Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: Stumped

Stumped

I just got done removing a stump from the back yard and I’m sitting down to a beer and the game when the doorbell rings.

My wife is out shopping and the kids are off with friends. I’m enjoying a little quiet time, just me and the TV.

I answer the door, and there is a guy about my age standing there. He looks like he just came out of GQ Magazine with a jacket, perfect jeans, wearing shoes that costs as much as my house payment. His features are like an Italian Model or a Movie star, that sort of pretty but manly look that women go nuts over. His hair is perfect, thick and silver. He’s wearing a Rolex Submariner. Nice.

He gave me a pretty serious look then said, “I’m sleeping with your wife.”

All right, I wasn’t expecting that one. He then looked me up and down like he was waiting for me to beat the shit out of him. I’m a big guy. Not big and fat, but 6’4″ with a lot of gym time. I used to play football. This guy wasn’t small but I had a good five inches on him and maybe sixty pounds. He looked like a runner or one of those freaking guys who rides a bike in neon colored spandex shorts.

Honestly I should have beat the shit out of him, but that isn’t my style. I just went numb. Heather and I had been together for 20 years, married 17 of those years. We have two kids and a house and friends and … we were one of those perfect couples. You know, we laugh a lot and say the same thing at the same time. That sort of perfect. We hold hands and … I thought things were fine.

Sure she’d put on some weight and had a hard time dealing with her body image. Sure she was over worked with her job and the kids and with me. Sure she was stressed, but who isn’t? But… this handsome, obviously wealthy guy was standing here telling me that MY WIFE was sleeping with him.

He started talking about passion… her passion. Sure we had passion. That morning I’d almost been late for work because of her passion, our passion. But he got into details of fetish stuff he’d do with her and how he made her scream the way I never could. I had no idea she ever wanted any of that stuff. I sure didn’t want it.

Then, as I stood stunned, he talked about her beauty and how smart she was and how I could never ever appreciate her. He said the kids didn’t need her as much anymore, he said she loved him.

I could feel my body start to shake. My world was imploding around me. My throat was tight. I thought I was going to vomit on his expensive shoes. Finally I said something. “Does she know you’re here?”

Mr. GQ glared at me and said, “I’m taking her away to live the life she deserves.”

“Do you love Heather?” I asked. I had to know. I knew the answer but I wanted him to tell me.

His eyes opened as big as dinner plates. “Heather?”

“My wife,” I said.

“Your wife isn’t Allison?”

“Heather.” I grabbed the wedding photo off of the hutch in the front entryway and put it in his face. “Allison lives next door.”

“Uh, sorry. I’m so sorry.”

He didn’t go next door. He just got in his car and drove away. About 20 minutes later the front door opened and I heard a familiar voice, “Honey, I’m home. Did I miss anything?”

“No, just got the stump out and I’m watching the game. Hey, Heather, did I tell you that I think you’re beautiful?”

“Sure. Thanks for getting that stump out. Will you help me with the groceries?”

I follow her outside and she gives me a little smile, the kind she always does when she has something smart to say. “You know, you’re the only man I ever loved.”

I grab a couple of bags. “Good to know. Love you too.”

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: Perfection

This is a story about my brother Max, first posted in 2013. A lot has happened between now and then. But more than that it is a story about trust, and frustration, and friendship, expectations, relationships, and love. Sort of. Nothing much is ever clean cut or easy.

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Perfection

Maxwell drove down the coastal highway, roof open under the stars and the cool night air, thinking about his life as a top of the heap alpha male Vampire. It was a good time to ponder.

He didn’t have personal friendships with humans, the way some other Vampires did. He would protect them when necessary but he wouldn’t be their friend – at least not a close friend, not for a long time.

Of course he had human lovers, but that was pure physical need for their touch and their blood.

Vampire woman were another matter. He tended to be a freak magnet when it came to them. The normal ones were out there but they were always involved or off-limits in some way or another.  Or they were too strong and independent. Or in rare moments, years ago, he’d used bad judgement and not seen the big picture. Screw the big picture, he’d grown up and moved on. He was different now.

There were always other men, but right now he had the need for a female of his own kind. Someone safe and easy. Someone who would be there for him after a job that often involved violence and other unpleasantries.

He’d had plenty of friends with benefits.

Camel by the Sea. The beautiful village on the California coast. A place full of artists and rich people and those just wanting some peace and quiet. His Grandmama had lived here when the artist colony was thriving at the turn of the 20th century. He used to visit her and fall in love with the place and everyone in it.

This weekend was the Concourse de Elegance the most prestigious car show in the universe. Everyone who was anyone would be here, including Vampire Hunters. And since Max was the world’s foremost hunter of Vampire Hunters he was looking forward to it. A weekend of perfect cars, perfect women and perfect hunting.

It had been a long day and a long drive. He took his bags out of the car and walked to the door of the cottage he’d rented with 3 of his colleagues. He wasn’t sure who’d be here as it was last notice for him. He’d hoped it would be Pierce and David, two of the best and total car guys. He figured as long as they were there they might as well have some fun.

He used his key and as he opened the door cheers came up. Female cheers.

Elizabeth, Janye and Mehitabel. Vampire women who were also Hunter/Enforcers of the highest order and all GIRLS.

This was not what he was expecting. Not at all.

They exchanged warm greetings (he didn’t show his true feelings about the situation) and he left to shower off the weariness of the road. As he was drying off he could hear the girls talking. He stopped rubbing his hair to listen.

Janye: I can’t believe the choices Max makes. His last girlfriend was one of those types who always looks perfect and helpless. A total control freak.

Elizabeth: Total bitch. She just used him and he was too stupid to know it. Oh my God she had fangs like a saber tooth tiger, no it was more like a rabbit. And she was always telling everyone how attractive she was. I wish she’d done us all a favor and gone down with the Titanic.

Mehitabel: She used him. Most of them just used him. He wouldn’t know his perfect match if she slapped him across the face.

The women went on talking about his physical attributes (excellent), his professional attributes (excellent), his qualities as a Vampire (outstanding) and his relationships with woman (pathetic.) Great, this was going to be a wonderful weekend.

He’d known all three of them for years, over 100 but he’d never heard this side of the story. Damn. Was he that ridiculous? No, it had to be them. Women were so skewed.

He’d always been friends with Elizabeth and Jayne. It wasn’t like the movies or books where Vampire women drop their clothes and crawl naked all over their dominant male counterparts. Besides, these two were like sisters.

Then there was Mehitabel. Beautiful and strange, at least to him. He couldn’t stay away from her at one time, but he couldn’t be with her, not in his heart. She was too easy for him to use. He’d never love her, but he’d never met a woman so sexy, who could drive him so insane with desire. But she wasn’t the one. He made that clear from the start. It would never be.

The women helped him bring in the weapons and they sat around the table with bottles of wine, Bourbon and blood. They laughed over old times, new times and everything in between.

Despite his first impression he knew these three Vampire women were at the top of their game and would be loyal and true with him. And in turn he would do anything to protect them. They’d be a good team. They’d get the job done.

Beside that, he knew they’d like the cars.

They were excited to show him their dresses. Elizabeth, the most outgoing, a California blonde of the first order, had a red-flowered strapless sundress of silk with a wide skirt and strappy red heels. Jayne had a royal blue halter dress that looked like it had come right out of Grace Kelly’s closet. A redhead with an attitude, Jayne had a fierce sence of humor and a fierce sence of the fight. Mehitabel had a black sheath dress with a pattern of leaves woven into the fabric. It was form fitting, which was good since she had an extraordinary form. She’d wear it with a long strand of real black pears and matching earrings. She’d wear her brown hair sleek and long.

Mehitabel was as odd and unusual as her name, but he had always liked her. He was drawn to her humor and her matter of fact ways with a touch of something sad that he could never quite figure out.

He’d also had a history with Mehitabel. She knew his every move. And in turn he knew every move she made, every inch of her body, everything she had to give him and then some.  But she wasn’t the one. She wasn’t the girl of his dreams. She was different. Max wasn’t looking for different. He was looking for perfection. But that was a long time ago, at least 90 years, maybe more like 100.

As the night went on he thought maybe he’d relive some of the magic of days gone by. It would be a way to get off some of the tension before a week of dangerous work.

“I’m going to go to the beach. Anyone want to join me?” He asked that as he looked at the women.

“Sure,” said Mehitabel, “I’ll go.”

They walked along making small talk. It seems so comfortable and so right. Old friends forever, just like old time. As they came to the beach on the edge of the Pacific Ocean Mehitabel became silent.

“You’re quiet tonight,” Max said, ready to make a move on her. One kiss and she’d be his for the week. The others wouldn’t care, unless it was pure envy.

Mehitabel stepped away. “It was never friends with benefits or fuck buddies or whatever you want to call it with me Max. I loved you but you never wanted it. You just threw it away and treated me like some common girl that needed to be slut shamed. I loved you for so long and now I don’t know. I’m not perfect enough for you. You want a woman who will break your heart into a thousand shards and I can’t do that for you. If you had spent some time with me, some real-time and looked past the imperfections…”

“I never said that…” Max protested.

“You didn’t have to. You used me Max. You used me so I had to let you go. Don’t you understand?” Mehitabel was now angry, something he’d never seen.

He tried to take her hand, “The last time we saw each other, I mean romantically, you were the one who turned me away. You told me to go.”

She stepped away again. “To go back to your girlfriend. I wasn’t going to be with a man who was cheating on another girl, especially another Vampire. I told you that. Remember?”

Max remembered too well. She’d always been so friendly and compliment about his relationship rules.

Mehitabel continued her rant. “And there had been no romance. Sure we’d talked into the night. Sure we had some sort of weird connection where we could read each other’s thoughts, excuse me, I could read your thoughts, or at least I know when you’re thinking about ME, but it was never romance. Not with you it wasn’t. You did everything you could to talk yourself out of caring about me.”

“I’ve been thinking about you a lot,” Max said gently, trying to calm her.

“I know that.”

She was right. She always knew. There was some sort of strong connection where she always knew when he was thinking about her. It was spooky.

“Why didn’t you contact me?” Max was almost feeling hurt that she’d think of ignoring him after all of their history.

“Why didn’t you love me Max?”

“It wasn’t like that Mehitabel. I was just looking for something else.”

“What? Oh right, perfection. Well Max, I might be among the most elite hunters on the planet but I’ll never be anything but an imperfect slut to you.  I’m never going to let you break my heart again. Do you understand that Max?”

“I’m sorry.”

“So am I.”

She walked down the beach alone. He wondered if she was crying. He’d find out later.

Over the years he’d taken down Werewolves, Vampire Hunters with fire blowers, Ghosts, Rogue Vampires and Zombies. He’d seen it all. He was Maxwell August Todd, one of the greatest Enforcer/Hunters of all time, but this was one battle he couldn’t win.

“Mehitabel, I’m sorry,” he called after her.

Then he remembered something his mother had told him, one of those things that he wished he’d remembered earlier. “Max, my darling boy, remember, if we were all perfect then life would be so boring you’d hardly be able to stand it.”

Looking down the beach at the woman walking along the edge of the night surf, he suddenly realized he was in love and this would be the most difficult fight of his life.

He called her name again. She turned and yelled “Go to Hell.”

“Yes,” he said to himself out loud, “to hell and back.”

Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: I’ve Got Your Number (An Intergalactic Romance)

Tangled Tales

I’ve Got Your Number (An Intergalactic Romance)

She’d found him on Planet 5309. His call out number was 867. She liked that. Not too many people knew about 20th Century music outside of the big classics like The Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd, and The Cars.

In the 23rd Century they had their own music, which was OK but she liked the old stuff.

When you run a luxury transport service there is a lot of free time, even when you are on super-hyper-speed mode. There is a lot of free time to go onto chat lines and dark space groups to find other lonely hearts, or at least someone who is interesting.

His name was Tommy. Her name was Jenny. It was meant to be. Old fashioned names with a twist of fate that brought them together with an old song they both loved.

He’d found her number on one of the lines and called her up. That was half an Earth year ago and light years away. They’d talked non-stop almost the entire time.

After landing on the new landing pad, she exited the plane with her eyes wide open. She’d pulled her brown hair up on her head in a mass of curls set with crystal flowers. With gold tipped lashes to match her gold jumpsuit she knew she would turn heads – in a good way. Good looks and a killer figure never hurt in any luxury transport business. It wasn’t always right, but it was the truth.

She saw him, a history professor on a far away planet, standing by the reception structure. Wavy blonde hair framed a handsome face of copper hued skin. Damn, it was good to see another human again, especially a human male.

He smiled and held out his hands, and said, “I need to make you mine.”

And in a galaxy far far away, two history buffs lived happily ever after.

~ end

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: Sunsets and Ginger Ale

The Romance Marathon Continues…

I love this story from Jade M. Phillips, my friend and fellow WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) writer. Make sure you read all of it. You’ll thank me for it later.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Sunsets and Ginger Ale

“What do you miss most about life, June?”

I turned to look at Harold, his face an exact replica of how I’d always remembered him: kind, loyal, trusting. I played with the hem of my dress in thought.

“I’m not sure. That was so long ago. I hardly remember what it was like to be alive. But I guess I’d have to say the sunsets.”

Harold nodded.

“I remember sitting on the veranda and watching the sun sink below the mountains. How the clouds would turn into soft vermillion and rose-petal pink and the air would become still. I miss the calm and the purity of that moment. I guess I’d have to say sunsets is what I miss most about life.”

I turned again to my husband. He was perched on his favorite stuffed chair in our living room staring out into the darkness. His wrinkled hand laid lax on the arm rest.

“Why is it that we cannot see the sun anymore Harold? Like we only exist in perpetual darkness? It is as if we just cease to exist during the daylight hours. I find myself sitting in this same spot as though I’d always been here. But I know that cannot be. I know that day turns to night and night to day. Why do you think that is Harold?”

“I don’t know June. Probably because we are dead.”

“Mmm,” I mused.

I tried my hardest to think of how it used to be. I knew that there was more than the omnipresent blackness. I knew that we used to have a life, children, and friends. I knew that I used to cook and clean and do other common household duties. But the harder I strained to recall those details, the harder it was to remember. I sighed and looked to my love. “You?”

“What?” Harold asked.

“What do you miss about life?”

“Ginger ale,” he answered without hesitation.

I snorted. “Ginger ale?”

“Yes,” he replied. “I miss the first sip of a cold Ginger ale over ice. The way the bubbles would tingle my tongue and the fizz would make my eyes water.”

“Yes. That was lovely,” I agreed. “I miss that too.”

“Harold?”

“Yes, my love.”

“Would you mind turning on the light? I get so sick of the darkness sometimes.”

Harold weighed my request and stretched his neck. “You know I cannot always do it. But I can try.”

“Please?” I asked.

“Of course.”

I watched Harold’s face. I could tell he was concentrating very hard, his eyes burning straight into the brass lamp that sat on the side table. The light flickered but did not fully turn on. Harold dropped his head.

“I’m too tired tonight honey,” he said as he glanced my way. I knew he could see the disappointment in my face.

“Why don’t you give it a try, June?”

I flinched. Wow. I’d never thought of that. I just always assumed that I could not turn it on. I wondered why that was.

“Okay,” I agreed. “But… how?”

Harold crossed one leg over the other and adjusted himself in the seat next to mine. “I suppose it has something to do with energy,” he replied. “Just try to direct yourself into the light. Focus all of your thoughts, memories, everything straight into the lamp. That’s what I do.”

“Oh. Okay.”

I leaned forward a bit and locked my eyes on the lamp. I took everything that was in my mind and imagined all of my thoughts, dreams and memories combining into a white ball. It took all I had to keep them there together. I strained to focus, my body tense. Once I felt confident enough I gave one, hard, mental shove and sent that ball to the lamp. To my wonderment the light flickered on and stayed that way.

“Righto!” Harold exclaimed. “Great job! See. I knew you could do it my June bug.”

I giggled with excitement and gazed around the room, enjoying my accomplishment.

“Harold?” I asked, my nose wrinkled in confusion.

“Yes, my love.”

“Where did my mother’s chaise lounge go? I don’t see it anywhere.”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“And that piano? It has moved places. It used to be against that wall over there.” I pointed across the room.

I could feel myself getting upset. I loved that chaise longue. My mother would turn in her grave if she knew it had gone missing. And the piano. It looked much better where it had originally been.

“Probably the living,” Harold guessed.

I leaned back in my chair and rested my head against the back. “I suppose.”

“Honey!”

Harold and I froze at the deep male voice that echoed down the hall.

“That darned lamp has turned itself on again.”

A tall man entered the room in a long grey robe. Harold and I exchanged glances as the man leaned over and clicked off the light.

“We’ve got to get rid of that thing,” he mumbled as he exited the room, leaving us in pitch black again.

Harold leaned over his chair and grabbed my hand, sensing my sadness.

“It’s okay. You can try again tomorrow night.”

“I suppose,” I sighed. “I suppose.”

***

“What do you miss most about living, June?”

Harold was sitting in his same favorite chair that he always sat. His eyes wide in thought.

“Gosh, I’m not sure, Harold. That was so long ago, I hardly remember a thing. But I guess I’d have to say sunsets. I miss the way the sky would turn to different shades of orange and golden yellow. The way the pastel clouds would dust the tops of the mountains. That’s what I miss most.”

Harold humphed in agreement.

“Harold, why is it that we cannot see those sunsets anymore? Why have we been in darkness for so long?”

“Probably because we are dead my June bug.”

“Yes,” I nodded. “I guess that would be it.”

I tried to recall anything other than the darkness and Harold and sunsets, but it was like a long forgotten memory that I could not grasp. I sighed and let it go.

“What do you miss most about being alive, Harold?”

“Ginger ale,” he replied.

“Ginger ale?”

“Yes. I miss how the bubbles burn my tongue with the first sip and the fizz that goes down my throat. Delicious.”

“Yes. Ginger ale was nice,” I agreed.

“Harold?”

“Yes?”

“Could you open the window? It gets so stuffy in here sometimes.”

Harold adjusted himself in his seat and uncrossed his legs. “I can try. But you know it does not always work.”

“Thank you, darling.”

I watched Harold concentrate his eyes across the room to the window. His face was strained and focused. The wooden window panes creaked but it did not budge. Harold collapsed against the back of his chair. “I’m sorry June. I’m too tired tonight. Why don’t you give it a try?”

“Really?” I looked at Harold in surprise. I’d never thought of doing it myself. I guess I’d always just assumed that I wouldn’t be able to. “But… how?” I queried.

Harold shrugged. “I just focus myself, everything that is in my mind and soul and I direct it at the window.”

“Okay…” I wriggled my toes and leaned forward, directing my eyes to the window. I pulled every thought and memory from my mind, all of my emotions and dreams and pushed them together. I mentally shoved them towards the window, hard. To my astonishment, the panes creaked and the glass slid open just a few inches.

“Good one, June! I knew you could do it!” Harold smiled.

I leaned back, pleased, and watched the curtains ruffle in the breeze coming through the now opened window.

I sighed. “That’s better.”

“Yes,” Harold agreed. “Very nice.”

“Honey?”

Harold and I froze at the male voice that rang down the hall. “Did you open the window?”

“No!” A female voice replied from what sounded to be upstairs.

A tall man in a robe trudged through the room and closed the window. “If I wasn’t mistaken, I’d think we weren’t alone in this house,” he muttered and then left the room in haste.

I huffed my annoyance, but Harold reached over and squeezed my hand.

“It’s okay, my love,” he soothed. “We’ll try again tomorrow night.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “We will.”

***

“Harold?”

“Yes, darling.”

“What do you miss most about life?” I asked my lovely husband.

“Ginger ale,” he replied without missing a beat.

“Ginger ale?” I asked.

Harold was staring out into space, a concerned look upon his face.

“What is it Harold? Are you alright?”

“Yes, my love. It’s just… I heard the living talking the other night.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. They want us to leave.”

“Now why would they want to do that?” I scoffed. “This is our house!”

“Probably because we are dead.”

“Oh yes. I must’ve forgotten.”

“They said they will be sending in a priest.”

“A priest?”

“To exorcise us.”

“Now what in the world does that mean?”

“From my understanding it means that the priest will set us free.”

“Oh,” I mused. “But where will we go Harold? This is our home. The only place I’ve ever known.”

Harold sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know, June. I don’t know.”

“What will they do with all of our things? Our furniture?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Don’t you think we should’ve been acknowledged in this decision? They can’t just kick us out. Why wouldn’t they ask us first?”

“Probably because we are dead,” Harold replied dryly.

“Yes. I suppose.”

“When do you think it will happen?”

Harold shrugged again.

Just then the tall man entered the room and Harold and I froze. But he was not wearing his grey robe as usual. He was dressed in a sweater and slacks. A man in a black robe followed closely behind him.

“The priest,” I whispered in horror. Harold nodded.

“This is the room,” the tall man said, gesturing around to all four walls.

“Yes, I can sense it,” the priest said. “Now if you and the misses will please leave me with the house, I will make sure everything is right before the time you get back.”

“Thank you.” The tall man left.

“Harold, what is going on?”

“I believe this would be our exorcism,” Harold said.

The priest opened a fat book that he had been holding in his hand. The bible, I assumed.

He withdrew a folded piece of paper, cleared his throat, and began speaking.

“In the name of Jesus Christ by His blood, I declare His dominion over all base entities. I humbly request that you appoint sacred angels to keep me from any tactics of the adversary created to oppose this petition for release.”

At the priest’s words, I began to feel numb, my transparent body tingling and buzzing.

“Harold,” I rasped. “I don’t like this.”

I watched the holy man pace the floor. He now held a small vial and sprinkled the wet contents about the room.

I looked to my love for reassurance. The place where my heart would’ve been thumped wildly with panic. “Harold. Where will we go? Will we be together always? I don’t know what I would do without you.”

But Harold could not reply before the priest began again.

“I ask you to order all those demons and diabolical angels appointed in opposition to me to vacate the premise.”

“But Harold. We are not demons, nor diabolical.”

Harold locked eyes with mine.

“No June. No we are not.”

I studied my husband’s kind face. He looked tired. So very tired. But he smiled at me reassuringly. Just like Harold. He was always calm and soothing in the face of the unknown.

I gasped as the priest raised his voice to a higher pitch, his words ringing out through the room loudly. “Dear God, I request that you erect a prohibition to all loitering spirits to end their duties and be banished.”

I looked down at my hand on the arm rest of my chair. And where it used to be pure white, I could see the quilting of the chair through it. I was fading. And Harold was fading.

“Harold. I cannot lose you,” I moaned, feeling my words drawl more slowly than usual from my mouth.

The priest was preaching and flinging his hands up in the air excitedly. It made me all the more nervous.

“Harold. Hold my hand. Please. I’m scared.”

Harold reached over and grasped my hand in his cold one. It was not like holding hands with the living, but more of a dim sensation, an unseen connection between the two of us. We sat there, holding each other, watching the priest pace and shout as though being at a movie theatre unable to control the actors on the film. I whimpered helplessly.

“I’m here, my love,” Harold cooed. “It’s going to be alright.”

My mind became foggy and I could hardly remember my own name as the priest continued his ritual.

“Jesus Christ, I beg you to banish them where they cannot vex me. I submit to all of the plans you have in this spiritual warfare I am surrounded by.”

“Harold!” I cried out. I could feel my husband fading from my side, my heart breaking to pieces and floating away with him. If I had been alive enough to form tears, they would’ve been pouring down my face.

Harold’s voice echoed out from far away. It was as if he was at the end of a long dark tunnel. “It’s alright June bug. I love you. Always.”

“Through Jesus Christ I pray, who was crucified for us so that we may have an opportunity to live. Amen.”

Darkness again. Always darkness.

I closed my eyes and was blinded by the bright lights behind my lids. My body felt soft and light and calm. Nonexistent. I was floating. I drifted into the pastel clouds dusting the mountain. I became golden yellow and rose-petal pink. I became vermillion. I became the sunset.

And I supposed, just for a moment, that Harold was out there somewhere sipping happily at his cold, fizzy Ginger ale, the bubbles tickling his tongue.

 

Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: 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

 

Note: They are not speaking OLDE ENGLISH because they aren’t OLDE ENGLISH. I’ve had some asshats point out how they talk. Also it is fiction. Also nobody wants to be an “e” on the end of every word.

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

Short Story Sunday Romance Marathon: Captured Bride: A weird little story of romance (sort of), personal growth, and Vampires.

Captured Bride: A weird little story of romance (sort of), personal growth, and Vampires.

I was minding my own business, outside tending my herb garden, when someone throws a blanket over my head, hauls me up on a horse and takes me to God only knows where.

After what seemed like forever, combined with a lot of screaming and cursing on my part, we stopped.

When the blanked was taken off I found myself in a hilltop sort of mini castle. It was absolutely beautiful. Standing in front of me was a tall man with golden hair. He certainlly was handsome but I was not in the mood to ponder his good looks.

“What the Hell is going on?” I was in no mood for making all nice.

“You are to be my bride,” he said in a serious voice.

“I don’t think so. You don’t even know me.”

“I have chosen you.”

“Listen up Prince Charming. I might be full of nasty sexually transmitted diseases. I might snore. I might poison your food bit by bit until you can only sit in your chair and drool while I take control of your empire. I might sleep with your brother. I might have stinky feet and fart in bed like an old hound dog.”

“I was tasked as the second son of the Clan Chief to find a bride. I’ve been watching you for a while. You’re perfect.”

“You abducted me.”

“That is our way.”

“Then change your way. Holy cow, you can’t build a marriage on distrust and violence. Get out of your comfort zone and marry a woman who can be your best friend, not just a house keeper and sexual slave.”

“The man must rule the house.”

“Alright, you’re a smart guy or I’m going to assume you’re a smart guy. Listen up. I know some of the things I’m saying sound weird. You’ve been brought up to believe women are subservient and property of the males. It is difficult to let go of old beliefs. Changes is difficult. But so is a bad marriage. Before you speak let me tell you a few more things. In a society where women are equal to men everyone ends up more successful, happier and your children tend to thrive. It is a win-win situation for everyone.”

“Then be my bride and change things.” Then he took my hand and led me to the bed. It was a gorgeous bed and he was totally hot but I did not like where this was going.

He stood before me and started to unbuckle his belt.

“NO NO NO show a girl a little romance,” I yelled. “You can’t just take me like this.”

“Let’s get this over with. You will do as I say.”

“Come closer and I will rip your throat out.”

He grabbed my shoulders to push me down and I grabbed his wrists. He stopped, images of terror filled his brain. I filled him with fear as his eyes locked on mine.

“You’re a witch,” he gasped as he dropped his arms to his side and stepped back.

“No I’m not a witch.” I motioned for him to sit and opened a bottle of wine. “Let’s talk. Do you have a name?”

“Aleric.”

“Good start. I’m…”

“Olivia. I know your name.” Great. He was stalking me.

“Alright Aleric, you have to listen to me. You think you’re some manly man but I’ll end up ripping your throat out if you try to touch me again. Forget all the crap about men and women that you know. We are all equal in the eyes of whatever God you choose to worship or not worship.”

We talked through the night. At first I thought he was dumber than a rock but I believe I got through to him. He returned to the village and married a girl he’d known since childhood. She’d always been considered “forward” and considered trouble by the locals. Aleric had always been in love with her but she was too much like a man. Now he had the courage to take her as his bride.

Years later I visited him. He was the Chief by then. His clan and town was thriving. I found him in a large hall playing ball with his grandchildren. He looked up at me in shock.

“Olivia. No, you must be her daughter or grand daughter.”

“I don’t age Aleric. I wouldn’t have made a good wife because first of all I would have driven you nuts, second because I’m a Vampire. I could have killed you but I saw something good in you. I saw a willingness to change. I saw hope. I’ve watched you over the years. I’m proud of what you’ve done with your life and your clan.”

He looked at me with grim eyes. “So do you want a reward now or do I owe you a favor.”

I smiled. “Not at all. I was just passing through. Listen, I’m not one of those Vampires who lords over a population ruthlessly draining everyone of blood and money. I don’t do that kind of shit. I just wanted to let you know that I’m proud of you. You could have spent the rest of your life being a brainless jerk like all the other men in your village but you married a woman you love and respected her. You built a life together and passed that respect on to your children. Good job Aleric.”

“Did you find love?” His question caught me off guard.

“Kind of sort of. You know, I’m not like you. My heart is kind of a flighty thing. Vampires are like that.”

“I’m sure he is a man with a true heart and a brave soul.”

I smiled then left him to his happy life.

Later that week when I arrived home my tall cool Vampire man was waiting for me. “How was your walk down memory lane my dear?”

“Alright I suppose. Do you think people will always be so stupid?”

He took me in his arms and nuzzled my neck. “I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out in a couple hundred years. In the meantime, I have a propisition for you.” We spend the rest of the evening in each other’s arms. In fact, we still spend evenings in each other’s arms.

I think about that time now so long ago. Had I been a regular girl I might have ended up as the bride of a second son of a Chief. Or I might have ended up in the arms of a Vampire. I did end up in the arms of a Vampire but that is another story for another day.

~ end

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman