I Hate Valentine’s Day (A Short Vampire Story)

Short Story Sunday Monday Tuesday:
I Hate Valentine’s Day

“I shouldn’t be alone today,” thought young Randy as he sat brooding on a rock, on the beach at 5:30 a.m. on Valentine’s Day. His heart was broken. The girl, a Vampire girl he knew he was going to fall in love with had given her heart to another and left him in the dreaded friend zone.

And it wasn’t as if she’d left him, or chosen another college student. Sure the guy she’d fallen for looked like he was twenty-one but he was born in freaking 1902. What did girls see in these older guys?

He was jolted from his thoughts by a “Hi. You’re Randy, aren’t you?”

A dark haired girl in a short black skirt and a long black jacket stood in front of him. “I’m Alexis. I’m in your Organic Chemistry class. I’m a Vampire, but you knew that. I know you are too. Small world.”

“Oh, right. Sure. Hi. Have a seat,” said Randy, glad for the company now.

“I hate Valentine’s Day,” said Alexis.

“Why do you hate it?”

She sat down on rock next to him. “My parents were borderline Shadow Creepers, you know old time Vampires who stayed in the dark most of the time. Nobody knew we were Vampires, but everybody including the other school parents thought my parents were weird. I got picked on a lot at school. I was like quiet and small. I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I didn’t dare try any of my Vampire stuff on anyone. I was afraid if anyone found out they’d kill my family. Anyway, every Valentine’s Day we’d have to make stupid boxes and bring Valentines. I always made something pretty with roses and flowers and stuff, all pink and nice. I always make a beautiful box, and make everyone pretty Valentines by hand, but I never got any Valentines. Maybe from one of the girls who felt sorry for me. Everyone had full boxes except me. The kids all started to laugh at me. I wanted to rip their throats out but I couldn’t. You know, Vampire code.”

“Sure, don’t show them what you are, no matter what. Did your mom and dad know?”

“I never told them anything. We didn’t talk much at home. But I got my revenge.”

“Revenge?”

“I told the teacher I had to go the bathroom. Of course the boys started to make jokes about how I’d stink the school up. They were mean like that. Always. It never stopped. So like, the teacher said someone had to go with me to make sure I wouldn’t spend too much time in there, cause sometimes I’d just go there to get away from it all. She said that Ashley should go with me. Ashley was the most popular girl.

Ashley started to pout and complain. So a girl called Emma volunteered. Emma was the only kid who gave me a Valentine. She was kind of overweight and sometimes the other kids would say mean things to her too, but she was the smartest kid in the class so they didn’t say too much.

When we got out of the classroom Emma said she knew I didn’t need to go to the bathroom. We walked around for a bit, then went back to the classroom. But we didn’t go in.

“You can make them pay for what they did. I’ll help you,” said Emma. “I’m a witch. I know what you are.” Then she smiled in a way that even scared me.

We didn’t go back in the classroom. The door locked with a loud click. Emma just smiled. The room filled with smoke. The other kids started to scream. They couldn’t get out. Everyone started to claw at their faces and arms. That is except the teacher who kept trying to open the door. We ran to the office to get help. You know, we had to keep up appearances.

By the time the fire department go there and knocked down the door, the smoke at gone away, but the smell of sulphur was still in the room. Some of the kids had clawed out their eyes and made huge gashes in their faces and arms.

Then Emma whispered in my ear, “they’ll never call you ugly again.”

Hey, even I was shocked. I never did a thing. It was all her. Both of us ended up going to another school. In high school I made a lot of friends. They all thought my parents were cool Goths. The rest of the kids are still all scarred and screwed up.”

Randy looked at her feeling sort of numb. “Where is Emma now?”

“She got into swimming. Lost a lot of weight. Turned blonde. She’s at UCLA now. So Randy, why don’t you like Valentine’s day?”

“A girl I liked started seeing another guy.”

“Bummer. Sorry to hear that.”

They sat in silence for a while, listening to the waves. Randy didn’t know what to say. He and his best friend had been the two most popular boys at their high school. Their lives had been happy and relatively care free. Their parents were modern Vampire in every way possible.

Alexis bumped her shoulder gently against Randy’s. “I hope you don’t think I’m weird.”

“No. Well, maybe just a little.”

“Looks like the storm is coming in. Wanna get coffee? No pressure. It’s not like I want to be your girlfriend or anything like that. Just you know, like just a couple of Vampire friends.”

“Sure,” said Randy.

As they walked up to the street he put on his sunglasses against the morning sun. Well, stranger things had happened.

~ End

Happy Valentine’s Day,

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Short Story Sunday: The Hunter

The Hunter

A short story from Juliette Kings

“We pumped quite a bit of blood out of your stomach. We’re not sure where it came from.”

She heard the words but was the noise in her head was still loud…

“Your heart had stopped beating. You weren’t breathing. You were cold.”

A hospital bed. She was in a bed hooked up to equipment. Her throat hurt.

“We still can’t get your body temperature up to normal and your heart beat is extremely slow.”

She’d been found in a room of an abandoned house wearing nothing but a black silk cocktail dress and black high heeled sandals. The nails on her hands and feet were painted silver. Aside from that there was no jewelry, no purse, no identification. The man she’d been with had received minor injuries and would be in soon to see her. He said he was her boyfriend. Panic started to set in but she didn’t show it.

“Do you remember anything?”

“Not a lot.” She lied. She had remembered almost everything, despite the headache. The man called Austin had wanted to show her a house he was remodeling. He specialized in renovating Victorians and older historic homes. It was charming. It was haunted. “Is Austin alright?”

“He had a few stitches in his forehead, but yes, he is doing fine.”

“We left the club where we met. I mean, it wasn’t a hook up, we’d been seeing each other for a while. We’re friends. He told me about his work restoring old homes. I own some property I was thinking of having restored…He took me to a house he owns. It’s old, nobody lives there. A Queen Ann style Victorian. Beautiful. He showed me around and we ended up in an upstairs room.” She didn’t tell him of the phantoms and the screams that nearly burst her ear drums. She paused, and glanced at the needle in her arm. “Alright, we did fool around some. But we both started to feel really sick. He passed out first. I tried to wake him. I think we were drugged at the bar. Is he ok?”

“I’m fine sweetheart.” In the door stood a man with a bandage on his forehead. His brown eyes met her blue with almost a spark of both passion and hate. He smiled at the doctor.

“She’s a vampire and I’m a vampire hunter. I had no idea the house was haunted when I took her there. Sorry, it’s along running joke between us. Isn’t it Elizabeth?”

Her eyes met his again. A hunter hunting the huntress. “Is that all I am to you?”

He sat next on the edge of the bed and took her cold hand. “You need to warm up dear or they’ll never let you out of here. I know, it takes a lot of effort to keep your heart beating for those machines. You don’t want them thinking you’re dead.”

To think she was starting to fall in love with this man.

“I thought you were going to kill me last night but you saved my life. Why’d you do that Elizabeth?

Doctor Davis spoke up. “What is going on here?”

Austin smiled and spoke in a quiet calming voice. “I’m sorry for the confusion. We have our own language. We had a fight. She wasn’t going to kill me. Just an expression. She was angry. You know, I’m a typical guy. I did typical stupid guy stuff. We went to the house and like she said, we were both feeling sick. Then someone came in and mugged us. She saved me. I don’t know how, but she defended me. It was too dark to tell what was going on. We had a tumultuous relationship but we’re not violent, just a little dramatic.”

“He’d never touch me.” Elizabeth looked back at Austin. “The ones who attacked us… I had no idea. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

“I thought you’d know.”

“I don’t.”

“Huh. Interesting.”

They both talked to the police about what had happened. Their story was the same. They’d gone to a house he owned, it was unoccupied, they were attacked. They both had traces of an airborne toxin in their systems.

Elizabeth was released into Austin’s care. She’d told him she’d call a taxi but he insisted on bringing her home.

On the way he talked. She sat still, feeling sick, trying to regain her energy. The morning sun burned her eyes even through the fog.

“So my building, the house we were in last night is haunted. Those were ghosts.”

Elizabeth glanced over at him, then looked away. “Yes, they were ghosts. I know someone who can get rid of them for you. He’s good and his prices are reasonable.”

“You know Elizabeth, I’ve found at least a dozen of your kind, vampires, in the basements of abandoned old buildings I’ve purchased for restoration. They weren’t like you. They were like rats.”

“I’m not like them. I don’t live in the shadows or in a crypt. I don’t sleep in a coffin. Most of us aren’t like your rats. We live normal lives.”

“When were you born?”

“1834. I’ve been a vampire since 1853. How did you know?”

He gave her a mean smile. “Call it a 6th sense. My grandfather hunted vampires. It’s in my blood, no pun intended.”

They arrived at her house. He was impressed. A beautiful craftsman style, maybe 2,500 square feet, nice old neighborhood. Inside the woodwork was beautiful. Her decorating was a combination of period and modern. Nice.

“You can go,” she told him.

“Show me around. This place is great.”

“I’m the original owner. 1905.”

As she showed him around Austin noticed a diploma in her office. “You didn’t tell me you were an attorney. Go figure.”

“I told you I consulted for the Justice Department. There is no shame in what I do.”

The house was impressive as was the vampire who lived in it. “Was that my blood they pumped out of your stomach?”

“Most of it. Don’t worry, you won’t turn into a Vampire. I just took maybe a pint.”

Austin noticed a mirror on the wall. He took Elizabeth by the shoulders and turned her around to face it. He could see his own reflection but hers was just a dim shadow.

“Look at my eyes, in the mirror. Look at my eyes,” she told him.

Their eyes locked in the glass. Her image became clear. He laughed. It wasn’t the sarcastic bitter laugh she’d heard all morning. This was joy.

“Elizabeth, will you be alright if I leave you?”

“You aren’t going to kill me?”

“Not today.”

“Then when? When will you be back to cut out my heart and cut off my head.”

“Do you want to go out sometime on a real date?”

“You’re scaring me Austin.”

“I know. I’ll pick you up tomorrow around 8:00. It should be dark by then. Wear something nice.”

She watched through the window as he drove away. Her heart had stopped beating. She wasn’t breathing. In the refrigerator was a bottle of blood. She was starving. Her head was light but that was because of him.

Austin drove away with a smile on his face. What a rush. He wasn’t sure what tomorrow would bring. Either he’d kill her or he’d marry her. That is, if she didn’t kill him first.

 

~ END

 

Tangled Tales

First published in 2014. This is the first story in the Austin and Elizabeth series.

Click here for the entire series (so far.)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

More of a Good Thing – Short Story Update

Hey, I’ve just updated the Short Story page on Vampiremaman.com

Click on the links on the sidebars or CLICK here to go to the page.

A good portion of the posts on Vampiremaman.com read like short stories, but the list here is of stand alone stories that don’t necessarily follow the tales of my life with my husband, kids and assorted Vampire Mom adventures. A lot of the stories have nothing to do with parenting, or Vampires.

You’ll find over eighty Gothic romance, horror, humor, urban fantasy, literary fiction, and other of unexpected tangled tales. Most stories are written by me, but I am also honored to have a few talented guest authors.

This isn’t the complete list but it will keep you busy for a while. Keep checking back for more, and don’t forget that every Sunday is Tangled Tales Short Story Sunday.

And as always, expect the unexpected.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

My Editors: Food and a box is all they ask for (usually)

My Editors: Food and a box is all they ask for (usually)

Short Story: The Politician

1906

Jayne sat as quietly and coldly as can be on the steps of the opera house. In her hand was the collar of a man’s shirt along with his tie. Setting down her souvenirs she arranged the skirts of her ball gown to hide the barely visible blood splatters. That was the last time she’d wear pale pink to an evening event.

A dark haired man dressed in formal wear sat next to her. “Beautiful dress my dear.”

Jayne smiled at her friend Max. “Worth, with blood stains.”

He glanced at her skirt. “I know someone who can get those stains out for you. Looks like silk.”

“I can’t remember the last time I got blood stains on my clothes. ”

He smiled. “It happens to the best of us.” Brushing a strand of hair out of her face he kissed her cold cheek.

“Max, my dear, it was an akward seduction, at least for me. He was overjoyed to lend me his neck. He wasn’t a good man, despite public opinion, so I feel as if I have done my public duty for the week. What is on your agenda for the evening?”

“I thought we’d find a good bottle of whiskey and get the taste of bad blood out of our mouths. I know you could use it, and heaven knows I could.”

 

2016

Jayne sat as quietly and coldly as can be on the steps of the opera house.

She sat on her purse so she wouldn’t get dirt on her cream colored evening gown. In her hand were a pair of gold and diamond cufflinks, souvenirs from the night. She knew they wouldn’t be missed. He’d told her they were gifts from a Saudi prince. Facts like that never impressed Jayne.

Jayne’s plans for the evening hadn’t included the man with the cufflinks. She pondered what she’d do with them.

A dark haired man dressed in formal wear sat next to her. “Beautiful dress my dear.”

Jayne smiled at her friend Max. “Thank you Max.” She smoothed the skirts. “Look no blood stains.” Then she took Max’s hand and pressed the cufflinks into his palm and closed his fingers around them. “Get rid of these for me will you.”

Max smiled and kissed her cold cheek. “Who is he? Or who was he? Which is it.”

An ambulance and several police cars came to the curb.

“He followed me into a private room. I’d gone in to call you, but didn’t get the chance. I asked him what he wanted. He pushed me against a wall with his body and whispered, his lips on my ear. He said he wanted immortality. I knew the man was a misogynistic asshole, and a total sociopath, but I was surprised. Then he said he knew about us. He said he’d make me powerful, in so many ways. He even suggested he’d be my lover for the ages. I almost threw up a little in my mouth when he said that.”

Max laughed, and Jayne continued her story.

“I told him sure, I’d help him gain immortality. I loosened his tie, unbuttoned his shirt and had maybe a wine glass full of blood at the most. A small glass. He hadn’t been drinking and the only drugs I could detect were the usual high blood pressure drugs and traces of Viagra. I realized that I could have easily have sucked out his small deformed soul, but he’d already sold it to you-know-who. I mean, Max, I knew the guy was an asshole and thought he ruled the world but I didn’t think he’d go so far… Then again, he never knew the true powers of Vampires now did he? I put my hand on his heart and uttered the words and stopped it.”

“You didn’t,” said Max.

“I did,” said Jayne. “I wanted to rip his heart out. Man that would have been fun, but I’m wearing white. Then his wife came in. I whispered to her that he was dead. And she looked at me with a wave of relief over her pretty face. I told her I thought he’d had a heart attack so I’d loosened his tie. She said something about him resting in Hell. I asked her if she’d be alright. She said she’d never been better. The first thing she’d do was to take her children out of boarding school and move someplace where they could live a normal life. Then she said she was going to write a tell all book and expose him for the monster he was. I was rather shocked, and you know I’ve heard a lot in my time.”

Max put his hand on Jayne’s arm and they looked at a gurney being brought out, the body on it covered. The widow followed with red eyes, and tears running down her face. Then she looked at Jayne and Max, with a wink and a smile, then back to tears.

“So Max, what are your plans for the rest of the night?”

“I thought we’d find a good bottle of whiskey and get the taste of bad blood out of our mouths. I know you could use it, and heaven knows I could.”

 

~ End

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Prisoner of Love

It wasn’t as if Andy had planned on being locked in a basement. No windows. It wasn’t like he’d turn into a bat because he couldn’t do that, but he could make them think he wasn’t there. Or at least he hoped that was true, considering he had no idea who had locked him away.

He thought about the Count of Monte Cristo.

How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.

But unlike Edmond Dantes, Andy didn’t have a mad priest to show him the way to treasure so that he could get revenge on his captor and win back the woman he loved.

Andy thought about the woman he loved for a bit. Did she love him? Or was she rejecting him simply because he was a Vampire and she was not? Or was he just thinking about it way too much.

It would have been nice to be back in his own comfortable home, playing the piano, entertaining friends or curled up in a chair with a good book and a nice goblet of wine or blood or…

A sudden noise brought him out of he reverie. A brick popped out of the wall and a pale hand came through. What could this sudden event of fate mean? Was he to be rescued?

He reached for the hand. It pulled back at his touch.

“You’re like ice,” hissed a quiet voice.

“I run a little cold. Who are you?”

“I am but a prisoner of love.”

Andy took a deep breath, at least a deep one for a Vampire. Why did he always find himself in situations like this with someone who was bat shit crazy?

“Where are we and why? No stupid answers.”

He was answered with silence. That wouldn’t do. Andy went to the hole in the wall and looked through. It was dark but he could see a slight shadow. “Answer me. Where are we? Do you know?”

Something jumped on his lap and shook him awake. Andy let his book (The Count of Monte Cristo) drop and nearly tipped over the goblet on the table next to his favorite reading chair. A small black kitten curled up and started to purr. What a crazy dream. What a strange and bizarre dream he’d had. But he didn’t have a black kitten.

Sitting still and quiet Andy listened for noise of a visitor. He’d hear the slightest breath or an excited heart beat. If they were close enough he’d smell blood.

There was no other living thing in the room except Andy and the kitten.

“Where did you come from dear kitty?”

The kitten only purred. She was tiny, maybe 8 weeks old at the most. A sense of unease overcame him. Someone was in the house. Making his fangs ready he stood and turned around. Standing behind him was a pale form – a woman in a long silken dress and platinum blonde hair. She held out her hand.

“I am but a prisoner of love,” she whispered.

“Is this your cat?”

But Andy never got his answer. She vanished in a wisp of smoke with the smell of sulphur.

The next morning he walked the exclusive old neighborhood and asked if anyone knew who the kitten belonged to. He even put up posters. Nobody had lost a kitten. Nobody had an answer for him.

What is it with Vampires and cats and love? He laughed then said aloud, “If you’re going to haunt my dreams and my house you might as well tell me who you are.”

He felt a cold blast of air then heard a soft laugh then the soft sound of a woman’s voice “When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.”

It was a quote from The Count of Monte Cristo.

A prisoner of love. “Not me,” thought Andy, “not me.”

 

~ End

 

I couldn’t think of a new story so this is a rerun from last year. I’ll have a new Austin and Elizabeth story next week.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Short Story Sunday: First Sight

First Sight

 

Northern England   1323 AD

It started to rain, a few drops at first then sheets of freezing water almost horizontal across the sky. That’s all Aleyn needed, to be not only cold but wet as well. To add to the nasty weather and bad mood, he was late. The wind whipped his long wet hair around and slapped him in the face. He swore and quickly tied it back.

Predawn morning was too early and too cold to be up for any woman, no matter how beautiful or persuasive or helpless she was. Then again, this wasn’t just any woman. It was his best friend’s sister. He still wondered how let himself be recruited to bring her to the gathering. “Oh right. I was available.” He thought in disgust. “That’s the story of my life. Ask Aleyn, he’s always available. Like I don’t have anything better to do than travel in the dead of winter to find a woman who doesn’t need my help.”

Despite years of living like a warrior, he still had to fight off the desire to be passive, both physically and emotionally. He’d heard that this woman, Nathaira, was passive to the point of being dangerous. “Wonderful, a match made in heaven. On the up side, maybe she won’t be as demanding and hard headed as the rest of her family.”

As much as he disliked it, Aleyn had a talent for the down and dirty raw violence of physical combat. He’d mastered every weapon he could, learning strategy and cunning. With his tall muscular build, broad shoulders, wild dark hair and piercing ice blue eyes, he made a striking figure. His true gift was his voice; the kind of voice that made people listen, the voice of a leader. Too bad he didn’t have anything to say.

His men followed him on their horses across the fields to the castle of Dexter of Blackwoods. Five men, hand picked for their bravery and steady temperament. All were smart, true and loyal. They were his guards, and in turn he was their teacher. He loved his men and their families with a fierce protective passion. They knew he was different, but they never questioned why. Nobody ever questioned anything in this place. It drove him crazy.

Aleyn’s thoughts wandered back to the gathering he would escort Lady Nathaira to. For the first time, more than 40 of his clan were gathering together. The letter he’d received stated that finally they would be organizing and banding together for solidarity and support. “Support my ass. We’re nothing but outcasts and no amount of support will change that.” he thought. They were stranded to live among a population so different from themselves and there was nothing he or any of his kind could do to change the fact.

This was a place where people still believed their world was the center of the universe. The unknown was to be feared, rather than embraced for the possibilities.

Every time he thought about his situation he could feel the scars on his back and shoulders pull. He had tried to block out his memories of his former self. Home, family, community, his entire world were now dead to him. He’d made a new life in this primitive place. Hope for this world and its people drew him away from his own home and trapped him forever in exile.

Rubbing his temple to fight off a brain splitting headache, he almost lost his balance. “I’ll never get used to this body of mine.” he thought.

His man Garth turned to him with a grim look of concern. I’m fine Aleyn silently mouthed.

Years earlier, Garth had guessed what Aleyn really was. In turn, Aleyn never acknowledged it. If he did he’d risk death for himself and everyone he now loved. Despite the problems and frustrations, he’d made a place for himself and found a small measure of happiness.

As a beloved spiritual teacher and healer, the woman Nathaira had also found a place for herself, practically alone, without her family or a husband to protect her. Everything about her had pointed to failure, but she never failed. In fact, she thrived. Nathaira was the only one in this region of the world, aside from himself, who could teach real hope to these miserable people.

As Aleyn and his men approached the great hall of Lord Dexter’s castle they could hear screaming and the wailing of women. ”Can’t these people ever just shut up?” Aleyn said aloud to himself.

The stone structure was cold and damp.

Not only are they stupid in there, but they have no concept of comfort, Aleyn thought. Knowledge of the great ages of the past had eluded them. In was one more in a long list of frustrating items he didn’t need to think about, but couldn’t get out of his head.

One of his men pounded on the main door. It was slowly opened by a scruffy, timid man wearing ill-fitting dirt colored tunic, obviously a servant. Maybe not. You never could be sure with these people.

“Is your master within?”

The man started to shake. His voice was nothing but an animal like whimper. It sounded like he was saying no, but it could have been anything.

Aleyn pushed his way through. “I am here for Lady Nathaira. Let me pass.”

He scanned the hall. Half a dozen women huddled on benches in the corner, with as many children clinging to their skirts. A few scruffy looking boys of around 8 or 9 stood by the fire, now staring with fascination at the six well dressed, well armed knights and their leader.

Some sort of massacre had taken place. Benches were overturned. Broken pottery lay where it had fallen. Shards of fabric, what looked to have been sumptuous clothing were thrown across the hall. Clumps of long brown hair, still partially braided scattered the floor. A gold necklace with green stones lay twisted and broken. He put his finger to something splattered on the floor. Blood.

He called to his men to check the hall and doorways. They found two badly injured men in the hallway. Long gashes covered their arms and torsos. Aleyn put his hands on their necks looking for a pulse. They’d obviously been taken down by the lord of the castle, trying to protect themselves and perhaps someone else.

“May the healing powers of our Lord be with you,” he muttered. Then turning to a weeping woman he barked out orders, “Get these men by the fire. Warm them up and dress their wounds. Don’t stand there gawking like a frog. Do it.”

The woman ran off for help. These people had been reduced to being perpetual children through fear. In disgust he continued his search for Nathaira, fearing it would be in vain.

A frightened looking, sumptuously dressed woman approached him. “The lord of the house took her last night. He says she’s a witch. He says she cast a spell on him.”

“What do you say about it?” he asked. “Well? Tell me?”

“When he invited her here he expected a crone. She showed up looking like a waiting bride. A virginal beauty with glittering eyes of want.”

“Shut up now.” A second woman, unusually beautiful with long blond braids, slipped next to him and grabbed his arm. “My Lord, Lady Nathaira is a saint. Do not blame her or judge her for what my brother has done. Come, I will provide you with comfort, then…”

Aleyn lost all patience. “Where is Lady Nathaira?”

“There is no helping her. She is damned with no hope of ever being in the light again.”

Why didn’t these people ever just come out and say the truth. Everything was a riddle to him.

“I don’t have time for this madam.” Then again, time meant nothing to them as well.

“Come, let me make you comfortable my lord. I can please you until my brother, the master of this castle returns.”

He took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. They were almost empty. Her soul was almost gone. Like with so many others it had atrophied into the darkness of her mind. It was a way to survive as comfortably as possible and damn the consequences.

“Come out of your darkness madam. I command you to do so.”

She looked at his face in shock, tears in her eyes. “Up there.” She whispered, backing away from him and pointing to the stairs. “My brother is here, in the chapel…but not himself,” she trailed off in tears.

Aleyn went up a dark stair well into a tower. At the top of the stairs a door was bolted from the outside.

Aleyn unbolted the door. Where are the men she was traveling with? Where is her serving lady? He motioned his men to stay back. Drawing his dagger he walked into the freezing room.

“Put the weapon away. I won’t hurt you,” a quiet, but slightly annoyed voice said from the other end of the chamber. The diffused morning light came through the long crack of a window and illuminated the speaker in a weird perverse halo.

He closed the door behind him. His heart sank as he walked closer to the woman on a wide bench bench. She sat alone, a clutching a rough blanket over her knees to her chest. Her brown hair was a short uneven mess, chopped off at her jaw line. The left side of her face was covered with a mass of ugly bruises and scrapes. Rope burns were on her wrists. Her nose had been bleeding and was now crusted with blood. Her eyes had started to blacken and swell. He knew by ugly scars down her back, scars matching his own, that she was the one he had been looking for.

“Nathaira?”

Her pale blue eyes looked up in calm greeting. “You must be Aleyn. So glad you could finally make it, she said calmly with an ever so slight touch of sarcasm in her voice. She held out her hand palm up. He gently touched the tips of his fingers with hers, in the custom of their kind, then took her hand and gently kissed it. She closed her eyes and gave his hand a squeeze before letting go.

Aleyn sat next to her and carefully touched the burses on her face.

“How bad are your injuries?” he asked as she winced and turned away.

She pulled the blanket around her shoulders and swung her bare feet over the edge of the bed. “I’m fine. Let’s get out of here.”

The lady wasn’t fine. He noticed more black and blue marks on her arms. “Nobody taught you how to fight did they?”

Nathaira took a deep breath. “It is not in my nature to fight.”

“It’s not in my nature either, but I’ve forced myself to do it. You have to fight if you want to survive.”

“Fine, next time I’ll make sure I kill someone,” she snapped back.

“Tell me what happened here,” he took her icy hands and held them between his in an attempt to calm her down. It seemed to work. She leaned a little into him trying to keep warm. He could feel her starting to shiver from the cold.

She spoke calmly, with little emotion. “My first two days here were filled with fellowship and healing. I actually made these people smile and realize that maybe they didn’t have to live in fear. Then last night Dexter shows up ready for a fight. He locks up my people then comes after me. I tried, but I couldn’t get through to him. He has no interest in anything spiritual. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear the man has no soul.”

“Of course he has a soul. Don’t talk that way. Someone will hear you,” he whispered.

“Listen to yourself. You’re as bad as the locals. Nobody will hear me except you,” she scolded him, slightly raising her voice.

“I hope you’re right,” Aleyn answered quietly.

“I am right. Do you want to know what happened or not?”

“Of course, please continue.”

She was still shivering. Aleyn took off his own fur-lined cape and draped it around her, trying to warm her up. For a brief second, Nathaira attempted a weak smile in appreciation then continued. “Needless to say, Dexter only wanted my body. I told him he couldn’t have me. The next thing I knew he had knocked me to the ground and was shouting that I was a whore. Then the stupid ignorant bastard tied my wrists together and hacked off my hair. Son of a bitch almost broke my nose too. Slammed my face right into the floor. He and his brother took my clothes. Cut them right off of me in front of the entire household. Then he dragged me up here for a night of carnal pleasures.”

“He raped you,” Aleyn said quietly almost to himself. He felt sick.

“He didn’t rape me. He tried but I wouldn’t let him.”

“So you did fight.”

She took a deep breath and paused for a few seconds. “Sort of. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wouldn’t listen. I asked him if he believed in hell. He told me to shut up and spread my legs. By then I’d had enough of his abuse, so I put a vision of hell in his mind he’ll never forget. By the time he got to the chapel he’d shit his own pants.”

Aleyn couldn’t believe what she’d told him. “You gave him a vision of hell?”

She rolled her eyes at him in disgust. “Yes. Do you need me to spell it out? You can spell can’t you? I’d be surprised if you could, considering most of the population around here is completely illiterate. They can’t even…”

He gently put a finger to her lips. “Nathaira, please. You’re a healer, you’re not supposed to do things like that.”

She pulled his hand away from her face. “He was going to force me to…he was going to…” she turned her head away in disgust.

He spoke calmly and quietly in hopes of quieting her down. “You know it’s against the rules, to put visions of fear in the hearts of men.”

“Against the rules? Excuse me, Mister tall dark and handsome, sent here to rescue my ass about twelve hours too late, since when have we had rules?”

Tall dark and handsome? Rescue my ass? What a mouth. She really is just like her brother. You could beat the last breath out of him and he’d still get in the last word. He could be drowning and he’d still throw out a sarcastic remark.

“There are rules to ensure our survival.” He told her, firmly, trying to sound in charge.

She gave him the you-clueless-asshole-look that he knew so well from her siblings, then wiped her nose on the blanket. “That little visit-to-hell trick ensured my survival.” She glared at him then looked him up and down. “Would you rather have come here to find that he had raped and killed me? Imagine how my brothers would have reacted to that.”

“I can’t…” he stammered.

She cut him off, “Listen, I don’t have the strong persuasive powers that the rest of my family has. The only real gifts I still have are the ability to comfort and heal. Comfort and healing aren’t going to protect me against a predator like Dexter.” She ran her hand through her hair. “Can you believe this mess? It will take me years to get it half-way normal looking again. Damn that ugly piece of shit and his stupid ass brother. I was supposed to be safe here.” Her voice cracked but she didn’t cry. She took a deep breath and paused, fighting back the tears. “Be glad I didn’t kill Dexter. Believe me, I wanted to.”

He shrugged. He couldn’t begrudge her for feeling the way she did.

Aleyn found clothes for her. A soft under dress and a long over dress of green with ivory colored embroidery. Long sleeves almost reached the ground. Out of her bag she pulled a long embroidered scarf to cover her hair. He helped her get dressed. She didn’t seem to care if he saw her naked or touched her while he helped. He noticed burses on her sides and legs. Every movement gave her pain but she never complained. She took jeweled bracelets from her bag and used them to carefully secure the sleeves at her wrists, then slipped a few silver rings on her fingers. Her fingernails looked ragged and recently broken, Aleyn assumed from the confrontation with Dexter.

Nathaira wasn’t young or breathtakingly beautiful, but she was still an attractive woman with the delicate prettiness of a young girl still in her face. Despite the current bruising and swelling, her skin was smooth and unblemished aside for a generous dusting of freckles. Her figure was sensuous and inviting. Given another time and place it would have given him pleasure to gaze upon her. Today it just made him sad.

Taking her hand he steadied her with an arm around her waist. “Your brothers and Lord Mal will be furious.”

She snapped. “Screw my brothers and that asshole Mal. I’m tired of everyone telling everything I do is wrong.”

He was shocked by her language and defensiveness. “It’s not you they’ll be mad at. I was supposed to protect you. I was supposed to prevent this from happening.”

Nathaira started to cry, big heart breaking sobs. He put his arms around her and held her. He stroked her back and kissed the tears from her eyes.

“Cry it all out. I promise you, I’ll never let anyone hurt you again.” Every sob made his heart break She molded herself next to him. It felt so right, even in this God forsaken place.

He glanced up and saw his right hand man, Garth, in the doorway. He looked stoic but Aleyn knew Garth was glad to see his wifeless leader in the embrace of the woman.

“We found her maid servant and men. Let’s go,” Garth said, trying not to smile.

Aleyn gave a nod. He gently dried Nathaira’s tears and helped her up.

When they went back to great hall the transformation he saw next was no surprise. Gone was the injured, defensive woman he’d comforted. Small and battered she stood in the room, not as a fragile woman, but as an angel of hope, a healer of hopelessly broken hearts and bruised souls. The women gathered around Nathaira and touched her. She embraced them. A few men joined them. She spoke to them in a clear beautiful voice, in their own language. Her tone was calm but her words projected through the hall.

“Keep your faith not in fear and ignorance, but with hope and a pure open heart. Remember God’s love transcends the ignorant and selfish laws of men. Let that love bind your spirit together and keep you strong. Be healed by your faith and the love for your Lord and with your love for each other.” Her words were that of the true teacher. It was a message that had been long forgotten by the ignorant priests that preached fear and distrust.

Tears filled her eyes again as she embraced the women and touched the hands of the men. The morning light filled the chamber. Aleyn knew they could feel Nathaira’s warm healing powers. The children hugged her legs and she held their little faces in her hands and kissed them. She spoke quietly to each of them, giving them strength and comfort. Aleyn knew that they would never forget her, even the few who would survive to old age.

Draping her heavy wool cloak over her shoulders he led her outside to where his men were waiting with the horses. He noticed her eyes dart to their faces and weapons.

Nathaira glanced back at the castle. “These people were so spiritually drained. It broke my heart. They listen to the priest seven days a week telling them that they are wicked lost souls. They’re drawn to the violence and superstitions of biblical stories, not the messages of love and hope. There is no semblance of any grace or understanding in their lives. Ignorance and sheer stupidity rule the land. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it at all. At least that ugly piece of shit Dexter won’t hurt them anymore. I wish I could do more, but you know how it is. “

He didn’t respond except for a slight shake of his head. Experience had showed him how it was, to be practically useless in a hopeless situation. He noticed how gentle her tone was with the people of the house. How different she was with him, one of her own kind.

She said as she hooked her arm in his as they walked, as if she’d known him for years.

He had to smile at her familiarity. “Nathaira, your name means snake doesn’t it?”

“Snakes are creatures of God, just like swans, hawks or horses. Each has a beauty and purity of it’s own that is lost on most people. Besides, I don’t see it as meaning snake, I see it as meaning that I’m flexible.”

He almost laughed out loud. She was a character. Lovely, charming, spirited, and completely obnoxious, all at the same time.

Aleyn tried to keep a serious tone. “It will take us another fortnight to get to the others. You’ll travel as my obedient and dutiful wife. It will be safer that way.”

She gave him a shy smile. “Do we get to sleep under the same blanket?”

He stopped walking and looked at her. “Excuse me?”

She mocked a serious look. “Don’t worry Aleyn, your virtue is safe with me.” Then she chuckled at herself, amused by her own joke.

Aleyn shook his head and smiled. They continued to walk in silence. Glancing over at Nathaira. He knew she was in pain, physically and mentally.

Noticing his look, she squeezed his arm. “Thanks again for coming. Oh, I forgot to tell you, Dexter’s stupid ass brother Niall and the local priest are planning on killing me tonight at sunset. They said it would be slow and painful.”

“Then I suggest we gather up your people and get out of here.”

She smiled and winked at him. “Lead the way, brave and true husband of mine.”

For the first time in years he was at a loss for words, especially with a woman. Aleyn knew then and there he was falling in love with his best friend’s sister and there was no turning back.

 

~ End

 

Some of you might have read this before. I started this story in 2004. It is part of a much larger work in progress called “A Night at the Crest.” Click here for more.  “A Night at the Crest” is one of the better things I’ve written.

Juliette aka Vampire Maman