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Dark Changeling

A successful, middle-aged psychiatrist tormented by an unquenchable lust for blood.... A vampire serial killer on the rampage.... At the age of forty, Dr. Roger Darvell discovers that he is no ordinary man. He also discovers that vampires exist, and that a few of them kill as wantonly and cruelly as any monster in a horror film. When a renegade vampire follows Roger from Boston to his new home in Maryland and attacks one of his patients, Roger must come to terms with the newly discovered truth about his heritage. And he must find a way to destroy the killer before his newfound lover becomes the renegade's next victim.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Margaret L. Carter

     Margaret L. Carter read Dracula at the age of twelve, and it changed her life. The resulting fascination with horror, fantasy, and science fiction led her to become a writer, meet her future husband, and pursue degrees in English literature. A lifelong vampire fan, she earned a Ph. D. from the University of California, Irvine, with a dissertation that included a chapter on Dracula. She edited Dracula: The Vampire and the Critics, the first anthology of essays on Stoker's novel, and compiled The Vampire in Literature: A Critical Bibliography. More recently, she discusses the vampire as a naturally evolved species (like her own fictional vampires) in Different Blood: The Vampire as Alien. She has also edited a fiction zine, The Vampire's Crypt. Her stories have appeared in various fanzines and anthologies, including several of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover volumes. Margaret's first novel, Shadow of the Beast, a werewolf tale (set in Annapolis, like her Hard Shell vampire novels), appeared in 1998. Her fiction ranges over horror, fantasy, and paranormal romance. 
     She and her husband, a retired Navy Captain, have four sons, several grandchildren, two cats, and a St. Bernard named Frodo. Visit her website, Carter's Crypt, at:http://www.margaretlcarter.com.


"This book is a winner, on every level, but don't read it at night unless every light in the house is turned on and all the doors and windows are locked. Ms. Carter has written a book that is full of chills, shivers, and blood ... enjoy."

Patricia White -- Millenium SF/F Magazine

4 Stars!

"Margaret Carter's book has an intricately detailed vampire universe. How the vampires see themselves and humanity is eye-opening, fun to read, and thought provoking. The writing was excellent, as were the characterization and pictorial visualization that Ms. Carter painted with her words. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I know you will too."

Sime-Gen Reviews

"Dark Changeling is an entertaining vampire romance that is really two books in one. The depth of the tale belongs to the vampire species whose muses on humanity and vampirism is unique and quite entertaining. Margaret L. Carter has written a superb tale in which fans of horror novels and supernatural romance lovers will fully enjoy."

Harriet Klausner -- SimeGen Reviews

4 1/2 stars

"Dark Changeling is not just another vampire novel. It is a character study which delves into a human soul tormented by a nature at odds with its own definition of reality. Readers seeking a sweet love story, a zany love story, or even the traditional fanged lover, need to look elsewhere because Margaret L. Carter doesn't deal in 'the usual'. She gives her readers a voyage down a dark river where only dappled sunlight manages to filter through the heavy canopy of traditional expectations."

Polly -- Bitten by Books


Boston, August 1979:

He wore the night like a black cloak.

Shrouded in an illusion of emptiness, he knew any human eyes would slide past him as if invisible.

From the shelter of an alley between a pair of deserted office buildings, Neil scanned the front of the movie theater and the small, gravel-surfaced parking lot next to it. The stink of garbage and auto fumes filled his nose. From nearby streets he heard the rumble of cars, the occasional sigh of brakes. At this hour little traffic turned down the dingy side street where the cinema was located. Bored with waiting, he let his eyes drift over the marquee, reading "OUBLE FEATUR," followed by the titles of two recent slasher films. Appropriate.

Neil grinned above his shaggy, copper-red beard when a young man and woman appeared beneath the overhang in front of the theater. He'd expected to loiter until the second show let out. Too bad the girl wasn't alone. What the hell, he could handle both of them.

The parking lot's single floodlight cast a halo on the girl's blonde, shoulder-length hair. She wore sky-blue flared slacks and a matching sweater against the nip of the March night. Her aura glowed with the indignation echoed in her shrill voice and the staccato tap of her heels. "What the hell is the matter with you, anyway? How could you be so stupid, bringing liquor into a movie? I've never been so embarrassed in my life!"

The watcher noticed, beneath the young man's open brown leather jacket, the bulge of a flask in the hip pocket. "What's the big deal? So we got thrown out. The flick was lousy anyway." His abundant chestnut hair, brushed into an exaggerated bouffant and curling at the back of his neck, framed a delicately handsome face distorted by a pout.

"Oh, yeah? It was your idea to see those stupid second-run axe-murderer films in this crummy neighborhood."

"Forget it, let's go for a ride." He slipped an arm around his date's waist to pat her on the bottom.

The air crackled with her anger. "Are you nuts? I wouldn't ride around the block with you!" She squirmed away from his touch.

Staggering, he groped for her, then steadied himself against the smudged bricks of the nearest wall. "Come on, Lisa, the night's young." Judging from his lopsided smile, he considered that remark urbanely witty.

"My mother was right, for once," said the girl, her heels clicking on the sidewalk as she strode away from him. "I shouldn't have gone out with you in the first place, M.I.T. honor student or not. What do you get honors in, Party 101?"

When her date made another grab for her arm, she whipped around and smacked him in the diaphragm with her purse. He doubled over with a whoosh of breath. "Well, screw it! You can just walk home!" He stumbled across the lot to his car. Neil, still watching from across the street, heard the crunch of gravel and the boy's labored breathing.

Neil's own breathing was none too steady, either. The girl's anger stung his nostrils like ozone. He fought to quiet the rasping of his lungs and concentrated on veiling himself from the young people's eyes. Not that he had much to worry about, since they were too caught up in their fight to spare a glance in his direction. The boy's Corvette roared out of the lot and weaved down the narrow street. Brandishing her purse, the girl screeched after him, "Go ahead and kill yourself! I'm calling a cab."

Neil's tongue flicked over his dry lips. This encounter was working out better than he'd hoped. Now he could catch her alone and, with luck, away from the movie theater's lights. Sure enough, she threw one glance at the closed entrance of the theater and headed for the phone booth at the gas station next door instead.

Gliding soundlessly, he kept pace with the girl's hurrying steps. If she happened to look his way, her eyes would slip over him unseeing. Even consumed with lust, he easily maintained that much psychic control.

Her hair swung in rhythm with her rapid strides and her disjointed mutters of, "Stupid jerk -- macho airhead --" In the empty parking lot of the deserted gas station, Neil watched her lean into the phone booth and fumble through the directory with hands that shook from anger. She dropped a coin into the slot, listened to the receiver, frowned, and jiggled the coin return. After trying once more, she spat a curse and slammed the phone back into its cradle.

Out of order! Great!

She checked her watch and started walking back toward the theater. He decided to make his move now.

In a fluid blur he crossed the street to block her path. At the same instant he dropped the illusion that kept her from seeing him.

With a gasp, she froze. Her surge of panic went straight to Neil's head like a triple shot of hundred-proof rum. His hands clamped onto her arms. Her throat closed on the scream she ached to expel.

Already high on her impotent terror, Neil forced himself to quell it, for it didn't want to deal with panic just yet. Gazing into her eyes, he soothed her with wordless murmurs. Gradually her fear melted away, until she stared at him in mindless docility.

"You need a ride," he said softly. "Come along, I'll take you home."

She nodded. Entwining his arm with hers, he guided her around the corner to his car. A quick scan of the area assured him that the street lined with shabby small businesses was safely deserted at this time of night. He opened the back door of his drab compact wagon, neither new enough nor old enough to attract notice, and shoved Lisa in. She landed on a threadbare Army blanket he'd picked up at a thrift shop for just this purpose. She stared at him with wide, empty eyes like Disney's cartoon Snow White lost in the woods.

Too easy! Damn it, they're all too easy!

But for now he had to accept her submission as an advantage. "I'm taking you home," he said in the same gentle murmur as before. "You sit back here and stay perfectly quiet. Understand?"

Again she nodded.

Neil drove to an elementary school in an lower-class neighborhood. Here, if he decided to indulge in the pleasure of letting her scream, nobody would come to her rescue. Pulling up beside the playground, well outside the circle of the nearest street lamp, he walked around to open the back door. He coaxed his victim, loose-jointed and half-asleep, out of the back seat.

At that moment he heard the growl of a defective muffler and glimpsed the headlights of a car turning the corner in his direction. Instantly he pulled the girl into his arms and crushed her to him. When the car's lights swept over them, Neil was kissing her with grinding force. His teeth cut her lip, and he tasted blood. Electricity rippled from his mouth down to his groin, sparking along every nerve.

The fire in his gut wouldn't let him wait any longer. As soon as the car vanished, he held the girl away from him, his hands squeezing her upper arms, and dropped the mental vise that had paralyzed her will. Her eyes snapped awake, bottomless wells of terror to drink from.

"You want to run away," he said in a mockingly soft voice. "All right. You can't scream -- you can't make a sound -- but you can run." He relaxed his grip.

When she tried to dart past him, he blocked her. "No," he said. "The other way."

She wheeled around and ran through a gap in the chain-link fence into the playground. On the blacktop her mid-height heels clomped awkwardly. In her panic she didn't pause to kick them off. Neil gave her a head start, watching her lurch under the metal frame from which two broken swings dangled. She threw a wild look over her shoulder. Blundering into one of the poles, she tumbled on the ground. Still he didn't follow. She scrambled to her feet and hurried on, limping now.

Neil lunged after her. The wind of his own headlong charge lashed him in the face. He halted a few yards from Lisa. Sobbing deep in her throat, she fell face-first on the blacktop. She barely managed to catch herself, scraping her palms on the rough surface.

Neil pounced. His full weight landed on the girl. For a few seconds he savored the way she writhed, helpless, beneath him. He smelled fear-sweat and fresh blood. Easing the pressure just enough to allow maneuvering room, he flipped her onto her back.

Her terror poured over him in searing waves, like an eruption of lava. Delirious, he feasted on it, his body convulsing in ecstasy.

His teeth ripped into the soft flesh of her neck.

Not that he couldn't be subtle, when the occasion demanded. But subtlety bored him. He found this way far more satisfying.

Afterward, he wrapped the girl's torn body in the blanket and carried it back to the car. It amused him to taunt fate by discarding his leftovers in conspicuous places. Tonight he'd thought of a deliciously outrageous location.