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Cads and Cadavers

When Velma's dead boyfriend Leroy appears to her in the school biology lab one night, it's awkward because (a) she happens to be dissecting his body for a science fair project, and (b) she never figured out how to break up with him after her roommate informed her that leaving a Post-It note on his dorm room door suggesting they never see each other again was cold and heartless.

Leroy tells her a sob story about the vampire who drained his blood and annoyingly demands that Velma, despite the insane amount of math homework she has, avenge his murder.

But the only local vampire Velma knows is the chivalrous, dashing Dennis she ran into in the graveyard one night when she was digging up Leroy's body. His mere presence makes her hyperventilate and compulsively smooth down her hair, the signs of true amour. In one of their intimate graveyard chats, Dennis assures her that he sucks only the blood of rodents...

But is he just lying to win her heart?

Or does another vampire walk hidden among Velma's peers?

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Kelly Lougheed

Kelly Lougheed attended an all-girls high school in northern California. She launched her writing career in freshman physics, the class before lunch, where she crafted heart-wrenching poetry about how hungry she was. Soon she was using novel and short story writing as an excuse to stay up late and not brush her hair in the morning. She is currently studying Classics at Brown University, where she draws inspiration from dashing through the library stacks, pretending a vampire is chasing her, and having near death experiences, such as forgetting to wear a hat outside in the snow.

Reviews

5 Hoots

Fiendishly delightful and horrifically literate, this is one of the most original, charming and compulsively readable books I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. The author has one of the most crystal clear, strong, narrative voices. If Jane Austen were writing as a member of the Addams Family about her experiences at a competitive high school, trying to get into Harvard and experiencing her first true amour with a vampire, this would be the book.

Sarah J -- Nocturne Romance Reads



4 Stars

"Cads and Cadavers was an interesting read for me...I also loved the jump-off point of the story where Velma digs up a hot vampire while trying to dig up her dead ex-boyfriend. It was fun and itneresting. I popped some virtual popcorn and dove into the story...this one was fun, filled with teen angst and drama, and still smart...I'm rather looking forward to checking out Lougheed's other books as well."

Julie -- Wicked Little Pixie
Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

It seemed rather insensitive to dissect her boyfriend’s dead body.

But, just like when the fall dance rolled around, he was kind of her only option.

Velma stared at the cadaver sign-out sheet taped to the wall of the school morgue. The school imported three dead bodies a month for student research, and James Christensen, Prince of Denmark was scrawled beside all three November corpses. Velma ground her teeth. Had he trekked all the way from his homeland, the icebox of Denmark, for the sole purpose of ruining her life? The newspapers all made a fuss about his journey to study at the premiere Massachusetts science academy, but whenever Velma glanced his way in Chemistry class, he was 93.7% more likely to be waggling his eyebrows at some female than actually taking notes. She had calculated it in the margins of her notebook when the lecture got dull.

He probably knew she would scramble to the morgue tonight to reserve a cadaver for her science fair project, and had signed out all three corpses just to sabotage her obviously superior chances of winning, only bothering to squeeze the Prince of Denmark into the name slot to rub it in that he didn’t even need a winning project to get into Harvard—with his father’s fortune, he would sail through the admissions process, while common folk like Velma sat up until three in the morning, developing shoulder cramps from hunching over ten-times-rewritten college essays.

Now he had rendered Velma’s treacherous trek to the morgue totally pointless. The cuffs of her pants were soaked in mud for no reason whatsoever! She couldn’t even re-wear her pants tomorrow. What a burden it was to change clothes like a normal person, rather than live in the same clothing for a week like a true intellectual, too devoted to science to fret over her garb.

She checked her watch: 10:05. Less than half an hour until curfew. But the teachers had pulled a curfew check last night—what was the probability of two in a row? She itched for a set of data points to calculate the exact percentage.

Well, she probably had time to dig up Leroy’s corpse. If anyone stumbled upon her, she would just pretend to be fraught with grief from his death and clutch at her boyfriend’s dead body, tears pouring down her face, rather than reveal how she was actually stealing his body to dissect for a science fair project, because James stupidly required all three cadavers for his project. Perhaps Harvard, flipping through his science fair report as casually as they would page through a Sears catalogue, unaware somebody’s destiny hovered in their very hands, would view such behavior as wasteful, and reject him on those grounds. No, even if James were a serial killer, Harvard would slobber over his father’s checkbook.

Rain had descended to reflect Velma’s darkening mood as she stomped across the muddy lawn on the way to the graveyard. The school was purposely located next to a graveyard; the founders had foreseen that their science students would require dead bodies to dissect. Nowadays, of course, rules forbade the students from digging up unauthorized cadavers. Relatives had gotten a bit miffed when they discovered that the bodies of their loved ones had been snatched for research purposes, especially when the students puttering around in the graves happened to mess up the relatives’ careful floral arrangements.

Velma personally felt that the relatives were overreacting. It wasn’t like the students didn’t sew the cadavers back together and place them back nicely in their graves. Velma had excellent stitching skills from piecing together many a limb—those skills were what had allowed her, in fact, to sew a button back onto her shirt yesterday.

The gate to the graveyard creaked open, and Velma, tombstones looming around her, steeled herself for a mental breakdown upon popping open Leroy’s coffin. Nobody had told her how he died—the school’s official announcement was that her boyfriend had a “tragic accident.” Perhaps they were trying to hide the presence of a serial killer on campus, and she would open Leroy’s coffin only to see his noble face slashed repeatedly with a knife, dried blood framing every wound. Although he hadn’t set off fireworks in her heart when he kissed her, it would be tragic to see his face marred, especially with that chiseled jaw. Velma enjoyed a strong jaw and straight teeth. Perhaps it was an evolutionary instinct to spare her children from the torture of orthodontics.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to reproduce with Leroy had been ripped away from her when he fell down dead—not, of course, that she would have taken the opportunity. The Punnett squares confirming that their children would have his mousy brown hair, not her fiery locks, dimmed her enthusiasm for the prospect; her excruciating time with him at the fall dance sealed her resolve.

She’d clutched his arm as they shuffled into the gym, which had been cleverly disguised with vast amounts of streamers. Chivalrously, he had danced with her and refrained from stepping on her feet, but then they’d spent the rest of the evening darting glances at each other and flashing smiles whenever they accidentally locked eyes. She had made some stabs at conversation, but each time she just wanted to stab herself in the heart so she’d have an excuse to run back to the dorm for medical assistance.

He’d brought her punch—the punch-bringing routine that guys did wasn’t noble at all; rather, it forced the female to stand around awkwardly while the male got to act suave and busy himself with drinks—and they each slurped from their cups.

Velma had tried to take long, drawn-out sips in order to escape the obligation to speak, but she wanted to save her bathroom trip for when it was necessary for her to crawl out the ladies’ room window, not for when her bladder was bursting from punch overload. She cast her mind around for a common ground between them.

“So, have you done the math homework yet?” she asked. Should she be bringing up the dirty beast of Calculus at this dignified dance? Perhaps she should have said something more cosmopolitan like, “Oh, how the economy is giving me nightmares” or “This country’s going to hell in a hand basket” or simply, “Don’t you just adore that playwright Billy Shakespeare? ‘To be or not to be’—oh, how that speech twangs my heartstrings!”

“Yes, I have,” Leroy answered, seemingly grateful for a topic to latch onto. However, he couldn’t seem to come up with any witticisms about integrals.

“So...what did you think of it?” she prompted. She probably sounded stupider than her English teacher, trying to spark some discussion among the class about whatever artistically incomprehensible “great novel” he was forcing them to read, but she couldn’t keep guzzling punch forever.

Leroy looked like a deer in the headlights. Then he shrugged.

And the conversation ended.

She had seriously debated pouring punch down her front and then telling him that her stomach had inconveniently split open, so she’d better hustle over to the emergency room, and he should probably not wait up for her.

The horrible, twisted part of her heart was slightly relieved when he died, because she had secretly wanted to break up with him—what kind of relationship was it when she couldn’t even admire his chiseled face because she was too busy agonizing over the lackluster conversation?—but she didn’t know quite how to break his heart after her roommate informed her that leaving a Post-It note on Leroy’s door suggesting that maybe they should avoid each other from now on was cold and heartless.

Velma squelched through the mud and frowned. She’d expected Leroy, in a fresh grave, to have an unmarked tombstone tonight—but here lay two unmarked tombstones. She sighed. If she and Leroy were soulmates (which they weren’t), she would probably just be able to close her eyes and feel his dead aura radiating from his grave, and pick the appropriate patch of dirt to dig up. As it was, she might have to dig up two graves. And, locked up at all hours with college applications, she had not been working out in advance for this digging spree. Could she even do a push-up?

Curse James! He should be the one digging up a corpse. Requiring three dead bodies, how extravagant could you get? Velma whipped out the full length shovel she had lugged across campus with her, and planted it in the dirt covering the first grave, flinging chunks of mud behind her as she began to dig.

A bead of sweat crept down her forehead. Great, she was going to have to leap into the shower upon returning to the dorm, and then immediately throw herself into bed in order to not lapse into snores during biology lecture tomorrow, and she would probably toss and turn in bed all night (not fantasizing about a lover, sadly, but reeling with college stress) and then she’d wake up only to scream when she saw her bed head in the mirror, and when she saw James in biology tomorrow, he wouldn’t have under-eye circles or hair possessed by the devil, he wouldn’t have sweated a single drop to acquire his cadavers...oh no, he’d just scrawled “Prince of Denmark” on the sign-out sheet and waltzed off with three dead bodies!

What did he need three dead bodies for?

Velma hoped that the strenuous act of shoveling up dirt was therapeutic as she mentally catalogued the indignities that plagued her life. She tried to assuage her burning biceps with the thought that guys who weren’t as awkward as Leroy would find her well-toned arms attractive and ask for her biology notes as an excuse to talk to her. No, they would probably be threatened by the masculinity her muscles suggested...well, if she ever wound up with a homicidal boyfriend, she would at least be able to throw him off when he tried to strangle her. That could be beneficial.

Finally, her shovel hit the smooth, pinewood surface of a coffin. Moonlight glinted off the lid as Velma shoveled the dirt away, and a scratching seemed to sound from within the case. No, that was just the rain pattering on top of it—of course. Knowing she was going to be covered with mud when she emerged, she lowered herself into the grave, and crawled over the coffin to open the latch.

Wait, she instructed herself. She might be traumatized by what she saw inside. She had dissected more bodies than she could count on her fingers and toes, but what if, upon opening this coffin, she was suddenly overcome by guilt and sadness at the sight of Leroy’s innocent face? Or what if she felt vomit rising in her throat at the sight of Leroy’s brutal murder scars, or at the maggots crawling out of his eye sockets? Her stomach churned, and her heart began to pound. What if she was enjoying her last moments, right now, before the school enrolled her in psychotherapy? What if Leroy’s corpse was just that horrifying?

No. If she was going to be a surgeon, she would have to be impassive, have a heart of stone. Taking deep, meditative yoga breaths, she grasped at the coffin side and flung it open.

“Aaaaaaiiiieeee!” Her scream, embarrassingly high-pitched, ripped through the night. Thank God the dormitories were on the opposite side of campus. She didn’t want to tip off the teachers that she’d gone off puttering around in the graveyard. Graveyard puttering was educational, though. Her teachers should be grateful she was so interested in the human anatomy that she would drag a scalpel down her boyfriend’s dead body—

Shut up, brain, shut up, she thought frantically. Pay attention to the situation at hand. Taking shallow breaths, she forced her eyes to turn to the body in the coffin.

It was more horrifying than she had anticipated. Leroy’s completely maggot-chewed body? That she could have dealt with. Frankenstein’s monster? Sure, no problem.

But wasn’t it traumatizing enough digging up your ex-boyfriend’s coffin without throwing the lid open and finding not the body of the nerdy boy who once escorted you to the fall dance, but rather, a living person, blinking up at you from his grave?

A living person who did not resemble Leroy in the slightest?

Velma tried not to panic, and tried also to quell the beating of her heart, which had started thumping in response to the man’s handsome visage.

He belonged on the cover of Vogue, if there was a male Vogue. His blonde ponytail, laid neatly over his shoulder, complemented his dashing black attire. Velma almost swooned at his long hair—not only did it demonstrate how secure he was in his masculinity, but it also suggested that an old-fashioned chivalry was alive within him. If she fetched him a sword and a shield and put him on a steed, he could have easily passed for one of King Arthur’s knights, who would cut down anyone who stood in his way, in order to rescue his true love from a tower and sweep her into his arms and declare his undying amour...

She would have swooned, if she hadn’t been painfully aware of the large volume of mud that clung to her pants and coat, if she hadn’t felt the sweat plastering her bangs haphazardly over her forehead, as the man’s eyes focused curiously on her. Rather than wondering why a person very much alive had been shut up in a coffin, she only nervously tried to smooth down her hair as her eyes met his—deep blue eyes in which the recesses of his soul seemed to shine.

She suddenly felt hyper-conscious of the fact that she was kneeling on his coffin lid, ogling him as though he were a zoo exhibit. She needed to say something witty or smart to show him that although she basically looked like a foreign war refugee, with her clothes covered in mud and her face shining with sweat, it was only because she was too concerned with books and biology labs to bother maintaining a model-esque appearance like his. She really ought to carry around a copy of her report card, so that she could pretend to be perusing it in moments like these and accidentally-on-purpose flash him her straight A’s, thereby garnering his respect for her muddy appearance, forcing him to realize that she was simply too smart to care about such trivialities as whether or not her bangs were perfectly arranged along her forehead.

He smiled, slowly. Perhaps she should act aloof now, to demonstrate that she was too intellectual to care for boys. Perhaps she should force a smile, chirp “Sorry, wrong coffin!” and slam his lid shut. Except that he was sitting up now, and it would be kind of mean to slam the coffin on his head and give him a concussion, especially now that somebody had already buried him mistakenly, believing him dead when clearly he was not.

A horrible thought struck her heart: perhaps he was pulling a Romeo! Perhaps he was only pretending to be dead, so he could frolic off with some forbidden lover in peace! Her heart ached for him even more, and she tried to ease the raging fire within her. He was probably a total chauvinist, judging by his good looks. But when she had gazed into his eyes, she felt as though she had brushed his soul with her eyeballs, and that he was really just a sensitive, tortured type of man. A poor man, to be locked up in a coffin...perhaps he would come with her back to her dorm if she offered him some Cheez-Its? But she didn’t want him to spend half an hour looking at her, in her state of dishevelment, over crackers. She could postpone the date until tomorrow, when she had showered and changed—but by then, he would have probably scrounged up something for himself.

The man grasped her hand. She almost jumped, but hastily plastered a smile on her face so that he wouldn’t mistake her for the monster from the black lagoon or something. If she couldn’t have nice hair, she could at least blink rapidly and be charming.

“Thank you,” he said to her, and pinned her with his stare. She felt dizzy, as though a surgeon was wafting anesthetics under her nose. “If I had to claw out of that coffin myself, I surely would have ruined my manicure.”

There it was: proof that he was nothing but a shallow, vapid man whose shiny hair only compensated for a lack of brainpower. But somehow, the utter sincerity with which he thanked her, the hope for approval in his eyes as he displayed to her his polished fingernails, made her heart swell with warmth. She felt like patting him on the head, except she’d only known him for less than sixty seconds, and didn’t want to get mud in his hair anyway. So she patted his hand instead.

Still gazing at her (gazing! As though she were his Juliet, with a dress that practically squeezed her organs out in order to create an hourglass figure, and with a perfectly arranged updo), he sprung lithely out of the grave and offered his hand to her. Momentarily forgetting the mud that caked her palms as she stared back into his blue orbs, more hypnotizing than lava lamps, she grasped his hand and allowed him to haul her out of the grave, too.

“It has been a pleasure meeting you,” he said with a little bow. She was right! She had divined from his ponytail he’d be a chivalrous one. The sort of man who would hold a door open for her, not strut right through it and let it slam on her nose. Quick, say something intelligent, before he leaves!

“Goodbye,” she blurted out, and cursed the longing that pervaded her voice. There was no need to let him know that she’d never had a true love before, no one for whom she would set a semester of biology notes on fire, and no one who, in defense of her honor, would whip out his sword, challenge James to a fencing match, and stab him through the heart so that he would stop hogging the school cadavers.

There was no need to let him know that she would spend the night dreaming of him, of being locked up in a tall stone tower and, her hair swirling around her, looking down to see him galloping up on a black steed (to symbolize the dark and brooding soul which his vain exterior masked) and having him somehow leap up to her window like a spider monkey and sweep her into his arms...

She’d only known the likes of Leroy, and the fact that she was going to dissect his body for her science fair project basically summarized their entire relationship.

She turned her head just in time to see the man, a smile playing on his face, steal away into the night, his ponytail glimmering in the darkness before shadows consumed him.