrid, you meet your first hot guy, and not only is he way too old for you but you darn near kill the poor fella by spooking his noble steed. Excellent first impression, mush-brain.
© D. K. Janotta 2015
About the AuthorD.K. Janotta was born and raised in England and Wales but now calls a chalet on a mountainside overlooking beautiful Lake Geneva in Switzerland home. He has worked in Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, France, South Korea, and several states of the USA. He subverts the vampire genre to ask questions about and reflect on the meaning of human life.
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