"Into every generation, a Slayer is born. One girl in all the world, to find the vampires where they gather, and to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers."
Buffy's shaken to learn that Celina, the new girl in town, is actually a vamp who's heard of Buffy's rep. She's here to challenge the Slayer and even Angel-- in L.A.-- is concerned that this time, Buffy may be in over her head.
Celina's not the only monster skulking about the neighborhood. D'Hoffryn has returned to Sunnydale to offer Anya another chance as a vengeance demon. Can she give up her romance with Xander and the friendships she's forged as a mortal for another shot at immortality-- even if it comes with a horrific price tag? Dawn tries to explain to Anya that humanity is worth the occasional heartache, even as she has doubts of her own.
Suddenly Buffy learns the terrifying truth about Celina: she's not just any vamp-- she's very, very special, and she brings with her a whole new set of possibilities. Buffy has struggled with her own dark side enough to question the subtle distinction between "Slayer" and killer. If Celina turned Buffy, and Willow restored Buffy's soul, could she possibly find love with Angel at last? And, more importantly, would she still be a hero?
An original Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel
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"It has been an excellent day for taking in money," Anya said happily.
No one heard her, of course, because the Magic Shop was empty. Giles had left a half hour ago, something about getting ready to play that guitar of his in a café somewhere tonight. She thought it was endearing that a human as old as he was would still sit in and try to sing in front of others. It didn't bother her but the rest of the gang seemed to find it somehow embarrassing. She didn't understand why--actually, she didn't understand the entire concept of being 'embarrassed' at all, especially because of someone else's behavior. A person is responsible for their own actions, aren't they? Why, then, should what someone else does humiliate you?
The Magic Shop was cool and quiet on this early November evening, sales good but down from the mad Halloween rush at the end of last month. She loved this place, with its warm, golden lighting and shelves filled with everything from trinkets and harmless potions to weapons that could kill huge demons if a person knew the correct phrase to add, a pinch or two of the right herb and dried lizard parts. It was so beautiful here, and safe--most of the time, anyway. With the exception of being with Xander, there was no where else Anya would rather spend her time. That Giles was finally entrusting it to her care, to count the money in the register and lock everything up, just made it that much more special.
She finished the day's accounting and put the money in the safe, then quickly ran a feather duster along the fronts of the display shelves, making sure the place looked spiffy and clean. A final check to make sure the back door was locked, and Anya picked up her purse and headed out. When the front door was securely locked behind her, she turned and--
Darn it, he was late again. What was it this time? Probably some skanky vampire or lesser demon--she loved Xander but sometimes Anya felt like he put everything in Sunnydale before her. Why couldn't she be the number one thing on his priority list? He was such a typical male, like a thousand others she'd cursed through the centuries.
Okay, maybe Xander wasn't that typical. After all, she would never settle for such normalcy, never tolerate the sort of mistreatment she'd avenged for others. He treated her exceptionally well, in fact, and he'd made it clear he loved her, and he was great in bed if not unaccountably embarrassed when she told everyone about that. And there it was again, that 'embarrassed' thing: men were supposed to be proud of their prowess at sex, weren't they? So shouldn't he be wanting her to shout it on the hilltops?
Anya sighed and took a couple of steps off the sidewalk so she could check both ways on the street, but there was still no sign of Xander's car. Back on the walkway, she paced nervously back and forth. It was a beautiful fall night, a little cool with a light breeze rustling through leaves that were changing colors. It was also deserted, and she wished Xander would get his act together and pick her up on time for a change. Of course, he would just tell her she should have waited inside, and he was probably right. For God's sake, she felt like a walking appetizer standing out here.
Anya heard a footstep behind her and whirled to see a guy coming toward her on the sidewalk. "Stop right there," she snapped. "What are you doing?"
The stranger froze and stared at her, his expression confused. "Uh... walking on the sidewalk?"
She crossed her arms. "And where do you think you're going?"
His baffled eyes turned irritable. "No offense, lady, but I don't think that's any of your business. Last I heard, this was a free country."
Anya frowned at him, then relaxed a bit. He was young, early twenties, and dressed nicely enough in a blue plaid shirt and a yellow sweater vest. He even had little round glasses. The whole look was vaguely reminiscent of Giles. He looked a little nerdy and she didn't see any grave dirt clinging to his shirt collar. Besides, no self-respecting young man would be buried in yellow, so he must be okay. "Sorry," she finally said. "I guess I'm just jumpy."
His frown softened. "I can understand that. Waiting for someone?"
Anya nodded, still a little wary. "My boyfriend is picking me up."
"Looks like he's late." He glanced around. "Would it make you feel better if I waited with you?"
Anya considered this. "Well--"
"Tell you what," the guy interrupted. "Let's not."
Anya blinked. "Not? Not what?"
"Wait." And he morphed into a vampire.
"Oh, why are women always right?" She swung her purse and hit the dirty beast on the side of the head nearly before his change was complete, acting on pure instinct. He yelped in surprise and staggered sideways, giving her the two-second opening she needed to run. She didn't get far; the dress, the purse, the shoes--the entire look-like-a-woman thing that she'd really come to enjoy--they were really a huge disadvantage in a fleeing situation.
Anya heard him catch up with her before his wrinkled-up fingers closed around her wrist, screamed at the same time she flailed wildly with her pocketbook. He flinched away from the blows but didn't let go; instead he managed to catch her purse by the strap with his other hand and yank it out of her grip. He tossed it aside without looking in it.
"Hey!" Anya protested. She pulled backward, trying to think of something that would stall for time. Surely Xander would be here any second. "That's got my money in it, and my lipstick!"
"Where you're going, you won't need it." The vampire grinned at her.
"You should brush your teeth more often. They're really yellow. And you've got horrible breath." He scowled but didn't let go, then he began to drag her toward a clump of bushes about twenty feet away. "Let me go!"
"Be quiet," he barked. "You're dinner, remember? Food shouldn't talk."
"Neither should vampires."
Both Anya and her attacker jerked in surprise at the new voice, low and silky, unmistakably feminine. The creature had been intent on carting her off to a nice, private spot and Anya had been just as intent on not going; neither had realized there was a young woman trailing after them. She was tall and pretty, dressed in a sort of pseudo-poverty/punk style and sporting spiky strawberry blond hair with dark roots that reminded Anya of the way Oz had once worn his. Her dark eyes were rimmed with kohl Goth-fashion, a stark contrast to her pale skin and colorless lips.
Rather than let Anya go, Tooth-Boy jerked her around and reached for the newcomer. "Oh, goody. An appetizer!"
"Hey, I was supposed to be the appetizer!" Wait, Anya thought as she tried vainly to pull free. What am I saying?
The new girl didn't back away. "What's up with the food references?" She grinned as the vampire's hand locked onto her arm. "Besides, I really think you've ordered off your last menu."
He stared at her, then at the hand he'd folded around her wrist. "Hold it, you're not--"
Before he could finish, the redhead grabbed him by the bangs and yanked his head forward, slamming it against hers.
He howled in pain and Anya found herself suddenly free. She stumbled and fell, then scrambled over and snatched up her purse as the vampire and her rescuer began solidly pounding on each other. Bag in hand, Anya backed away and watched, fascinated despite herself. She ought to run, but still... blow for blow, it was obvious the vampire, not the girl, was tiring--at one point, the young woman laughed out loud, as though this was nothing more than a darned good game.
No fool he, the vampire knew when he was outmatched. He turned tail and tried to run, but the female stranger was having none of that. Her hand zipped forward and grabbed the back of his shirt collar, then she hauled him backward, hard.
Right onto the point of a stake she pulled out of the pocket of her army pants.
The bloodsucker disappeared into the traditional cloud of dirty dust, but the redheaded-girl hadn't let go of the stake. Anya's rescuer pulled her arm back, spun the stake in a move that could only be called Western-movie, then pocketed it. Finally, she clapped her hands together to rid them of the vampire residue.
"Wow," Anya said, stepping forward. "That was great. I can't thank you enou--"
"Where is Buffy the Vampire Slayer?" her the girl demanded, jerking around to face her.
Anya stopped short. "She's, uh, not here."
"Do I seem blind to you?"
Anya swallowed. "Well, no, obviously you're not."
"Then answer my question."
"Well, I don't know where she is, exactly right this minute. I mean, it's not like she gives me her social calendar, then checks with me if she makes last-minute changes to it. She could be anywhere, there's at least a dozen places she could be..." Anya was faintly aware that she was babbling and backing away from the woman at the same time. Her elation at being saved had undergone an instant metamorphosis into fear; there was something wrong about the stranger who was matching her retreat step for step, something really off. The tone of voice, her expression--no, Little Miss Fighting Machine here wasn't blind, and she wasn't an old friend of Buffy's, either.
"You're really starting to annoy me," the redhead said. "If you don't tell me where she is, I'm going to rip your eyeballs out and use them as marbles."
Anya tried to laugh and succeeded in only sounding panicked. It was just her luck to get rescued from one nighttime-nasty by another who turned out to be just as sinister. "Oh, there's no need for that. If you want marbles, we have them in the Magic Shop. We have eyeballs, too. Nice ones, in fact, blessed by a cabal of--"
"I can smell you," the young woman said suddenly. Her nose wrinkled in the air. "There's something different about you. What..." Then Anya's rescuer starting chuckling. "Oh, that's priceless!"
Anya risked a glance behind her. There was maybe twenty feet between her and the girl, and she was almost to the bushes. But really, what chance did she have fleeing from someone who could fight like this vampire-killer had? It'd be like trying to get away from Buffy. Still, there was that distinct alarm-thing going on in her head, the one that was screaming at her to get the heck away right now.
"Oh, that's me," Anya said with fake exuberance. "Priceless! Just ask anybody." Something familiar worked its way into her hearing then, that very particular ping sound that came from the engine of Xander's car. It had always aggravated her before; now she couldn't have been more grateful.
"Ask who?" the stranger sneered. "Your family? Been gone awhile, haven't they?"
Anya's eyes widened. How could this woman know anything about her family? "Who are you, anyway?"
The woman grinned and reached for her. "You'll never know."
But Anya had already started to run in the other direction, toward that now-comforting ping. She could see his headlights about a half block away; at the same time she heard her former savior's pursuing footsteps, the welcome sound of Xander's engine going abruptly full throttle filled her ears--such a dutiful boyfriend, he'd seen her running and was now intent on coming to her rescue. It seemed she would be saved--hopefully-twice in one night.
"Hey, I'm not done with you!" the woman yelled.
Anya didn't bother to answer--she needed every bit of air to keep running. This woman was faster, stronger, and far more brutal than she, and her only escape was going to be to get to Xander before she was gotten to. For a long moment her entire world was reduced to one small thing--Xander's headlights--then she felt the redhead's fingers brush the back of her dress.
She opened her mouth to scream and Xander's horn blared obnoxiously. The sound startled her, but not as much as the woman chasing her. That one-second pause was all Anya needed; when Xander stood on the brakes and came to a squealing stop next to her, she clawed the door opened and leapt inside.
"Drive away!" she gasped and slammed her elbow down on the doorlock. "Really fast--really now!"
Instead of obeying, Xander peered out the window at the woman running toward the car. "What's wrong?" he demanded. "Is she a vamp? I've got stakes--"
He didn't get the chance to finish. The woman skidded to a stop on the passenger side of the car and punched at the window; Anya let out a scream as the lightly tinted glass next to her dissolved into a lacy pattern of bulging cracks.
Xander floored the accelerator before another blow could follow. "What the hell was that?" Anya heard him asking as she was pressed back against the seat. He clutched the steering wheel as storefronts and parked cars whizzed by, his gaze darting to the rearview mirror to make sure they weren't being followed, that the woman hadn't suddenly sprouted wings and taken to the air. In Sunnydale, one couldn't rule out anything. "Who was she?"
Shaking, Anya twisted around and stared out the back windshield, but her attacker was already out of sight. "I don't know, but I think she might be a friend of Buffy's." She looked back at Xander. "Or maybe an old enemy."
Check out Tales of the Slayer, Vol. 1.
Check out Paleo.
Check out The Willow Files, Vol. 1.
Check out The Willow Files, Vol. 2.
Return to What's New at the Palace.
Check out the Palace Offerings.
Return to the Darke Palace Book Page.
Return to the Bibliography.
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All text copyright © 2002-2004 by Yvonne Navarro and Pocket Books. Don't be naughty-- no reprinting or use in any form whatsoever without prior written permission of the starving author. We mean it. We know lots of lawyers. And we ain't afraid to use them.