Hell's Belle Series Book One
by Karen Greco
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Date of Publication: June 17, 2013
Number of pages: 238
Word Count: 74,722
Cover Artist: Jeff Brennan
Half vampire, half human, Nina Martinez spent most of her life underground as part of an elite secret team of government agents that quietly take down rogue monsters, the human world none the wiser. She moves back to her hometown of to keep an eye on the recent uptick in supernatural activity, and to help run the bar she co-owns with her aunt. Her attempt at a “regular” life, not to mention a budding relationship with smoking hot FBI agent Max, is cut short because of a string of ritual murders targeting the city's community of witches.
But Nina's investigation unearths deadly secrets from her long buried parents. Now the target of supernatural assassins, could Nina be the most dangerous vampire hybrid to ever exist? No wonder she can’t get a date.
An urban fantasy set in a decaying Providence, Rhode Island, HELL'S BELLE is a fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled roller-coaster ride through a city on the cusp of becoming an urban wasteland. HELL'S BELLE is an energetic, expansive, and cinematic beginning of a new series in the urban fantasy genre.
An award-winning playwright, Karen Greco has spent close to twenty years in New York City, working in publicity and marketing for the entertainment industry. A life-long obsession with exorcists and Dracula drew her to urban fantasy, where she can decapitate characters with impunity. HELL'S BELLE is her first novel.
It's so hard to chose just one, but I would love to have super-human strength, to run around and just be kind of Hulk-tastic. How cool would that be?
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The feedback from my readers has really been the most extraordinary thing for me. I love that they were entertained and enjoyed the novel. But I think the absolute most rewarding thing was showing my daughter that it is possible to make any dream a reality, even writing a novel and getting it out into the world.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
For a few hours, Hell's Belle will take you to a place filled with action and adventure, and you will (hopefully) have moments when you cheer out loud for the heroine, like you are at a sporting event. (That did happen to one person, and that was so wild to hear.)
Cheeseburger and fries. I am hungry just thinking about it.
What book are reading now?
I have a few going right now, but the one that I am really enjoying is called Tube Riders, by Chris Ward. I think it's an indie title. It's set in a futuristic London that's very Big Brother-esque. It's about a rag-tag group who find solace from the everyday grind by jumping on a moving subway car and riding it. There's a rival gang that's out to get them. It kind of reminds me a bit of The Warriors, that novel (and movie) from the 70s/80s about the Coney Island gang trying to get back to Brooklyn. It has the same spirit.
What’s your favorite season/weather?
While I love summer, I am really a fall girl. I am from New England, and love how the air gets crisp, and how it smells of burning wood from fireplaces. I love the turn of the leaves and then the forlorn way they dry up and tumble around on the ground. Hot mulled cider and Halloween. Pulling out all the classic horror flicks. It's just perfect.
What was your favorite children's book?
Hop On Pop by Dr. Seuss. "You must not hop, On top of Pop." To this day, that makes me laugh.
Beach or Pool?
Beach, no question. I was raised in the Ocean State!
What is one book everyone should read?
Wow. This is almost impossible to answer! Can I say Hell's Belle, or is that cheating? If I can't say Hell's Belle, then I will say anything by Damon Runyon. I think he's undervalued as a writer. The colorful character names, the way he captured this very particular time in this very particular city, and the way he made flawed characters his heroes and heroines. To me, he really is the essence of New York City (and a big reason why I moved to New York). There really is no writer like him.
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
I am working on the second book in the Hell's Belle series. And I have a serialized novel idea that I am churning around right now. That's a YA novel, since my daughter is bugging me write something she can read. And I am spending a little time thinking about characters and plot for another supernatural series. I would love about 10 more hours in the day to get it all done! Can anyone make that happen?
Hell's Belle by Karen Greco
I was wearing the wrong damn shoes. Bounding through the pitch-black overgrown empty urban lots, my legs were long past aching and well into screaming territory. I gulped in the crisp fall air and forced myself to sprint harder.
"Do you need me to carry you?" My partner Frankie, the vampire I was trying to keep pace with, shouted over his shoulder. His voice was thick with sarcasm.
I slowed down just enough to yank off my heels, carrying one in each hand. I wasn't expecting to play decoy tonight, and I'd be damned if I was going to lose my shoes in some godforsaken overgrown lot in the middle of Newark, New Jersey. These were custom-designed heels from SteamTropolis in Seattle, after all. These vampires would have to pry them from my cold, dead hands before I let them go.
Newark had a pretty major vampire infestation. The despair and decay that the city had fallen into over the past several decades lured us, and the population was exploding.
Frankie and I had spent the last three weeks here, advising the Mayor on how to eradicate the pests. We are part of a small but efficient top-secret task force of hunters that handle rogue supernaturals for the Defense Department. The program had the highest security clearance. Even the President had no idea we existed, or that the crew Frankie and I assembled to help eradicate their vampire pest problem was flying in to join Newark's finest the next day.
So Mayor Cory Booker, head of a crime-soaked New Jersey city, had one up on the Commander-in-Chief. We only let the mayor in on what we were doing because he walked in on a vampire sucking the life out of one of his staffers in his office in City Hall. Even more shocking, Mayor Booker kicked the vampire's ass before driving a stake through his chest. Not only was he unflappable politically, but Mayor Booker’s wild adrenaline surge also made him a first-rate vampire slayer. With that kind of muscle, he deserved to know the truth.
It was our last night in Newark and, to show his thanks, Mayor Booker threw us a bon voyage party at his home. I busted out my best outfit for the occasion: a beautiful strapless number that looked like long silk bandages crisscrossing over each other. The addition of a bustier underneath made my usually small boobs appear more ample. And, of course, finishing the outfit were my fabulously impractical heels.
Since Mayor Booker was the newest threat to the vampires’ stronghold, a vampire nest crashed the party. Six very motivated vamps thundered feet first through his front window. Clearly whoever was in charge considered it a suicide mission and sent out his flunkies. Dressed like a cheap imitation of a Hell’s Angels biker gang, it was vampire amateur hour at the Booker household. They actually brought human weapons in with them, including a submachine gun. Some waved metal pipes.
An amateur vampire is still a vampire, and still just as deadly. Between the fangs, the pipes and the gun, not to mention the glass shrapnel from the window, the place was a bloody mess. Newark’s police chief had a nasty gash on his throat, the vampire missing his jugular by mere centimeters. I was able to stake him with a broken broom handle before he could kill the poor man. Shattered window glass embedded into the arm of the Mayor’s press secretary. Vampire Moron started shooting up the place, so blood was flowing freely. The carnage appeared to be a violent political hit gone wrong. It’s shockingly easy to hide a supernatural attack.
It was bedlam. Frankie and I distracted the hit squad so the Mayor's security forces could get him out of there. It was a good reminder of why I don't usually get dressed up.
After kicking my heels off, I closed the distance between me and Frankie. I could barely make out his aristocratic profile in the sliver of moonlight peeking through the dark clouds. Frankie still looked impeccable in his fitted black blazer, skinny trousers and dress shoes, which he was running around in just fine.
"You need me to carry you, old man?" I huffed, throwing his earlier sarcasm back at him.
Frankie laughed, the rich sound echoed down the alleyway we had turned into. He wasn't the least bit out of breath.
Wait. Echoed? Shit.
I reached out and grasped Frankie's forearm and squeezed. We skidded to a stop, gaping at the brick wall in front of us. My eyes darted around. There was a fire escape about 15 feet above us. Frankie could probably jump it. But there was no way I would make it up there. And Frankie wouldn't be able to jump it with me on his back. Too much weight for a straight-up vertical leap. At over 500 years old, Frankie was one of the strongest vampires I had ever met. But a jump like that was pushing it.
I bent over at the waist, grasped my kneecaps and sucked in air as my mind raced through scenarios for escape. None of them were good. We were going to have to fight our way out of this.
Reluctantly dropping my exquisite shoes on the ground, I reached down the front of my dress and pulled a silver-tipped stake from my bustier.
Frankie's eyes were wide. "Nice tailoring." He nodded appreciatively and peered down my dress. "What else do you have in there?"
I smacked him upside the head. "Focus!"
The five vampires appeared at the mouth of the alleyway.
I crouched low, trying to pick out the weakest link in the dim light. With my mixed blood, I was stronger than a regular human, but I had to be realistic.
"Second from right," Frankie whispered, nostrils flaring. He knew my limits too. "Pretty new dead. Still smells almost human. But watch your back."
I nodded, my eyes now on the man. He looked close to 50, an ill-fitting denim jacket accentuated his middle-aged paunch, his long curls coarse and gray. His brown eyes glowed rabidly, appearing almost yellow. Crap. He was really new dead. I almost preferred going up against someone Frankie's age than a recent turn. They were always unpredictable.
With a howl, the pack of vamps charged us. Frankie stepped in front of me and pushed most of the pack out of my reach, leaving me with my one opponent. The vampire charged me blindly, fangs gnashing out uncontrollably. Passing the stake to my left hand, I brought my right around and backhanded him in the face. It sent him reeling and put a little distance between us. But it also pissed him off.
The vampire football-tackled me, hitting me hard in the stomach. The tight corset worn under my party dress (the one that also stored a small arsenal of stakes) impeded my breathing all night, which saved the wind from being knocked out of me. I skidded on my ass about four feet, his head still pressed in my stomach. I dropped my elbow into the back of his neck and heard a satisfying crack of it breaking. I scrambled out from under his limp body.
Then I turned to the melee beside me. Frankie was cracking two vampire's heads together. A third came up behind him and pushed a knife into his back.
"Frankie!" I charged at the pile of vamps. At the sound of my voice, the knife wielder turned towards me and my eyes focused on the sweet spot: his heart. I tossed my silver-tipped stake into my right hand, and with a primal scream, I pushed it in. The bones in his chest splintered with several loud cracks, then I felt the stake glide into the meat of the heart. He slumped to the ground.
Yanking the knife out of Frankie's back, I shifted to the left when something slammed into the side of my face. I landed on my side, and heard the tell-tale zrrippp of my skirt tearing.
Rubbing my sore cheek, I tried to get up, but the vampire grabbed me by my hips, dragging me backwards. The pavement shredded both my expensive fishnet stockings and the skin on my legs. Sticky, coagulating blood glued the threads from the stockings into my torn skin. The metallic scent of blood hit my nostrils a few seconds later.
Twisting, I kicked out and knocked my attacker in the kneecaps. These asshats were ruining my favorite outfit. The satisfying crunch of his kneecap shattering made me grin. Before I could lash out again, Frankie's hands gripped me under my arms and he pulled me closer to the brick wall, just as the one in the leather vest brought down a pipe aimed at my head. Sparks flew when it hit the pavement.
Frankie’s fangs were completely extended and his normally sky-blue eyes were a brilliant cerulean glowing against his porcelain white skin. His overgrown black hair was matted with blood. Frankie was terrifying when he was full-on vampire.
Frankie drew my attention back to the vampires with the point of a finger. Like teen girls at the mall, the horde moved in a clump, their broken and battered limbs pushing and kicking at each other. Their heads were twitched and twisting, noses in the air, picking up the enticing aroma of my Type O Negative.
Headlights turned into the alleyway, and the shock of light made me lose sight of the vampires just feet away from me. I tried to shield my eyes from the bright lights as the SUV shrieked down the alley. It smashed into the vampire cluster, scattering them. A hulking figure popped out of the open sunroof, wooden stakes in both hands. It was Mayor Booker, arriving on the scene like a superhero. I half expected to see a cape flapping behind him.
"Y'all got to get the hell out of my city!" Mayor Booker's resonant voice boomed down the alleyway.
He jumped down to the hood of the SUV. The vampires surrounded his car. With their attention diverted, Frankie and I needed to move. Mayor Booker may be bad-ass, but there was no way he could take on five full bloods.
Frankie pulled three stakes out of his jacket and tossed one to me. Grabbing it one-handed, I reached down into my dress again and took out my last stake. Frankie, moving faster than me, staked a young male vampire through the back, going straight through his heart. I staked my middle-aged vampire in a similar fashion. Two vampires down, three to go, only one stake left in my hand.
The three remaining vampires were now on the hood of the car, facing off with the Mayor. Frankie caught one by the ankles and pulled him down off the car, leaving the Mayor to battle it out with two. Booker swung a right hook, destabilizing the taller one, before bringing the stake in his opposite hand directly into the other vampire's heart. While he shoved the dead vampire off the car, the other reared up and pushed into the Mayor, sending both onto the pavement with a slam.
The tumble smacked the Mayor's head into the ground, and he seemed disoriented as he staggered to his feet. The vampire loomed over him. Grabbing the Mayor by the shoulders, fangs grinding, his eyes had that sheen of crazy that a vampire gets just before a kill. He brought his barely 18-year-old face towards Booker's neck.
I sprinted towards them and launched myself into the air, landing on the vampire’s back. Grabbing him around the head, I twisted his neck, breaking it. He slumped to the ground. Good thing he was built more like a basketball player than a football hero. I drove my last stake into his heart.
With a grunt, Frankie nailed the final vampire with a stake. "Are you all right, Mr. Mayor?"
"Yes, thank you," Mayor Booker said as he rubbed his shaved head, leaving a streak of blood on his scalp.
The three of us stared at the bloodbath around us.
"You two okay?" Mayor Booker asked, trying to catch his breath.
I yanked mournfully at my tattered skirt. "My outfit is fucked."
Mayor Booker dropped his arm around my shoulders, "That dress was beautiful."
My heart skipped a few beats. This man was smart, hot, and could take on vampires. I could feel a major crush coming on. I glanced at him and smiled shyly.
Frankie gave me a little shove, bringing me back to earth. "Oh God. Stop being such a girl."
I nodded. "Mr. Mayor, Frankie and I will clean up. You shouldn't be here for this."
He began to protest, but Frankie, removing his coat and pulling out a scythe-like knife that was holstered on his side, intervened. "Nina's right, Mayor. They aren't completely dead yet. We have to finish them off. And you really don't need to be party to this."
"How do you kill them, then?" The Mayor was determined to see this through, but it was time for him to get out of here.
"We have to cut off their heads, then remove their hearts and burn them," I said. My matter-of-fact tone made him look momentarily uncomfortable. "Seriously, Sir, if someone saw you decapitating something that looks like a human.... Not good."
"Point taken," he nodded. "Thank you both. For everything."
He shook our hands, climbed into his SUV and was off, leaving Frankie and me to do what we did best: destroy vampires.