In this blasted, ruined city, blocked from the sun by the effects of nuclear war, the survivors live day to day by scavenging, stealing and looking out for number one. It's a tough and violent place, and among the general populace lurk the feared mutants, those who've been changed by a unique cocktail of radiation poisoning into creatures resembling vampires and werewolves and who knows what else?
I liked my benighted world, but I began to wonder what would happen there if I injected just a hint of Christmas spirit? And romance, of course :).
Christmas Cookies: CHRISTMAS OF THE DAMNED
By MARIE TREANOR
No one remembers why, but every year on the same cold December night, the survivors of the ruined City of the Damned gather to celebrate a miracle that never happens...
When a wounded wolf appears outside the city’s most popular nightclub, Sol, the tough doorman, rescues her from the violence of his patrons. He recognizes that the wolf is more than she seems. But then, so is Sol. A man of few words who hides his gift and his generosity, only he can unlock the wolf's lost humanity.
And as it turns out, the meeting of these two remarkable creatures is just one of the miracles of this Christmas night.
The hands clutching at her throat disappeared abruptly, as though snatched away. An exclamation, a warning shout, some loud thuds and groans, and suddenly there was no one left for her to fight.
Her attackers were picking themselves off the ground, muttering but not retaliating, and the wolf stared into the eyes of her savior. The bouncer.
Behind him, the wolf saw one of the men stagger to his feet. Retrieving his knife, he lunged toward the bouncer. The bald man whipped round and his would-be attacker stopped dead. One of the other men tugged his friend’s arm urgently, and they all took off down the nearest alley.
The bouncer turned back to the wolf. She growled, wondering how fast she could run, how well she could fight with her injured leg and her new wounds. Blood dripped from her neck, clogging her fur, puddling on the dirty ground at her feet. He stared at her. Dark eyes, hard, veiled, dangerous. She stared back, desperately.
Show no fear, show no fear.
Slowly, the bouncer walked toward her, the same lithe danger in his step. She growled again, warningly. Her whole body quivered. The bouncer stopped and crouched down in front of her.
She could rip his throat out. She could try.
But somehow, his eyes held hers, and she didn’t. As her breathing adjusted to her stillness, she sensed no threat from him. He hadn’t saved her to kill her himself. And yet if those terrible, piercing eyes weren’t killing her, they still stabbed deep into her heart.
When they left hers, she knew relief, and loss. But he only scanned her body, taking in her wounds, her skinniness, her exhausted, fearful trembling.
A shout of laughter distracted him, causing him to glance over his shoulder at the new group of people approaching the club. One of them waved, and he lifted one hand in response before he turned back to her. His mouth twisted, curving slightly upward in a fleeting smile. His lips were full, the only softness in his face, betraying his sensuality and, perhaps, unexpected sensitivity.
He rose to his feet, fluidly, and the wolf panicked, backing up a step. His eyes didn’t leave her. Slowly he held down his hand, but she had his scent already -- the sweat and excitement of the club and beneath it, clean skin, a unique, sensual male smell she had no name for. Still holding out his hand, he took a step away from her, then another, and she realized he was inviting her to go with him.
To enter the contest to win a PDF copy of Christmas of the Damned, tell me in the comments about something outstandingly good that's happened to you or around you at Christmas. Or what the best miracle of the season would be for you. You don't have to be too serious about it :). The contest will end at midnight tonight, and the winner will be announced tomorrow on this thread.