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The Vampire's Lady

The Vampire's Lady

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Published by iUniverseBooks
Evil plagues the city, and it leaves a trail of bodies as its calling card. Three young people have been killed under mysterious circumstances; the bodies have been drained of blood, but not a drop can be found anywhere.Julian Reynolds believes the culprit may be his old nemesis, the Dragon, an evil vampire bent on destroying the human race. Julian himself is far from human
Evil plagues the city, and it leaves a trail of bodies as its calling card. Three young people have been killed under mysterious circumstances; the bodies have been drained of blood, but not a drop can be found anywhere.Julian Reynolds believes the culprit may be his old nemesis, the Dragon, an evil vampire bent on destroying the human race. Julian himself is far from human

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Published by: iUniverseBooks on Sep 01, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780595622573
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  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3
  • Chapter 4
  • Chapter 5
  • Chapter 6
  • Chapter 7
  • Chapter 8
  • Chapter 9
  • Chapter 10
  • Chapter 11
  • Chapter 12
  • Chapter 13
  • Chapter 14
  • Chapter 15
  • Chapter 16
  • Chapter 17
  • Chapter 18
  • Chapter 19
  • Chapter 20
  • Chapter 21
  • Chapter 22

The Vampire’s Lady

D.J. Marteeny

New York Bloomington

iUniverse, Inc.

The Vampire’s Lady

Copyright © 2010 by D.J. Marteeny All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting: iUniverse 1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403 www.iuniverse.com 1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677) Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any Web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them. ISBN: 978-0-595-52194-4 (sc) ISBN: 978-0-595-50933-1 (dj) ISBN: 978-0-595-62257-3 (ebook)

Printed in the United States of America iUniverse rev. date: 07/05/2010

This book is dedicated to my husband and children. Their encouragement and support have made this book possible.


He was running wildly, his breath coming in painful gasps. He was surrounded on all sides by a thick, dark mist. Nothing was clear to him—nothing but the sense of pure evil. The smell of it permeated the very air around him. Was this a dream or some terrifying reality? He couldn’t be sure, but one thing he did know: he had to keep going. There was some place he had to be, something he needed to do, and quickly. He tried to hurry. The sense of desperation was overwhelming, but his feet felt like lead weights holding him back, slowing him down. Then he heard it—the sound that shattered his soul! “Julian!” came the agonized scream. The pain in that voice pierced his heart like the fine point of a steel blade. He continued clambering up the rocky slope, his fury and terror giving him renewed energy. The jagged rocks tore at his already bloody and battered body. He’d failed her—failed to keep them both safe. He’d underestimated their enemy, and now that son of a bitch had her, and he would glory in her pain … and Julian’s. Terror seized Julian, for he knew she would pay a heavy price if he failed to reach her in time. They’d been badly outnumbered. Even with his superior strength, Julian hadn’t been able to fight them all. Those hordes from hell had been doing his will—that demon bastard they all called “master,” He’d fought like a madman against all of them, until he could barely stand from sheer exhaustion—but he’d been alone. The others, his men, hadn’t been able to reach him in time. He should’ve hidden, waiting for the reinforcements to come, but there hadn’t been time—none at all. I tried … God knows I tried, he thought to himself as he stared at the wooden stake in his hand, blood streaming down its sides. But the son of a bitch had taken her anyway, had ripped her right out of his arms as he tried to fight the frenzied throngs. He tried to close his mind to the terror he knew she must be feeling. “Julian!” The cry came again, a little weaker this time. He had to push on,

D.J. Marteeny

keep going if there was even the slightest chance he could save her. With his last ounce of strength he surged forward, his desperate climb finally coming to an end as he reached the summit of the small mountain. A large boulder kept him hidden from view, while he paused for breath, hoping to regain the strength he needed. Would it be enough? Would this curse that had been forced upon him give him the power to save her? He knew there was only one way to find out. Stepping out from behind his stone sanctuary, Julian prepared for battle yet again. The scene that met his horrified eyes stopped him dead in his tracks, unable to continue. A dark figure loomed in the distance, standing dangerously close to the edge of the treacherous precipice. Its grotesque head was bent over a small form lying limp and motionless in its arms. Fear seized Julian, for he couldn’t sense any sign of life coming from the tiny, broken body—but that fear was soon replaced by a fury so great he forgot all danger to himself as he charged the creature, which was still unaware of his presence. “You fucking son of a bitch!” Julian screamed. His anger had become a burning rage, all-consuming. It urged him on as he ran forward, the bloody stake held high, ready to strike a killing blow. But they were so far away— could he reach her in time? He had to. He had no other choice. The head of the creature lifted at his approach, and Julian’s blood froze in his veins at the sight before him. Saliva, tinged with red, dripped from sharp, jagged fangs, as the creature hissed its hatred of the figure coming closer with every second. “My damnation is already assured, vampire! And your chance for a mortal life is quickly slipping away!” the creature spat at him as it stared down at its limp captive, a clawed finger caressing the pale face. “She is moments from death … but you can still save her.” The voice droned on, seemingly trying to reason with the mad figure bearing down upon it. “Only you have the power, Julian … only you,” The words were but a faint whisper on the gentle wind. But then the voice grew louder, the message clear: “The choice is up to you, Julian. You know what I want. Say you will join me, lead my armies, and I will give her the gift of immortality. She will be yours forever, and together we will be unstoppable!” The voice reverberated in the silence surrounding them, as the dark figure watched the conflict behind Julian’s tormented eyes. “Hurry, my friend,” it taunted as Julian drew closer. “Time grows short.” Despair overwhelmed Julian, and he slowed his frantic charge, coming to a stop a few feet from the figures teetering on the cliff ’s edge. Looking at the small figure, so bloody and pale, Julian knew it was already too late. He screamed in frustration, his hatred overwhelming. “I will kill her myself before I let her become the monster you would make her!” he shouted, stake poised high as he lunged at the dark figure.

The Vampire’s Lady

As it looked straight into the eyes of its oncoming attacker, the creature hesitated for a brief moment and then hissed back at him, “She would be no different from us, my friend!” A slow smile formed on the hideous face, a look of—was that triumph? flashing in the red eyes, before it struck quickly, precisely, before Julian had any hope of reaching it. With the speed of lightning, the clawed hand shot forward, cutting into the chest of the figure it held in its arms as a knife cutting through butter. With a jerk, it pulled the appendage free … a tiny heart, still beating slowly, was now visible in the bloody palm. With one last look at Julian, the creature leaned over the edge of the cliff, tossing the lifeless body effortlessly into the wide abyss. “no!” Julian screamed in anguish as the stake came down. It struck its target, severing membrane and bone, as it slashed a large tear into a huge, black wing. “no!”


Chapter 1

“no!” came a cry in the darkness, as he awoke with a shout. His body was covered in sweat as he relived the anguish and terror of that awful night. Sitting alone in the stillness, face buried in his hands, Julian took a few seconds to calm himself. He inhaled deeply, until the blood racing in his veins began to slow to a more normal pace. “It was just a dream …” he said aloud, as if he needed to hear the words spoken, “… just a bad dream,” Only he’d never actually dreamt a single night during the many centuries of his long existence—he didn’t know he could. God—what’s wrong with me? he wondered. He fell back against the pillows, forearm thrown across tired eyes in an attempt to block out the images invading his mind. But God had nothing to do with it. God had forsaken him a long time ago. He lay there a moment longer, knowing any chance for further rest was futile. He tossed the black satin sheets aside and threw his long legs over the side of the large wooden bed frame. Leaning forward, elbows on his knees and hands cupped between his legs, Julian stared into the blackness ahead, waiting for his eyes to grow accustomed to the darkness. Cold seeped into his bones, a chill creeping along his spine as the memory of the dream lingered … a memory that still had the power to torment him. He thought he’d succeeded in blocking her death from his mind. “Varga,” he whispered. God, how he had loved her, how he missed her still. So many years had passed since she’d been taken away from him. He hadn’t wanted to forget her: her beauty, her sweetness, but the good memories had been all but wiped out by the horror of that awful night. Her broken body was all he could see when he thought of her afterward, even years later, so he’d blocked out the memories and pushed them to the back of his mind. The pain and the guilt were more than his tortured mind could bear.

The Vampire’s Lady

He was a fool to think he’d succeeded in forgetting the worst moment of his entire existence, even for a little while. It was part of him, of who he was. And whether he liked to admit it or not, it had made him stronger, had been the driving force in his decision to fight the abominations he knew roamed the earth—like the one that had destroyed her so long ago. He hadn’t been able to save her, but he could avenge her and prevent others from suffering the same fate that she had. From the monitor on the ancient wall a familiar voice reached his ears. “Nightmare?” a young man asked. “Yes,” Julian replied. “I’ll be right down.” “There’s no need, I’m … fine. I just need a hot shower. I’ll be there soon.” “Right.” As Julian listened to the voice through the intercom, a fleeting smile stole across his handsome face, a face almost too perfect to be, well … human. And speaking of humans, Thomas Thibideau was the only one this vampire—for that’s what Julian had been for the last four centuries—would trust to keep things secure during his daylight hours of seclusion. Yes, Thomas had been a fortunate find, indeed. The fire was always lit in the great stone fireplace when Julian awoke from his “sleep” every evening, the flames spreading the only light and warmth in the dank room. Thomas most certainly takes good care of me, Julian thought, as his mind drifted back to the day the two had met—actually, collided would have been a more appropriate word. The said encounter had been nearly ten years ago, in the great city of New Orleans. It was a city where strange happenings were the norm, and one never knew who, or what, one might come across in the twilight hours. Thomas was Cajun, the byproduct of a tryst between a teenage girl and a drifting hustler. He’d been raised by his grandmother in a shack along the edge of the Atchafalaya basin, not far from New Iberia. It was from his grandmother that Thomas learned the ways of voodoo. Thus, Thomas was no stranger to the legends of the creatures of the night. He knew very well that there were many things roaming the earth that couldn’t really be explained. Thomas picked up the ways of his father, drifting from town to town doing odd jobs and working for minimum wage. His travels eventually took him to New Orleans. During that time, Thomas was working as an orderly at the local blood bank, a frequent haunt of Julian’s, for these were civilized times, and the days of killing for his survival were over. The young man had discovered Julian making a “withdrawal,” stealing a few pints of whole blood from a freezer unit. Their first meeting was, to put it mildly, violent and would almost certainly have been lethal for the young man.

They were luxuries from centuries past. Their beauty was timeless. 6 . so. An elegant Queen Anne chair in rich burgundy velvet was perched beside it. Julian simply placed a hand over the young man’s nose and mouth until he passed out. He should have known something wasn’t quite right the minute the beam from his flashlight fell across the stranger’s tall. its dark wood matched that of the king-size bed perfectly. as he traveled the world. exquisitely carved from solid marble. the Cajun has proven to be quite a find. It also allowed him to bring. coming to a stop before a tall antique armoire. Coming back to the present.” Julian had helped the terrified man believe the unbelievable—and accept the reality of what Julian was. its beauty forever timeless. Along the far wall was a large fireplace. but Julian recognized the intelligence behind those green eyes. The young man’s will to survive had made Julian stop and think: He may be useful. The few family heirlooms he’d managed to recover gave him some solace. Yes. as the man fought back with a skill and ferocity Thomas had no hope of matching. muscular form.D. and there was no one to admire them … no one but him. Julian had held Thomas’s neck in a viselike grip.J. Julian thought to himself again. They’d been together ever since. some link to a happier time.” Thomas had no formal education. thinking him some unfortunate street person stealing something he’d hoped to sell for profit. Pieces of the past he’d actually wanted to remember lay scattered before him. He stared around the room that had become his refuge—as well as his prison—during the daylight hours. gold. among other things. Marteeny Thomas had attacked the would-be thief. and Thomas was one of the few people Julian trusted with his very life. staring into the terrified eyes of a young man who knew he was looking death in the face. No street person wore silk and Italian leather! And there was definitely no mistaking the strength and agility of said thief. indeed. stone by stone. His skill and cunning had provided him with the means to amass a fortune in rare and ancient artifacts. A carpet of the finest silk spilled matching colors of burgundy. he rose from the bed with a grace and agility that belied a man of his size and stature. The much-smaller Thomas had thrown everything he had at the stranger in an attempt to escape. rather than kill him. After a little friendly “persuasion. bought by the wealth accumulated through centuries of living. Julian had been a mere boy when wars in the area had forced him to leave his home after the deaths of his mother and father. It wasn’t until years later that he was able to make a triumphant return and claim what had been his birthright. and green across the floor in front of it. portions of his ancestral home from deep within the Carpathian Mountains to this isolated spot in the New England countryside. leaving the place with Thomas slung over his shoulder and twenty-four pints of blood tucked securely under his arm.

He tilted his head back slightly. He moved through the short hallway to climb the ever-ascending length of stone steps. he stood before the flames. he thought. Walking over to the fireplace. lit his way. slid his long legs into them. but not tonight. His power wouldn’t reach its full potential until he’d hunted. flickering 7 . his beautiful gray-blue eyes seeing perfectly in the darkness as he approached the armoire. Long tresses flowed to his shoulders. he wrapped it around a body as hard and perfectly formed as the marble mantelpiece above the fireplace. after all these years. again. with a connection to him … a connection close enough to stir up memories long dead. He made his way toward the door of the cavernous room. some sort of message only he would understand. as he moved around the room. it was filled with life-giving liquid. A goblet of the finest crystal sat atop the mantel. Something. the warmth they gave off allowed his chilled body to slowly come back to life. Even the long centuries had not left their mark on its perfection. It had to be more than just a painful reminder of how much he’d loved and lost—how close he’d come to achieving complete happiness and a normal life with someone who actually cared for him despite what he was. … memories he had buried deep inside himself that night she’d been killed. unless … there was some underlying meaning. Turning. auburn. shimmering with red-gold highlights as he ran his hand through the tangled mass of color. Small candles. Why should thoughts of Varga return to haunt him now.The Vampire’s Lady His thoughts drifted back to the dream. making it hard to tell if the strands were dark brown. muscular frame glistening in the firelight. in one quick movement. They led from his underground chamber to one of four tower rooms on the second floor of the ancient mansion he’d made his home. but it started the process. which his keen eyes really didn’t need. It was just a taste. Thomas. the ruby red color looking almost black in the darkness. his sensual movements as graceful as the black panther whose shape he would sometimes assume. the tension building inside of him. had triggered the dream—someone very near. or someone. warning him that he had to figure out the reason for the dream—and soon! Usually this room held peace and comfort for him. His thoughts turned to the hot shower he knew Thomas would have waiting upstairs for him to finish the awakening process. That had to be it. Pulling out a heavy. He began to pace back and forth. his lean. emptying the glass of its precious contents in one gulp and feeling the strength and power returning to his limbs. and a realization suddenly came to him. Tonight something was different. black robe from deep within. newly arrived. or a bit of both. he reached for a pair of black slacks thrown carelessly across the chair and. He could feel his blood begin to warm.

hidden from prying eyes. He continued to stare out into the blackness where he could just make out the sides of a stone bridge off in the distance. Leaning out into the evening air. shaking his head to bring himself back to the present. he pulled in a downward motion. someone with a connection to the woman he had loved and lost—and not just any connection—a blood 8 . But that was impossible—she was dead. It also boasted a luxurious master bath with all the modern conveniences added for his comfort. scanning his domain for any sign of movement. and again the scent assailed his senses. Marteeny inside stone sconces protruding from the wall. “Varga!” he said aloud. he turned the metal knob slowly. as he watched the golden orb sinking lower into the night sky. As he continued to stare out of the window. It was a time of conflicting emotions for this particular vampire. So long ago. sniffing the cold night air. and he entered a room decorated almost identically to the one he actually slept in deep in the bowels of the mansion. Confused. Walking over to the window. He remembered sharp fangs piercing his throat. At dusk. a soft. even at night. he told himself. staring out into the ever-approaching night.J. like a splash of cold water on his tired face. Reaching for the brass handle in front of him. It was a familiar scent. The house was perched atop a steep cliff. but with a slight difference this time. or so he was told. his sharp eyes searched the night. A deep sigh escaped him as he watched the scene unfolding before him. a combination of pleasure and pain. through which the early morning sun would bathe one in its warmth.” he spoke aloud. stirring up feelings within him that he’d felt only once before—with her. a deep melancholy seemed to grip him. of this he was certain. What he wouldn’t give to see this sight at sunrise. It provided the only access to the dusty gravel road that connected Julian’s sanctuary to the rest of the world living at the base of his small mountain. swirling mist skimmed the tops of giant fir trees hundreds of feet below the edge of the precipice on which the house stood. had a breathtaking view. Not her—but someone similar. The only difference in the two rooms was a long. Then it hit him. Someone was near. causing the door to swing inward away from him.D. Twilight … the only time during a life of eternal darkness when he could actually gaze upon what was left of the setting sun. darkness close on its heels. as he climbed to the top of the staircase and came to stand in front of a heavy oak door. he pulled aside the heavy gold curtains. He closed his eyes. which. he thought. to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays falling across his face. causing the window to divide in half and open outward. narrow window alongside the fireplace. changing his life forever! “And forever is a very long time. he breathed in deeply. It had all been taken from him in an instant of pain. Reaching for the nearest sconce.

Stepping into the shower. like a physical pain he could not shake. just as he allowed himself to hope. he spun around. It’s the dream. The chill seeped deeper into his heart. and the message. the steaming water spilled forth. A slight frown creased his handsome brow. hot shower was what he wanted. There it was again … a memory reaching out to him … grasping. He also knew that everything was connected: the dream. he walked into the bathroom. Pure evil surrounded him. he willed himself to relax. filling him with the coldness of an approaching dawn. he searched every inch. It took control. he thought as he undressed. a voice penetrated his mind. as he continued to stare at the tiny house. soothing … relaxing. He’d hoped he would never hear it again in his lifetime. “The presence. Finding nothing. He’d recognized that voice. “I know she is near … I will find her … you cannot save her!” Julian’s hands sprang to his head. But. eyes searching every shadow and darkened corner of the room. every hidden recess. he thought as an almost overwhelming urge seemed to draw his gaze toward the house. the memories taunting … haunting me. But he had to be certain. if he was right. Yes. as if flesh and bone could prevent the unseen force from entering there. which he’d done only recently. as the jets of water pounded his body. Someone—or something—wanted him to remember things he would prefer to forget—but why? Unable to shake the feeling of unease. Would 9 . hands dropping to his sides. He could smell it on the wind! This was the presence that had caused the dream to start … reaching out to him … trying to connect. Was the presence as aware of him as he was of it … or was it oblivious to the strange sensations that had plagued him since he’d awakened this evening? His attention was drawn to the tiny shimmering lights of the small cottage nestled at the base of the hill just inside the gates to the estate. It’s playing with my mind. When nothing further happened. that’s just what I need. wiping out all rational thought. But he knew even before he’d stepped under the scalding liquid that no amount of hot water would rid him of the chill that had entered his body as those words invaded his mind. looking for something he knew in his heart was not there. unimaginable horror was about to descend upon them all. he turned the clear crystal knobs. the presence at the cottage.The Vampire’s Lady connection. A long. the connection to her … it’s at the cottage. It had once been part of the original property connected to the stone manor house. It would help clear his head. The new owner must have arrived. His lawyers had convinced him it would be a good idea to sell the small dwelling. not even realizing he’d spoken the words aloud.” he said. covering his ears. Gliding around the room. for. like a hand taking hold and drawing him in.

Could it be possible there was another like Varga. an ancient Indian sacred collection of hymns to the gods. Manu. circling. He wondered what the human population would think if they could actually watch a vampire transform—if they could forget the myths and legends and control their fear long enough to witness such a sight. Julian had once researched the Rig Veda. this time. who stole soma. depending on the situation. while riding on the back of a majestic eagle. all concentration focused on its destination. eyes closed to clear his mind. blissfully unaware that she possessed the means for his salvation—his redemption—out there waiting for him to find her? Was he to be given one more chance at happiness—at a normal life? If this were indeed true. circling. as did the black panther. ever upward. swooping upward. The proud eagle suited Julian. until it gracefully touched down near the edge 10 . as flesh and blood reformed. The shimmering light of the hovering moon called him back toward the window. high above the clouds. He knew a lot of fellow vamps that fit that description. or worse. he thought. Marteeny he be ready. and soon. He was different. throwing a robe over his wet skin. They told the tale of the god Indra. and he fell through the opening in a flurry of wings. with its stealth and grace. Most older vampires had animals they called. It was a true miracle of nature. to prevent the devastation that was sure to come along with it? Turning off the water. What better form for an immortal being to assume than that of this magnificent bird? Julian had thought. he had to find whoever it was. Had it been wishful thinking. Thus his choice had been made when this new life was forced upon him.” the message had screamed into his mind. As a young man. It was one of the many ways they protected themselves from those who did not understand them. The giant bird began its descent.D. in nature and coloring. The only image they’d had so far was what they’d seen in horror movies: vampire bats with blood dripping from razor-sharp fangs. for danger was coming—and it was hunting them both. he circled the blackness. was really a vampire and. that this particular vampire was there to protect them.J. the drink of immortality. Bones twisted and muscles contorted. or was it real? I have to know. the presence his senses had connected with. catching the wind just right. humankind would truly be surprised to learn that the large bird now flying high above the ground. even more surprising. Disappearing into the night. as the transformation came upon him. He stood in front of the window. Yes. as he dressed in a fresh pair of pants. outspread wings reflected in the moonlight. but not this vampire. The hymns further told of how Indra then gave the miraculous elixir to the ancestor of mankind. he stepped from the shower. to use as necessary or to transform into. “I know she is near.

wraparound porch extending its full length. Yes. but … could he have been mistaken? As his keen eyes scanned the porch. He still did. lust—came flooding back. Kate St. He’d been careless in not feeding first. As a matter of fact. she was having trouble relaxing—again. to her friends. gray. It was a stranger. the setting sun had splashed colors of red. and confusion filled him. Adrianna knew she should probably do the same. sitting only a few feet away from him. and the pull was strong. and soon. where he sensed movement. searching. Here he could remain hidden among the giant trees while he studied the tiny house in front of him. reveled in the peaceful serenity of her surroundings. It couldn’t be. its glowing brightness casting ever-shrinking shadows across the lawn. filled Julian again. He’d forgotten the cardinal rule.The Vampire’s Lady of the woods. Addie. who had already gone to bed. mingled with hope. As he approached an ancient oak tree. as the feathers covering his body fell away once again to reveal the muscular form beneath. He’d thought then that she was one of a kind. He should have fed before starting out on his strange mission. full strength meant power and safety. “Kate doesn’t know what she’s missing. Feelings he’d thought long dead—longing.” Addie said aloud. blissfully unaware that a stranger’s eyes watched her so intently. a glass of wine balanced loosely in her hand. the mysterious voice invaded his mind once again. he knew someone was there. Just moments ago. John. her strange restlessness 11 . Before him he saw the back of the small cottage. There could not be another … His thoughts were chaotic. Though he had yet to see anyone. but first … His gaze was drawn back again to the porch.” Fear. enjoying the night as he only wished he could do. but. as he focused on the small figure sitting quietly on the back porch. the message clear: “I know she is here. love. tonight. and carelessness was dangerous. he must feed. He needed blood to be at full strength. as she watched it sink lower and lower into the trees of the nearby woods. when he’d first encountered … her. he felt it again: that stirring of recognition. but he’d been in too much of a hurry to find answers to the flood of feelings assailing his senses. for some reason. thinking of her roommate. yet somehow familiar. It was soon replaced by the silvery light of the rising moon. for himself and those he was responsible for. Someone was sitting there alone: a woman. and blue against the darkness of the night sky. ***** Sliding further down into the comfortable cushions of the old rocker. a long. Adrianna Avanie. his blood rising to a fever pitch as he fought to control the hunger. He’d felt this same connection a long time ago. large enough to hide him completely.

It had a certain … presence. the haggling with customers over prices. and the noise level of the town rose noticeably. It was so quiet here. Addie thought often of the cottage. and it had beckoned to her. had seemed like something out of another time or place. The building.J. Both girls agreed that they’d outgrown the small. as if there was not another living soul for miles around. and the sight of their profits increasing with each passing year were things she had always enjoyed. an atmosphere that struck a chord deep within her and drew her to its serene beauty. now was the time. If she was going to do this.D. eventually finding their way home. they had joked of moving “away from it all. but this one was different. in the past few weeks. Once again she found herself thinking of the 12 . She longed for the peaceful serenity and isolation of the quiet countryside. quaint gingerbread trim. In a hurry to reach their apartment before nightfall after a weekend in the big city. she’d sensed a change in herself. but. One of the things that had attracted her to the house in the first place was its isolation. that need seemed almost urgent. Normally she loved the dress shop she’d opened with Kate soon after graduating from college. Deciding the warm night air and beautiful sunset were just what she needed to unwind a little. they had taken a wrong turn and ended up in the front driveway of what seemed to be an abandoned house. two-bedroom apartment they shared above the boutique. She found herself losing patience with long-standing customers whose “quirks” had never bothered her in the past. was full of similar houses of all shapes and sizes. at least. but Addie couldn’t get the house out of her mind. she’d poured a glass of her favorite red wine and strolled along the back porch in search of the most comfortable chair. the small New England town she and Kate had grown up in. with its peaked roof. the holiday sales. she actually found herself discussing with Kate the idea of buying a small home far away from the chaos of the business district where they spent so much of their time. as the noise of the bustling town and the pressures of running an upscale boutique began to overwhelm her. The dynamics of such a busy life were beginning to make her edgy and nervous. and peaceful. On more than one occasion. Her mind drifted back to the day she’d first come across the tiny cottage while driving home from a buying trip with Kate.” For Addie. One day. The frequent buying trips to New York. Marteeny was becoming the norm since they had finally settled into their new home. Weeks later. usually when the college students were home for their periodic visits around the holidays. When they found no one there to help them with directions they had left. Winwood. She thrived on the excitement and energy of running a successful business. somehow. and beds of colorful wildflowers lining cobblestone walkways.

the house had truly become their home. and hutch she had found in an out-of-the-way shop in New York on her last buying trip. after just one month of backbreaking manual labor. One day she had broached the subject to Kate and. They’d gone to a few antique shops and found the perfect furnishings to suit the elegant little house. They’d never looked back. quite by chance. welcoming feeling. fourroom apartment to the lovely cottage in the quiet countryside. It had been a lot of hard work but well worth the time spent. Not being one to give up easily. That left only the bedrooms. It had taken only a few months to settle the legalities and. well. Something in her reasoning must have struck a chord with the owner. for Addie really believed this was where she belonged. for. Addie and Kate found themselves moving from the tiny. as the warm summer days began.The Vampire’s Lady cottage nestled at the base of a hill. as well as all the acreage surrounding the place for miles. The only disappointment over the past few months had been the absence of the previous owner. and a small frown creased her forehead. They were informed that. they had. chairs. she took another sip of wine. she and Kate 13 . and painting the inside of the little cottage. but. which each of them was in the process of decorating to her own personal taste. After weeks with no progress. after a little badgering of said attorney. A wealthy businessman owned the cottage. had found that her friend agreed with her about the cottage. his reclusive client wouldn’t even know the two women were living there. For a while their weekends had become busier than their work week. Two large hurricane lamps of cream-colored milk glass with tiny silver-blue and mauve flowers completed the room. But. along with various knick-knacks of all shapes and sizes. surrounded by. She hadn’t believed he was actually a recluse. stumbled upon an attorney in charge of the upkeep of the tiny house. to her relief and excitement. So the two of them had set out to gather what information they could about the property. the women were informed that their offer had been accepted. They gave the living room a warm. out of respect for his wishes. the place was not for sale. She explained that since they spent most of their time in town anyway. There were antique end tables with tiny clawed feet to match the blue velvet couch that had once belonged to Addie’s grandmother. Addie. though it was empty. Coming back to the present. cleaning. Kate had contributed a lovely walnut dining room table. The gentleman was somewhat reclusive and liked his privacy. between yard work to restore the wildflower beds to their former glory and scrubbing. including the great stone mansion at the top of the hill. a few weeks after their initial meeting with the attorney. persuaded the man to keep trying. nothing—its beauty and solitude were exactly what she was looking for.

You’re just not used to the quiet countryside. tense and alert. But something was out there—she could feel it. All of the legalities had been handled by his company of lawyers. As she rocking rhythmically back and forth. she felt it was essential that she meet him. Who are you? she wondered. the calm around her was suddenly shattered as she experienced a strong sensation of being watched. It’s probably some poor woodland creature. that hadn’t happened. more afraid of you than you are of it. to prove she and Kate were not the only people living in the area. she leaned forward across the banister to get a better look at the spot. she somehow knew. about a week after settling in. Eyes straining. As she gazed out across the freshly mowed lawn. There’s nothing out there. for some reason. Glancing from side to side. hoping to come across someone. this is what you wanted: the quiet. Remember. laughing a little nervously. and she’d left frustrated. well … gone. meant her no harm. and he would take the first step toward making their acquaintance. So far. the solitude. his curiosity would get the better of him. and not once had they met their elusive mystery man. Only the blackness of the night woods stared back at her. its base was well camouflaged by the surrounding undergrowth.” she said aloud as she stepped inside the 14 . For some reason. over time. she sat upright. If it’s a little creepy. Marteeny had stayed true to their promise and tried never to impose upon their only neighbor’s privacy. Shaking her head slightly. maybe she should try again. she scanned the backyard. “I just need to get some sleep. you’re letting your imagination run away with you. trying not to give in to the feeling of alarm rising within her. She made up her mind to do some sleuthing on her own and find out whatever she could about the big house and its strange inhabitant. she scolded herself: “You fool. The feeling had been so strong that. trying to get a clear view of the woods near the edge of the property. her eyes traveled to the old stone bridge in the woods not far from her backyard and continued on up the hillside to the magnificent Victorian mansion perched along the cliff ’s edge. Getting up from the rocker. It was impossible to see clearly. But Addie had hoped that. eyes closed. Whatever was there. yet. she assured herself she was alone on the porch.J.D. There had been no one home on that day. Hair prickling on the back of her neck. she had found herself walking across the bridge and up the hill to the main house. she decided to call it a night. the alarm she’d felt a moment ago was. Is someone there? she wondered. but the distance was just too far. Her eyes were drawn to a large oak tree just inside the entrance to the woods. you have no one to blame but yourself!” And. anyone. Why did she even care? She wasn’t sure why—but she felt she had to know this mystery man. She had some free time this weekend. either.

when. which he had every intention of finding the answers to. Julian. Fluffing the lace curtains a little. too. but cluttered. But now he needed to hunt. room. Who is she? he wondered. Outside in the warm night air. The craving—the thirst—was calling to him. the need was overpowering. he prepared to leap into the night sky. watching. “Go to sleep. There—a dark shadow.The Vampire’s Lady cozy living room. locking the French doors behind her. a slight smile appearing on her face as she heard Kate’s light snoring. His keen eyesight had allowed him to watch her from a distance as she sat there enjoying the evening air. been so wrapped up with thoughts of the woman that he had succeeded in blocking out everything else? This was not good—he was getting careless. sinking deep into the soft mattress. Did she see me? he wondered. Within minutes. Addie. but she could find no reason for it. And why should it matter so much to me? Both were very good questions. hidden behind a large boulder only a few feet away from the old oak tree. had known he was there.” she chuckled. Someone or something else was nearby. would soon be sound asleep. hidden from view. he’d thought. Having already taken a hot shower. his eagle eyes scanning every inch of ground where he’d recently been standing. as she scanned the night. staring out at the many stars sparkling brightly in the night sky. “How was that possible?” he asked himself. it was too great a distance. turning quickly. or had he. How had this intruder gone unnoticed by him? The evil permeating from the dark figure was unmistakable. She hoped that she. seeing only the darkness. she gave one last look at the old oak but.” he said to the darkness surrounding him. There was no way he would not have picked up on such a foul stench. searching. listening. looking—for him! Quickly. Julian’s keen senses could smell the evil. he had felt the tension inside of her. “Yes. suddenly. He climbed higher into the night sky and then. As the change came upon him. Had this strange visitor only just arrived. Dropping her robe on a nearby chair. No. she continued on up the staircase and past the first bedroom door to her left. she couldn’t have. and she drifted off into a deep sleep. He took to the night sky. Entering the hallway. the 15 . that’s definitely what I need.” she told herself as she climbed into bed. for he hadn’t made the slightest sound. where the darkness hid him once more. let the curtains flutter sideways as she made her way through the cozy. and this visitor was decidedly unfriendly. he’d stepped back among the shadows. She felt a strange anticipation as she stared into the darkness. his muscles tensing. When he saw her rise suddenly. the wine and the night air worked their magic. But she had sensed his presence. “And the sooner the better. Julian stepped from behind the aging tree and walked the short distance to the edge of the woods. she paused at the window. he stopped. she went straight to her own room.

He had no doubt she was the one his father was seeking.D. black as night. all was not lost. for its beauty allowed him to indulge in all the forms of pleasure and decadence his kind craved. the strange figure had fled among the trees and foliage and disappeared completely from view. He had not failed to notice how much the vampire had been drawn to the woman of the cottage. but. He wondered how his half brother was faring with his assigned task. the thought went through his twisted mind. for he had seen his father’s wrath on too many occasions. He gloried in his nakedness. As the change became complete. he must be sure. Marteeny great bird dove at the site where the shadow lay hidden. try as he might. he should have known Julian would be aware of his presence. red eyes glowing as the enormous bird swooped ever closer. muscular form of a man appeared. Julian could not find the creature. as the tall. Deciding ground pursuit would serve him best in this instance.J. the weaker human race begging for his … attention. or anything. Within seconds. With that thought. thick fur. He should have been more careful. he hurried to bring his news to the one who waited. as the panther took shape. Julian set down in a nearby clearing. if he was right in his assumption … Great will be my reward when I bring Father news of what I have seen. taking to the skies as he headed back to the shelter of the mansion. he shifted again. the animal took off in the direction of the mysterious intruder. He preferred this human form. the dark figure spun to face its attacker. Sensing the eagle’s approach. now but a speck in the night sky. it was gone—completely. In the short time it had taken him to change. He went to great lengths not to be on the receiving end of that anger. still. Oh well. the perfection disguising the evil that filled his black heart. Some distance away. and that troubled Julian more than anything else he’d experienced the entire night. the shadow turned and began to run with inhuman speed. the tall. but. as a twisted smile formed on his handsome face. with its flawless olive complexion and curls the color of ebony flowing down his back. 16 . Whatever it had been. muscular body began to re-form: changing. I must find Christoff. had been there. the feathers fell away. He was deep in thought as he caught sight of the bird. disappearing—until something altogether different stood in its place. The shape of the giant beast. so he must be certain his information was correct before he returned home. Just as the eagle was about to strike. Still. the form inherited from his mother. That had been a close call. Julian backtracked to the spot where he’d last caught sight of it but found nothing to prove that anyone. hidden from searching eyes by tall trees and knee-deep foliage. With a burst of speed. made travel much easier. a coldness--a scent of evil so strong it sent a chill coursing through the great cat. to be replaced by coarse. The only thing left behind was a feeling.

“My lord … forgive me … I tried … ahhh!” the piteous cry was cut short. a black shadow. snapping it in two. “Is there no one competent enough to do my bidding?” It asked the question although it expected no reply. large and brooding. I can feel her.” it reasoned. his own sons. She is here. would not fail him. with a sound of disgust. wings outspread. leaving only a pile of ash. the towering monster tore the head from the mutilated body and dropped the remains to the floor. His minions were followers.Chapter 2 He sat in a cavernous room. She must not reach him. as the massive head turned slowly toward the large wooden door. The few candles attempting to pierce the smothering gloom cast dancing shadows along its bare walls. “Did you find her?” the deep voice spat out the dreaded question. It … he … had sent them out to join the hunt—blood of his blood. “But all is not lost. where they burst into flames. I searched where you told me to. as clawed talons dug into the trembling creature’s throat.” hissed the creature in anger as it lowered its large bulk back into the waiting chair. all claws and sharp teeth. The red eyes blazed with anger. terror evident on its skull-like face. “No. dark and foreboding. not 17 . They. my lord … I … I’m sorry. surely. towering above the trembling figure now on its knees with head bowed. A slight creak had alerted the pointed ears to someone’s arrival. perched on a throne of granite.” “And it didn’t occur to you to seek elsewhere!” the dark figure roared in anger as it rose to its full height. In the center he waited. and then. The stench of something long dead entered the room long before the actual figure did. Red eyes burned into the lifeless eyes staring back. but the wench was nowhere to be found. The skeletal creature. He should have sent them in the first place. “Fail me and pay the consequences. entered cautiously.

fight alongside—her. Julian had grown strong over the centuries. but there would always be a part of her with him. no ritual. “Sometimes. the woman of his enemy. shall we say. He hesitated putting his sons at risk. 18 . Dragone. an image that was so like his mother’s. as his mind focused on the image of his eldest son. she did have a flare for the dramatic. “As if that pretender to my throne could ever hope to claim a woman like Elizabeth!” The legend told of her bathing in the blood of virgins to retain eternal youth. the other was a great beast. No one could ever take that away from him. a strong and vicious shewolf. They were. a dark beauty—now. a woman known to many as the Blood Countess or Countess Dracula. She understood what the blood meant … the power it held … the life it sustained. to this particular vampire. Julian. indeed. for he had two—were each powerful in their own right. He knew there was no real cause for worry. but incompetence had forced his hand. as her countless victims would bear witness to … if they could. there had been a woman to behold—the Countess Elizabeth Bathory. to retain what came to her naturally. had helped her defeat their alpha male. But he rarely let his offspring out of his sight. his second-born. come to an end. had been his reward.D. around the year 1614. She had become the leader of a pack of werewolves when he. the two strong sons capable of carrying on his legacy of terror should anything happen to him—though that was unlikely.J. Yes. “Legends … bah!” the twisted mind continued on its rant. in his son Enoch. His evil mind drifted back in time. a … penchant for pain. for his offspring. Exquisite. One was a vampire. though. “Her beauty was flawless … timeless. the hours spent in her company. and raised him alongside Enoch. His son—sons. Enoch. too. a part of him. The vampire must not be allowed to make contact with her. But all good things must. It was a gift. She needed no magic. had grown in strength and power. They had come for her. “Dracula! Pff ff t!” He spat out the name. the power of the wolf passed to him through his mother.” Those had been good times. and revenge against him would be very sweet. created in his own image. The red eyes blazed with anger at the thought of the last title for the woman who had borne his first son.” An evil grin spread across the horrid face. his sons—they would find the woman he sought. He had taken their child. and one she used well. after all. indeed. Her demise had come as she was imprisoned behind walls of brick in a room of Cachtice Castle. A sad day. while he was away training his son to follow in his footsteps. Marteeny leaders. the result of his union with the werewolf. eventually. They would not have dared to approach her had he been there to protect—no. of this he was well aware. Hanokh.

with large brown eyes. he couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. If the one he sought was here. Enoch. He could read her thoughts and smell her desire. dark hair appeared almost black against skin so pale it was nearly translucent. as he mentally caressed the long. in particular. he thought. But he ignored their imploring glances. And there was no better way to do that than to destroy his woman. His movements were slow and sensual. until he was mere inches away from his quarry. one figure. even if a hundred more had to die before their search was through—or they. A slight smile crossed his handsome face. Too blonde … too tall … too buxom— not that he minded. His large. until. Even better. then he. People from all walks of life bustled about. for none of them was the one he sought. She would serve his “needs” well—but that must come later. dark hair. He made a mental note to revisit one particularly pretty blue-eyed blonde gazing at him from across the room. But the closer he came to the woman still waiting patiently. He was a tall man. miles away. find her. searched the city where lights blazed brightly. the inviting looks cast his way. as he continued his approach. He knew better than to fail his lord and master. too. She was leaning against the wall: a petite brunette. whose long. the more he was convinced she was not the one his father sought. Surely. he was sure he’d found the one he was looking for. As the line of people entered the building pulsating with the beat of loud music. His father had given him a job and trusted him to fulfill a mission. Was she the one his father had them all searching for? She fits the description perfectly. stood out among the rest. would suffer his wrath. black eyes searched throughout the crowded room. Then let’s not keep her waiting any longer. deep into secluded booths and darkened corners. Hence the enormous crowds gathered every night outside the newest entertainment complex in the usually quiet town. would. no. but. and the smile on his face grew even larger as he thought of the 19 . trying to forget the monotony of their daily existence in drink and companionship. another. if their enemy had marked her as his own. he thought. She was alone … she had no protection. she would be well guarded. he thought as he moved slowly toward her. for then she could be his.The Vampire’s Lady His sons must. when his task was accomplished. While the brooding figure sat waiting in his stone fortress. Enoch continued to move through the ever-thickening crowd. He could think of nothing that would give him greater pleasure than to cause said vampire unendurable pain. His sharp eyes scanned the crowd of people around her. would find her. with a feeling of triumph. as he made his way through the throngs of people. waiting near the exit. “Julian!” he thought in disgust. to do with as he pleased. as he noticed the many female eyes following his every move.

” he whispered as he watched the pulse in her neck beat rhythmically.” the boy screamed in fury as Enoch turned to face him.D. “Hey. “I leave you for one second. his eyes blazing red as the hunger rose within him. “You little bitch!” he said. leaving moist tendons clinging to the skull. The girl. Enoch thought as he took her hand. squeezed so tightly he could hear the bones crunching even as he screamed in pain. where. eyes like liquid fire filled the sunken sockets. began to transform before her very eyes. tinged with blood—her blood—dripped from a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth. her eyes traveled upward to stare into the face of the stranger before her. the boy found it suddenly caught in a grip of iron. saliva. Raising a hand to strike the girl. gazed questioningly at the boy standing beside her. The terrified couple found themselves unable to move. She watched in horror as the perfect face. as they stood staring at—a monster! Before the horrified girl could react to the 20 .J. leaning forward. He walked directly up to the woman in question. as she gazed up at him with adoring eyes. he pulled her close in a smothering embrace. “I will show you pleasures you can only dream about. leaving the noise of the nightclub behind for the quiet seclusion of the wooded park across the street. “What the fuck!” the boy shouted as the girl let out a piercing scream. Yes. Then. Anger burned in the young man’s eyes as he reached the couple. as she turned slowly. Marteeny carnal pleasures awaiting him. and you’re off whoring around with this son of a bitch … yeah. he could use a break … take some time for a little “snack” before he continued the search. so long as he ultimately accomplished the task he was sent to do. bending his head to trace a trail of quick. frozen to the spot. leading her deep into the shadows cast by an enormous elm tree. black eyes capturing brown … sending a silent message … mesmerizing. shaking her roughly as he pulled her away from the other man. sharp bites down the petalsoft skin. Skin bubbled and cracked. once so beautiful it was almost feminine. the pretty brunette was following him out the exit and across the parking lot. Leaning back against the cold bark. His large hand slowly tilted her head to one side. smoothing the dark locks away from her silken neck. I’m talking about you. as something out of a nightmare began to emerge. Surely his father would not begrudge him that. Within seconds. shaking her head as if waking from a dream. Like leading a lamb to the slaughter. motherfucker! What the hell do you think you’re doing with my girl!” screamed the half-crazed figure charging toward them from the parking lot they had just crossed. It was only an instant of pain before she was lost to the pleasure as he drank deeply. The skin literally melted away. he grabbed the girl by the arm.

As it turned slowly. silencing the girl’s terrified screams. the monster dropped another lifeless body to the ground.” Well. “When you find her. sadly. for he was convinced he was right.” 21 . The dark figure rocked and moaned.” the drooling monster spat out. After all. The tiny figure gradually fell limp in the arms wrapped tightly around it. consumed by the hunger. and panic seized him. these two would not be telling stories to anyone! He had seen to that. Turning to the hysterical figure in its other hand. Blood flowed freely from the gaping wound before the hideous mouth clamped down on it. it tossed the lifeless form aside as if it weighed nothing at all. If this was not the right woman. which would have been a blessing. “Just as I was about to have a little entertainment before dinner. He would not have gotten anywhere near her. vampire. bring her directly to me!” his father’s words ran through his mind. When it had finished. his father would want no trail leading back to him. He had to bring some news back to his lord and master—or else! “There. you have to go and ruin it. he felt perfectly justified in destroying this little beauty.” With lightning speed. where it lay motionless. and I. in the park … by the big tree!” Shouts coming from the direction of the night club drew the attention of the dark figure. Hatred filled Enoch’s evil heart. as well as the boy. as the sharp teeth sank into the supple flesh. but he was a little concerned. the foul breath nearly causing the hysterical girl to faint. hunger sated. If she was with this boy. No. must leave you. “You’re too late to save them yet again. blood dripping down its chin. with waves of long. How did the saying go? “Dead men tell no tales. as he hissed at the figure who was now only a few feet away.The Vampire’s Lady warning screaming in her mind. it felt a trickle of doubt fill its evil mind. as it drank deeply. Finally. the red eyes focused on a tall man. the broken body slammed into a nearby tree and slid slowly to the ground. “Now I guess I’ll just have to eat and run. she would have been more closely guarded. With a sucking sound. his father would expect him to continue the search. the creature grabbed her with its free hand. decided to go more slowly this time. turning slowly to stare at the boy. The panic began to subside. ripping out a huge chunk. she could not be the one my father has been obsessed with for as long as I can remember. the creature completely drained the body of any remaining blood. yanking them both hard against its chest. the sharp teeth tore into the soft tissue of the boy’s neck. But you can be certain we will meet again. As it stared at the crumpled figure lying motionless at its feet. as he ran with inhuman speed ahead of the approaching crowd. If she were the one. Enoch told himself. blond hair billowing out behind him. the creature. where it looked for all the world like a sleeping child.

lifting the dark form high off the ground and just out of reach of the blond vampire.J. like a top on its pointed spindle. as the leathery membranes beat back and forth. Nothing should have held me back. sorrow etched on his youthful face. could do.” The boy saw the anger and hatred flash again inside eyes of such a pale blue color they appeared almost translucent. I should have that black-hearted soul in my hands as we speak!” “Simon …” “I know. Before the newcomer could react. back and forth. “Sorry. as the onlookers watched in frustration. Lifting himself with a grace unnatural for someone so large. Reaching the spot where the creature had disappeared. I am vampire. “He was too powerful. The black cocoon began to spin faster and faster. The young man came to kneel beside him. the wind began to rise.” he said to the figure kneeling alongside the body of the dead boy. Damn it all to hell!” “There was nothing you. 22 . turning quickly in the direction of a siren’s shrill call shattering the stillness of the night. Swooping inward.D. and I let him escape. this one’s gone. Simon fought back the frustration ready to consume him. Ranting about it doesn’t change a thing. “He was within my grasp. I’ve never seen anything like that. “Adam. “Any chance one of them is still alive. Simon?” “No … the creature was very thorough. turning the head slightly to stare at the two puncture wounds on the side of her bruised and bloodied neck. Simon. as quickly as the whirlwind had begun. “Anything?” he questioned. the dark form at the center of it all was gone completely—with no sign of it ever having been there at all! “Damn it!” The blond vampire’s eyes blazed liquid fire.” said a young man with black hair sticking out in all directions. we have more pressing problems. Then. the wings completely encased the hovering figure. Come on. forcing the oncoming crowd to back away. Simon began shouting orders. or any of us. David.” “Shit!” With sheer force of will. Marteeny Huge black wings burst forth from the creature’s back. The swirling air propelled bits of grass and dirt outward in all directions. When the dust had settled and the wind had quieted. as he fought to control the anger threatening to consume him. “Then take David here and a few other helpers and dispose of—who called the police!” Simon shouted. too. it ended … just like that. the spiked Mohawk tipped with blood-red highlights. I know. the vampire knelt to examine the lifeless body of the young woman lying there.” he said as he stared off into the distance. Simon. although he already knew the answer. The force of the wind was so strong we could barely move!” “You are but a human.

” she said. Two more young people have been attacked. “When the screams started.” he said.” 23 .” she said. as he came to stand alongside the taller vampire. “I will wait in my office for your return when I’ve finished outside. every cell phone in the place lit up. your kind couldn’t convince all of them to be silent. “And the one responsible?” But she already knew the answer by the look on the face of her informant. there’s no time to make things right. “Adam. Someone must have felt it was their civic duty to call the squad.” David said. Simon’s blue eyes bled crimson. see if a little friendly persuasion is needed. “Perhaps I should join them. come with me. still …” The woman sat. trying to explain.” Simon told her. We have to notify Julian immediately. her ebony eyes sweeping over the two vampires standing before her.” Simon’s deep voice broke the silence in the room. “Answer their questions without giving too much information. Adam nodded in understanding. casting David a knowing look. he said. linking her arm through the one Simon extended toward her.” “My thoughts exactly. “I’m on my way to inform Julian now. “The bastard is gone.” Simon agreed.” the boy replied. “Adam will come with me. walking around the desk to join them. the woman rose gracefully. The woman seated behind the ornate wooden desk lifted her head slowly.” Nodding in agreement. “Walk with me.” Simon said with tightly controlled anger. Do the best you can. going their separate ways as they came to the front exit. here near the club. “The police are here—why? “There’s been another incident. only to reappear moments later inside a luxurious office of polished mahogany located near the rear of the club. We shall return as soon as possible.” And. They made their way through the club. “One that is easily taken care of. Blending with the night shadows. now.” Simon told her. I hope. the two figures disappeared from view.” “Got it covered. They are … dead. deep in conversation. Sorry. We have to … leave. That is why I left David to handle the police. locks of red-gold hair falling around her shoulders. “We have a problem. “Great! What good is the power of mind control if you can’t use it? Well. Simon.” Simon said. “That depends on how creative David is when answering the questions put to him by our local law enforcement. Tell me everything. deep in thought. as a black and white screeched to a halt nearby.” “He has been reliable in the past—for a human.The Vampire’s Lady “We had some frightened people inside.

“What are you talking about … and I’ve asked you repeatedly not to call me that. As Julian reached for the cup. unable to hide the irritation in his voice—but as soon as the words were spoken. as he paced restlessly. himself. soon. “Or have you forgotten? It wasn’t my choice to come here. You should have fed while you were out.” Gesturing with his finger.” he pointed to a drop of blood on Julian’s chin. Julian scowled at him. letting Julian know just how much his words had hurt. Marteeny Simon nodded in agreement.” The vampire was purposefully vague about what had happened while he was gone. Downing the precious liquid. I’d much rather be at the beach!” he said angrily. Their destination was an old stone mansion perched atop a distant cliff-side and the vampire who. watching for a brief moment as she walked away. but he needed to feed—really feed. man. “… and the reason for my comment—you usually find time to dress in more than a pair of pants before you become the bird of prey. “You’ve got a spot just there …. She moved with purpose toward the flashing red lights. “I had every intention of doing just that. “And when did you become my keeper?” he asked. has just arrived there. Julian could feel some semblance of control returning. “In a hurry were we. Thomas chose to ignore the scolding. To change my whole life so I could babysit the ‘night breed’ during all those beautiful sunny days.J.D. Something must have lit a fire under your tail feathers. “When you snatched me from my home and everything I’ve ever loved!” Thomas shouted. so no harm would come to you all in your weakened (ha. as you well know. Now was not the time to get into a detailed discussion on the subject of strange premonitions and haunting memories.” Julian glowered at the young man. man. he found Thomas leaning casually against the fireplace. his mind filled with questions since his visit to the cottage. Jules?” a mischievous smile flashing across his handsome face. 24 . Regaining human form. Only Thomas would even dare to think he could get away with such familiarity. It’s not smart to wait too long. while the two vampires took to the night sky. Julian knew he was being unfair to the man who had stood watch over him for these past ten years. another goblet of ruby liquid waiting in his outstretched hand. more for the use of the pet name than for any other reason. ***** Julian burst through the window of his tower room in a flurry of wings. Believe me. if you didn’t even take the time for your second blood cocktail. but I was … interrupted. that’s a laugh!) state. Thomas asked casually.

man. even for a vampire. turning serious. Thomas was. you’re concerned. Thomas’s voice interrupted his thoughts. there was no need to. that’s all. things he didn’t need to be reminded of. You’ve been acting weird ever since you awoke this morning. I … had something to attend to this evening. And there were things Julian himself would just as soon forget.The Vampire’s Lady “I’m sorry. with all of its strangeness. and … you know I respect your privacy.” Taking a closer look at his friend. at least to Julian. Thomas. not wanting his friend to feel unappreciated. It’s not like you. I think. were against sharing too much information with their human helpers. Thomas was still in the dark about a large part of Julian’s past. and human blood kept his kind at their most powerful. you did …” But Thomas realized by Julian’s tone that the vampire was truly sorry for his outburst. “But something’s up. “We’ve been together a long time. for now.” Thomas continued despite the warning look coming from Julian. a special case. Besides. I’m not in the mood to track down my supper right at this moment. Thomas watched his friend with mounting concern.” Julian added. “I’m just concerned. I can tell when something is … not right. You seem agitated—I mean more than usual. In his mind.” “But maybe I can help. Do you need someone sent up to you … since you didn’t have time to hunt? There are three or four of our ‘feeders’ still here. Haven’t I proven that to you by now? Sooner or later you’re going to have to open up and let me into your inner sanctum … 25 . Does it have anything to do with that nightmare you had?” Thomas knew he’d hit the nail on the head by the look that flashed across the vampire’s face. he continued. There never seemed a right time to talk about his life all those centuries ago. Thomas became even more concerned. Jules. Thomas. the mischievous smile returning once again. perhaps that would be best. now. what’s wrong? You know I can be trusted.” Julian responded. I didn’t mean …” “Yes. At least. Christoff and the others. It’s nothing to worry about.” he agreed. no matter how loyal they proved to be. “But that’s okay. What is it.’” he said. I know. “I wish you’d tell me what’s bothering you.” Thomas pointed out. was not a day for weakness. “You know I only ask because …” “I know. But today. unless there was no other recourse. Julian tried only to feed from humans when absolutely necessary. his fellow vampires. not yet. Jules. You’re acting … a little strange. yet feeling hesitant to say any more. “You look a little peaked. But that might have to change. “Believe it or not. and then. I’m used to all sorts of abuse from ‘your kind. Look Thomas. I can tell. Jules … that’s all.” “Yes. “There’s nothing you can do.

“And. Thomas. “What’s a guy to do? And. Thomas explained. “Anyway. changing the subject. They need to … recruit more help.” Julian warned as he pulled clothing from drawers and cupboards in an attempt to finish dressing. When the time is right. “You know. On a lighter note. Ferguson’s salary to … five thousand a month. You seem to handle her better than most. from the blood bank. vampire. besides. had a fresh supply of blood on hand at all times. “Yeah. Marteeny despite what the other bloodsuckers might have to say on the subject. thus assuring that those of Julian’s kind. Thomas did notice the warning flashing in Julian’s eyes and decided it would be in his best interest not to continue trashing the vampire’s right-hand man—uh. from time to time. He’s probably feeding on some poor farmer’s sheep as we speak—unless his smooth-talking has convinced some buxom blonde to join him for a late night snack again. “I’ll leave that in your capable hands. After a moment.” Julian replied quickly as he slipped his arms into a shirt made of the finest blue silk.” the young man replied. The supply is getting low. But now is not that time. I know. he continued. They’ve been doing a lot of work on the place for the past month or so.” Thomas went on.D. Christoff has been around a lot longer than he has.” Thomas replied. it might be wise to increase our Mrs. Ferguson called. deciding he’d better quit while he was ahead. but he refuses to acknowledge my superiority with the fairer sex. “Indeed. he said. “Mrs. choosing to ignore Julian’s raised eyebrow after that last comment.” Thomas replied sarcastically. “I know. who preferred not to hunt. Thomas. but it looks like they’ve finally settled in. Both are real lookers!” 26 . “The two women that bought the cottage—they’re here. did you know we have new neighbors?” Seeing the startled look on Julian’s face. I’m certain that will motivate her to continue turning a blind eye to all of the new help that will be coming her way.” was Julian’s only response.” he finished quickly as the look in Julian’s eyes became more intense. She likes my … smile. speaking of ladies.J. that Eastern European accent and all his macho crap pisses me off !” This time.” Julian’s coven was forced. the Bela Lugosi wannabe rose at dusk and was out the door. to use their special powers of persuasion to convince the human population to donate blood at their favorite blood bank center.” “I know. Has Christoff risen yet?” “Yeah. eyes twinkling. After all. I will fill you in—whether the others like it or not. “Are there any messages for me?” he asked. Thomas. “Let it go. this competition between the two of you for the local ladies has become a bit tiresome.

You know I like to keep things … quiet around here. he had crossed Julian’s path over two centuries ago. as he strode into the room. he decided it was time to leave Julian alone. I need to speak to Christoff. for the vampire appeared to be lost in thought. A warrior of extraordinary abilities. especially the ladies—much to the annoyance of Thomas. Thomas. The shadowy forms touched down lightly on the front porch of the old mansion. as they were moving in—one brunette. “We have a problem. as both Simon and Adam turned to greet the dark form walking through the front door directly behind them. Little did Thomas realize how right he was. he commanded attention from almost everyone he came into contact with. his desire to know more about the newcomers conflicting with the need for secrecy—and the premonition of impending danger.” was the reply. man. had earned Christoff the title Dark Vampire. Julian stared into the fire. “Is Julian awake. and neither had ever mentioned the circumstances of their meeting again. finding no one else about. for no normal foe could ever best this particular vampire. “Only from a distance. he turned to the big man. and a preference for black leather. anxious for any opportunity to talk to a beautiful woman—and getting the jump on Christoff would be an added bonus. Let me know as soon as he returns. but. trying not to show his disappointment. whatever you say. They knocked three times. Simon nodded his head slightly in greeting to the approaching figure.” “And Christoff ?” “I am here. making him unaware of the arrival of two figures directly below him.” Thomas nodded in agreement. Right now. trying not to show how interested he actually was in this bit of information. materializing directly in front of the massive front door. Julian had nursed the injured warrior back to health. “There’s plenty of time for that. one tall redhead. when the vampire had found Christoff left for dead after a brutal attack. Moving toward the door. you can arrange for us to pay them a quick visit. but I believe Thomas is with him now. at the club. among other things. Do you want me to arrange an introduction?” Thomas asked eagerly.” “Sure. Maybe at some point in the future.The Vampire’s Lady “You’ve seen them?” Julian asked. eyes of midnight blue. There’s been another attack. A striking figure. Samuel?” “Yes. Julian’s mind was already back at the cottage and the woman within. Hair as black as night. and the door was immediately opened by a large black man almost as wide as he was tall. But the thought remained in Julian’s mind that whatever had attacked the warrior must have been powerful in itself. Simon merely nodded. whose appearance was in direct contrast to that of the fair vampire. Two 27 .

the public returned to their normal weekend routine.” which only fed the public’s paranoia. she had been nearly drained dry. One particular road. One I would call random. Again. But the strangest thing of all—not a drop of that blood could be found anywhere—not on her. implanting suggestions in their minds as to what should be remembered and what the vampire population wanted forgotten. Julian must be told. watching the midnight blue eyes bleed to blood red. Once the story was leaked. the boys that stumbled upon her had thought she was merely drunk. upon closer examination. slumped over a park bench. when there were no other incidents. while the club added more security. Someone is deliberately trying to draw attention to us. The authorities had then beefed up their patrols. eventually. in the woods across the street. dead. the media had a field day with it. the vampire had to “explain” things to the officers who had been at the scene of the crime.” Simon filled Christoff in on the happenings of the evening. At first. the body had been found in the vicinity of the nightclub. The victim had been a young woman in her early twenties. and. When Simon had finished his tale. The only injuries that could be found on her person were two small puncture wounds near the base of her neck. Later. “Come. the strange circumstances of her death completely baffling the local law enforcement.D. Julian had to step in. although they tried hard. clearing away any evidence that might indicate supernatural means had been employed in the woman’s death. to be exact. and. “Shit! That makes three killings. not around her. aptly called Lovers Lane. thus ensuring no further information would reach the ears of the ever-present press. most assuredly. but this—this is personal. The woman was found sitting alone. But. was a favorite haunt for many of the local couples. I’m afraid. The newspaper headlines were calling it the “vampire killer. Marteeny more young people are dead.J. chalking the incident up to a random act of violence. Where could that much blood have gone to? That was just one of the mysteries the police had to solve. Now it would all begin again. anger consuming the Dark Vampire as he listened to what the other had to say. One moment they were 28 . For obvious reasons. an autopsy showed she had lost a tremendous amount of blood. they’d discovered that she was.” The three figures literally disappeared from view. In fact. Christoff knew Julian would not be happy to hear this latest news. in our own backyard. Thomas and a few others scoured the murder site.” Almost three weeks ago the first murder had occurred. they could not keep the incident under wraps. On a visit to the police station after the incident. Christoff could barely control the fury rising within him.

” Christoff replied. “Call everyone together.” “Good. “Sonya was going to look into that when the police left. He repeated what he had just told Christoff.” Julian said as he began a steady pacing.” “This is no longer just a random incident. “There’s been another attack. “Speak of the devil—and I do mean that literally. That will buy us some time until we can look into things. he ordered. “We left David in charge.” Simon told him. He always made sure he was never without their services.” he said. for he knew his friend well. they waited for a response. “He is very capable—he’s handled touchy situations for us before—and Sonya was there. a smirk on his face as he opened the door to Christoff and the others. “When?” “Just moments ago.” Thomas said. and the next they materialized before a heavy wooden door in the tower high above. Julian. We must find out who is responsible.The Vampire’s Lady standing in the entrance hall. his back to the others.” Christoff pointed out. Christoff. Someone is to patrol the grounds at all times.” Thomas nodded. “We must talk later. talking more to himself than anyone else. “How did you leave things?” Julian asked. armed or otherwise. Julian.” “What’s happened?” Julian asked. They had proved invaluable on a number of occasions. “You’re right. leaving quickly to carry out Julian’s orders. Julian walked to the window. leave a team of “specials” here to watch things while we’re gone. never taking his eyes off Thomas as he walked past him. smashing his fist into the wall before him. Someone is sending us a message. “And 29 . “They have succeeded twice now—but no more!” Turning to Christoff. Thomas. and why! Does anyone know if these latest casualties were connected in any way to the first woman killed?” Julian asked. “Two more innocent victims and more bad publicity the club does not need.” The “specials” were a team of humans handpicked by Julian over the years for their skill in combat. “But right now we have more urgent concerns. Tell them to meet us back at the club. “They’re letting us know they can kill in our territory and there’s nothing we can do to stop it!” he said. and he could tell by the Dark Vampire’s expression that something was wrong—very wrong. patrons of the club yet again. Knocking loudly.” Simon answered. the house and the club are under full guard. This time it was a young woman and her male companion. Irritation was plainly visible on the Dark Vampire’s face as he glared at the smaller man. “From this night forward. about your indulgence of this weaker species!” the vampire spat out.

I know that look well.” Julian moved toward the fire. Christoff and I will go on ahead. but why. with no chance to feed and replenish myself. I’ve never asked … but I’ve long had my suspicions.” Thomas replied as he hurried out the door. We don’t need any more innocent victims. too. things are about to get worse. for only the Dark Vampire would understand the concern he saw there. But I had no silver on me. but one of his foul offspring. tired breath. He floated slowly downward to land on the ground before the front porch. I was weakened already from loss of blood. Christoff. you wait here for the others. much worse. 30 .J. the man-wolf known as Hanokh. I’m not certain. when the giant wolf fell upon me. You are certain it is that spawn from hell?” Taking a deep. “You know. Simon. If someone is targeting us. and soon. He must carry to this day scars of the wounds I inflicted on his miserable carcass. he was the one who attacked me. his anger under tight control as he locked eyes with Christoff. And I can’t let that happen—not again. deciding the window was the fastest exit. Simon. be quick. I thought we had seen the last of him. Marteeny Thomas. I hope I’m wrong. gazing silently into the flames. “Does no one use the door anymore?” he said in disgust. “Not he.” “Sure thing. With only the two of them still there. Julian continued. that it no longer belongs to me. We need to know who that someone is. “It’s just a feeling I have. my friend. “you’d better have someone watch the cottage. Turning to the others. whatever you want to call the evil seed that created that hound from hell! It was his son. What are you thinking?” “It’s him. stopping him for a moment. We’ll meet you back at the club—and. they may not know. for our sake … and the sake of this entire town.” Julian said. just as Thomas came running through the main door. Christoff approached Julian.” Simon nodded and. but my instincts tell me it’s true. “Someone wants our attention and will go to extreme lengths to get it. Was he the one responsible?” Christoff bowed his head for a moment and then turned to face Julian.” Julian stated. Christoff. fruit of his loins. “I need to talk to Sonya. Julian replied. If my suspicions are correct. Dragone.D. I’d been fighting his minions the entire night. He has been silent for so long. Simon stared at him in silence. What more does he want from me?” “You can’t mean Dra—” The name would not pass the Dark Vampire’s lips. “Not he. He’s back. Julian. He did not take me easily. was in the area when I found you injured and near death. He destroyed my dreams centuries ago. or care. He. Make sure everything concerning this latest incident has been handled. Believe me. “We have been together a long time. he disappeared through it. Blood of his blood.

A mixture of desire. There was no time for romance—or for real love. reluctantly stepping away from Christoff. as he heard Julian’s voice. yes. “There was a time. swirling … moving through the window and out into the night air. after all.” Julian replied as he materialized before her eyes. as he matched her stare for stare.” she said. She was to be treasured and worshipped. Christoff grasped it gently. “Christoff. Sonya. back in the elegant office of Julian’s club. regret—and resignation flashed inside the navy eyes as he held the beautiful woman enthralled. Nothing like a good murder to summon the troops. forgive me. thick. The two figures stood before the open window. a heavy mist. In seconds it had completely dissipated. “I was wondering when you would surface. “when I would have made her my own without a moment’s hesitation. and her pleas had fallen on deaf ears. understand the evil that is in Dragone and his kind. my friend.” Julian placed his hand on Christoff ’s arm. One moment they were flesh and blood. desire burning like a bright flame. “This is no time to be flippant. had given this warrior a will of iron. “I had a quiet conversation with the detective in charge.” came a sultry voice. His love was locked away in his heart. He had fought alongside Attila. “Enough. Come. It happened near 31 . the next. leading him away from the mantle. always a pleasure. placing a gentle kiss on the upturned palm. “You’re right. you owe me no explanation. I.” Sonya said with a sigh.’ Were the police a problem?” Julian said. and I was weak—” Christoff stopped for a moment when Julian interrupted. As I’ve said. and this warrior had no room in his life for such a luxury. as no one else. But a woman like Sonya was not to be trifled with. The only good thing about the incident was the timing.” But he was a soldier. They also managed a little crowd control. “Simon informed us of the evening’s ‘entertainment. I’m sorry. He snapped back to the present with a jolt. but it no longer matters now. there had been plenty of women through the centuries who were more than willing to satisfy his lust—for sex as well as blood. while Charleze and a few others ‘talked’ to his men. and we have much to do. only to reappear miles away. “No. I had my suspicions.” But it was not sorrow that now appeared in Sonya’s ebony eyes as they traveled slowly from Julian over to the tall form of Christoff and lingered a moment longer than was necessary on his dark countenance. rising to greet him. hand extended.” he thought. interrupting their tender scene. But years of training. A dalliance. Sonya had tried on a number of occasions to convince him otherwise. and a fierce loyalty to those he followed. its lovely inhabitant seated once again behind the large desk.The Vampire’s Lady no means to kill him. time is precious. A warrior’s path must come first.

He found the car belonging to the boy. but she hadn’t missed the look that had passed between him and Christoff when she asked her question.” Julian said. They won’t remember being here at all. While the rest of us were talking to the police. right on our doorstep. Marteeny closing time. David was very thorough. Julian. ***** Two tall figures arrived simultaneously on the grounds of the crumbling 32 . the police kept those who wandered out into the parking lot well away from the scene. What of the bodies?” “David did some questioning of his own. but I was able to do a little questioning of my own with one of the detectives. “The police may be unaware of the fact. Do you have any idea who is behind these attacks?” “I know as much as you do.” “There’s nothing simple about it. but still. We’ve worked too hard for the life we lead to have it ruined now. They will just remember the call and discovering the bodies across town. We’re going to have to increase security—all the way around. so we had no problem convincing people to leave. so easily manipulated. Each victim seems to have been chosen at random.” Julian said as he led the way onto the main floor of the club. a meeting of a different sort was taking place. “No. “Did you find any connection to the first murder?” “No. this makes three deaths.D. nothing.J. You know these humans.” was his answer. across town. There’s no need to be concerned on that account. But Julian. but for now it looks like a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” “The others have arrived. Sonya. We have to put a stop to it. “Then let’s not keep them waiting. while. we can’t keep doing this. The police will by now have received an anonymous tip to look there.” Christoff informed them as his keen ears detected movement in the outer rooms. so no one really saw very much. Fortunately.” “My fear exactly. Sooner or later we’re going to attract unwanted attention. There’s too much at stake to get careless now.” “There was nothing left to connect the bodies to us?” Julian continued his questioning. The meeting continued for hours. Further investigation may turn up something more. but this was a precisely planned attack—aimed at drawing attention to us. before some young recruit with an eye on a promotion figures that out and we find ourselves the center of a full-scale investigation! The others are meeting us here. he placed the bodies inside the vehicle and drove it to another park some distance away.

Enoch stood tall as he led the way. Hanokh couldn’t help but admire his brother in that moment—but he was sure his admiration wouldn’t last long. as the brothers entered slowly. other than the vampire’s apparent interest. experiencing the one emotion they truly shared with each other: fear! But it was only for a moment. “enter!” Red eyes followed their every move. “We think we may have found her. what news?” came the dreaded question from the dark form before them. daring his younger brother to try to beat him through the wooden door that led into their father’s home. “Do I? You be the judge. brother! Announce your presence. my lord. Hanokh. answered with a challenge of his own. as the younger man took a step backward.” Enoch said as he turned to glide up the stairs. it was now just a shell of its former self. for it was unthinkable that he should be bested by this … animal. Both brothers stopped before a large door at the end of the hall. The two brothers stood staring at each for a moment. “Not that I really care.” Hanokh said as he goaded his brother with the tale of the discoveries he’d made during the evening. “Go on. shoved Enoch forward saying.The Vampire’s Lady stone structure. as the staring match continued. Enoch continued. “You have no real proof that this woman is the one Father is looking for. Enoch. Enoch read first anger and then resignation in the eyes of his brother. recognizing the challenge in those cruel eyes. head bowed in defeat. But. but how did the great beast fare in his search tonight?” “Better than you. For one fleeting moment. as Hanokh. the brothers stood on common ground. “You little—” but his words were drowned out by one word as it reverberated throughout the room.” Enoch replied before his younger brother could speak. Once a magnificent monastery. “Good to know you have some sense. Enoch pounded on the door. but when I 33 . eyes black with hatred. “I searched the club as we had planned. brother!” Enoch said as his tall form floated through the front entrance and then came to a standstill before the grand staircase. Behind it he waited.” With a look of disgust at the man behind him. “Well. since I have found the one we seek!” “You lie!” Enoch screamed. Let us see what Father thinks. whose fear of his father was far greater than that of his brother. Ignoring the angry looks from the smaller man. determined not to allow the figure seated in the stone chair to know it had the power to intimidate him. I would dare to guess.

I proceeded next to the vampire’s home. The vampire led us right to her. “Follow the girl. “Julian seemed most interested in her. Who knew what suffering he would endure if he angered his brother further. bowing before their lord and master. “Yes. If she is truly the one I seek. my lord. Not since … the other one. they slowly backed out of the room.” The creature appeared to be deep in thought. If Julian’s interest in her continues. Marteeny found nothing.” Enoch said. and he knows this.” “What are you talking about? I …” Hanokh stammered in frustration as his brother took the credit for what he had seen. where I saw him leave. not knowing if his reasoning would convince the being before him or cause it to strike out at him. He has not shown such interest in a female in centuries. She must be the one we seek. who had never won a fight against his older brother. I must be certain. it would seem so. and.J. my sons. but thorough. two large wings expanding. As I was following him. as if he were drawn to her. she must be brought to me immediately—before he can test the theory and take what he needs from her.D. 34 . decided it would be wiser not to argue about who had actually done what.” the brothers replied in unison. Be cautious. if he shows a marked preference for her in any way. “It was I—” But when Enoch’s eyes blazed in warning. Still. If she is of the bloodline. A gust of wind from their movement caused the candles around them to flicker and die. as the figure rose in its excitement. “and destroy anyone who tries to stop you!” “Yes. Hanokh. “You found the girl! You are sure she is the one?” The room was suddenly plunged into darkness. you must bring her to me …” he said as he stared at them with eyes burning red fire. Enoch knew a moment’s hesitation as doubt filled him. Hanokh joined me. Fath—I mean. I decided to look elsewhere. he will see that she is well protected. my lord.

with every ounce of ruby-red blood drained from their gym-perfected bodies. as the tip of his shoe caught the end of the thick carpet in front of the desk.Chapter 3 The ringing of the phone broke his concentration as Father Rick Ferrante struggled to straighten the clerical collar underneath his black shirt. The luminous face flashed a bright 6:30 back at him. there’s been another one. Nick. How about that? Oh. he nearly tripped while reaching for the phone.” “Another one—another what?” “Attack. no disrespect intended. you know I have a mass 35 . well. attack! You know. though. It’s me. “Who could possibly be calling at this hour?” he asked no one in particular as he threw on the matching black jacket and ran quickly down the hallway.” “None taken but—you mean to tell me there’s been another murder?” “You got it! Same MO as the victim they found a few weeks ago.” The reporter hesitated. What else would have me up at this godforsaken hour? Oops—sorry. man. “What? Oh.” he thought as he answered the shrilly ringing instrument. the priest’s expected anticipation making his story all the more exciting. In the outer office. there was one difference. “Father Ferrante. Rick. A couple of kids—both definitely dead. I thought you’d be interested. “That’s what I get for jogging in the house. lots of blood. How may I—” “Rick. but. sorry to bother you so early. by the way. hey. just as strange—only this time there were two bodies. Nick.” “Don’t reporters ever sleep?” Rick asked as he glanced at his watch. man. mutilated bodies. I’ve got some news. Just as violent. “And that difference would be? Come on.

I’ll keep an eye on them. tell them to look for me. I would just ignore your pleading. a troubled frown wrinkling an otherwise smooth forehead. and … that’s always a possibility. later. sorry. Gotta go. There’s something strange going on in that place.” “I’ll do what I can. ol’ buddy. buddy. Call it intuition. you know me so well. “Do you really think there’s something going on at Nightlife? I only ask because I have a couple of friends who’ve been anxious to go. I’m telling you.” “Well.D. give me a call. right.” Nick replied. trust me. He came to a 36 . it’s funny. I’ll just have to keep looking and dig a little deeper. You have a mind like a steel trap. And I’ll keep you updated from my end. but. but they’re definitely connected in some way to that club. he asked. and my Spidey sense has been tingling ever since. Catch you later. the bodies last night were found in a car parked all the way across town.” “Well. what can you do about it? You have nothing concrete to go on. As a matter of fact. I think they’re going this weekend.” Rick pointed out.” “I know.” “Okay.” “So our killer’s on the move. and you hear things. I have a vague memory of some sort of commotion happening outside the building around closing time. the first murder was in the woods across from the parking lot of that new club Nightlife. It’s the reporter in me.” After a moment’s hesitation.” Rick stared at the phone as he replaced the receiver.” “I would. Is that so unusual?” Rick asked.” “Normally. but I’m not buying it.” “That’s definitely not like you. Nick. you could be a big help. but that place gives off bad vibes. I can’t put my finger on it. call it a hunch—but I can feel it in my bones. so why can’t I remember what went on at that club?” “It wouldn’t have anything to do with the amount of alcohol you consumed. but if I can help in any way to catch the monster responsible for these attacks … what do you want me to do?” “You know a lot of people. Rick. you know: build to the suspenseful ending and all that stuff. You never forget anything. those bodies may have been found somewhere else. Maybe I should talk them out of it. after that my mind’s a blank. Anyway. “Oh. “But I don’t think that was the case last night. right?” “So I’ve heard. Marteeny to say in a few minutes! What was different this time?” Rick demanded. If you come across anything useful. “Exactly. I’ll have to go back and do some more poking around. the frustration apparent in his voice. I was at Nightlife last night. “No. If your friends decide to go. You know. and I’ll keep you posted. would it?” “Ah.J.

She really needed to learn how to relax. some drinks—no. the warm sunshine brightening the room. forcing herself not to give in to the desire to spend the morning inside her cozy little room. Tall and slender. “Another glorious day. red hair almost to her waist. Kate’s look was a striking contrast to Adrianna’s dark brown hair and petite frame. Most of their friends had already been there and the reports had been good. What was it called? she thought. rising from the pillows. the women had gone their separate ways during their 37 . was going to end in an argument.” she told herself out loud as she climbed from the bed. It was so beautiful here in the country. and she had great friends who cared a lot about her. John had been Addie’s friend for as long as she could remember. in the woods. Had someone really been outside in the dark. After graduation. she decided to get dressed. “That’s what I need: some dinner. Nightlife.The Vampire’s Lady decision. they had grown up across the street from each other as children. Adrianna lay in bed. a comfortable laziness enveloping her as she sank even further into the soft mattress. the object of Rick’s thoughts was awakening to the sound of birds chirping. Then why had she been so jittery these past few days? Her life was going well. The house was all she’d hoped it would be. he had another phone call to make. with long. Kate St. grandparents. The two friends definitely had had no shortage of attention from adolescent boys as they flirted their way through junior and senior high school.” she told herself. much to the dismay of their parents and. but she had been tired … and there was the wine she had drunk. stop being so melodramatic. in Kate’s case. and they finally had a chance to go to that new club that had opened over a month ago. “Just a few more minutes. It was the weekend. “What more could a girl want?” she thought. their tiny forms nestled among the branches of the big fir tree growing right outside her bedroom window. he was sure. She was certain someone had been there.” she told herself. Moving toward the window. so peaceful. she gazed outside.” she thought. Her mind was working overtime. The soft tinkling of china alerted her to the fact that someone was busy in the kitchen. watching her? Or was it just an overactive imagination? It had seemed so real. Umm. no chance to lounge around now if Kate was up already. Both she and Kate had been extremely busy at the boutique this week and were looking forward to some downtime. lots of drinks—yes. and this one. she loved her job. that’s it. ***** Meanwhile. miles away. a little dancing. Busy as it kept her. and. Her sleepy thoughts drifted until she found herself thinking about the previous night. After this morning’s service. Oh well. that’s just what I need. “Oh for God’s sake.

I’ve been a little stressed lately. The poor thing would go stir crazy. especially after the sun goes down. After all. here you go. just for a minute. that’s probably what was staring at me. since it was situated within easy driving distance of New York City. I thought I noticed something odd back by that big oak tree near the end of the property line.D. the workaholics who are never home. Both girls had a knack for fashion and. breakfast ready and waiting. as luck. so. Us. eyeing the spread on the kitchen table. although there were other clothing stores in the area to give them a little healthy competition. “Bagels and coffee okay for breakfast?” Kate asked as she spied Addie walking down the hallway. Kate. The girls were pleased to find they were developing quite a reputation. The bustling town was the perfect location for such a venture. that’s all we need. they worked well together. “It was silly … probably just nerves. How about you? What time did you finally go to bed?” Kate asked as she sipped a cup of steaming coffee.” Addie said with a shiver. “As long as the coffee is black and hot. did you see anything?” asked Kate. “Anyway.” Kate said then a slow smile spread across her face. sliding into an empty chair in the tiny kitchen. Marteeny college years. “How long have you been up?” she asked. but. “Hey.” Addie said. But I slept great. none of them carried the kind of merchandise A Touch of the City offered. I was exhausted after all day at the shop and then moving boxes here later. not sure who she was trying to convince. and I’m sure it’s full of all sorts of things. enjoy the night air. albeit to a much busier town than they’d left. I thought it would help me relax. maybe we should get a dog!” “Oh yeah. I just wanted to sit outside for a while.J.” “Well.” Addie replied. a dog or some other animal. but it turned out to be nothing … just night shadows. it is pretty isolated out here. “Only about an hour. you know. so—even though Addie’s parents had moved west and Kate’s grandmother had passed away—they gave in to the pull of home and decided to return. I had the strangest sensation that I wasn’t alone out there. you know.” “Really. “I wasn’t much later than you. Yes. Anyway. The fashion industry had always interested each of them. to open a boutique together. at least until we get to know the area a little better. would have it. It’s so quiet out here. Addie. so sharing a place to live just seemed like the logical thing to do. 38 . a look of concern on her face “No … not really. We should probably try to be a little more aware of our surroundings. or fate. that’s all. which it did. we are surrounded by woods. but. I really needed an early night. they met up again while both were living in New York City.

Placing the phone to her ear. “Are we still on for dinner tonight before Kate and I hit the club scene. But. and large. thank you. Is Addie up yet?” “Yes. at least. making Kate laugh even harder. he was ruggedly handsome. Addie was content to just be his friend and leave it at that. its Rick. but often he would have to cancel.” she said laughing. he’d returned home. Hold on. He had been transferred out of town his first year as a priest. Rick. “Hi. We haven’t had the TV on or—” “Addie. As she carried dishes to the sink. or are you calling to cancel yet again—and. “Hey. I’m calling to make sure you’re both still coming. she finally decided to pull it out of the rack. he would’ve been a great catch for some lucky girl. He’d been at St. They tried to get together at least once or twice a month. the phone began to ring loudly. as parish business always came first. how are you today?” said the deep voice through the phone line. For a moment I thought you were going to agree with me and that would be just one more thing to clean up after. If it hadn’t been for the priest part. so I don’t think we need Fido yet. Addie gave her friend a look that would have struck terror into the heart of a lesser person. as she remembered the feeling of being spied upon last evening. but. Standing about five feet eleven inches tall. How’s my favorite priest?” Addie had been friends with the pastor of St.” she said. causing actual physical pain. “Good. because I was hoping to talk you out of going to Nightlife— tonight or any other night. the excuse had better be good!” she said jokingly. for a while. handing the phone to Addie as she walked away smiling from ear to ear. with black hair. It’s Rick. 39 . “Actually.” Her chest tightened. Mary’s ever since. even if Kate had other ideas. Mary’s Church ever since their high-school days. as it was. Have you seen the news this morning?” “No. soulful brown eyes that reflected a kindness and compassion few people possessed. I’m fine. Reaching up to answer it. which suited Addie just fine.” Kate pointed out. after the sudden death of his parents in a car accident. there’s been another murder. she’s right here. he was something special.” “Hi Kate. as Kate habitually pointed out to her. Yes. she gave a cheerful “Hello. even going to his ordination years later. if that’s the case. and you?” “Very well. Rick. because she missed not having him around. no.The Vampire’s Lady it was probably just my overactive imagination. I’m not calling to cancel. worn overly long for a priest.

and. “There’s something else you probably should know. He’d stake his reputation on it! He’s going to keep digging and see what else he can come up with. he works for the local paper. but she couldn’t help feeling a little nervous about their plans tonight. The public has yet to be given a description of the murdered women. which is usually dead on. The media is already calling it the ‘vampire killings. “You don’t think that’s a strange coincidence. somehow. dark hair and eyes. this is the main reason. brown eyes. His intuition. it seems. has a personal preference for 40 . that’s awful! Those poor people. Addie. My friend gave me another quick call a few minutes ago. besides the obvious. after talking to him. he’s a reporter. his voice rising in concern. But if it happened across town … why don’t you want us going to the club tonight? Is there some sort of connection?” “A friend of mine thinks so. The young man was brutalized. dark hair. got the information. but he remembers some sort of commotion going on outside around closing time. a little irritated with him for being overly protective. Addie? We could have a serial killer on our hands who.” she pointed out.J. We know how to be careful. He just happened to be at that club last night. to me at least. and they were about five feet three inches tall. is telling him something went down. “What are you getting at—what’s so significant about that? A lot of women around here have long. Addie. but. Marteeny “Addie—are you still there?” he asked. trying to calm his fears.” “Well. Then she softened somewhat as she realized it was his just his way of showing he cared. But a young couple was murdered and their bodies found in a park across town last night about 2:00 am. we’re big girls now. blaming it on nerves. and it has something to do with this latest attack. “Yes … I’m here. I just don’t think that club is the safest place for two women to be right now. The hair on the back of Addie’s neck began to tingle as a feeling of foreboding came over her. Both women were described as having long. She tried to shake it off. which is odd in itself. and both bodies were completely drained of blood. if you know him. He dug up something interesting and. very disturbing. His memory was pretty vague on exactly what happened. but Nick. details are a bit sketchy at this point. and there was no mistaking the concern in his voice.” “Rick. Tell me what happened.D.” Addie said. while his girlfriend had the same two marks on her throat as the first victim.” “Oh my God. Sound like anyone we know?” he asked. that I think you should avoid that club.’ Just what a serial killer loves—an angle for his twisted mind to exploit. That’s probably because our local law enforcement doesn’t want an all-out panic on their hands.

It will be crawling with police and club security. really. I give up. My friend will keep me informed of any new developments. please. the police will be out in full force. that’s the whole point. no. too. it puts anyone that fits that description in danger. His friend seems 41 . I’m not going to hide under a rock because I have the same coloring as two murder victims who were obviously attacked by some nutcase! Has your informant heard anything about the club being closed because of what happened?” “Well. I do appreciate it.” She could just make out the sound of a deep sigh as he replied. Father. Where did it happen this time?” was Kate’s shocked response.” “We’ll be careful. This person isn’t in his right mind—but that’s not going to make any difference to you. think about it!” “Look. but—” “There. thanks for being so concerned. “Um. Even though she really believed that Rick was being overprotective. Rick. Don’t go wandering off alone anywhere. “In some park across town.” “What! Not again. Bye. and. “What was that all about?” asked Kate. since there was another attack. so it’s probably one of the safer places to be tonight. “Please Rick. “We’ll see you later for a nice dinner. do—” “All right. but both of you. There’s no point in wasting my breath on any further discussion.The Vampire’s Lady women with dark hair and eyes. but aren’t you being a bit overdramatic? And. See you later. I appreciate your concern. you’re getting yourself all worked up over nothing. The nightclub is high profile. Rick. actually two this time.” Adrianna looked directly at her friend. we’re still going out tonight. for my sake. to answer your question earlier.” Addie teased. “But a friend of Rick’s was at Nightlife last night and something was going on there. “You know it’s only because I care about you both.” Addie told her. she couldn’t shake the feeling that the nightmare was just beginning.” She replaced the receiver slowly. honey. is it?” he replied. right? Come on. Addie. noticing the look on her friend’s face. you see. “It seemed like an awfully intense conversation.” “Okay. yes. trying to lighten the mood. thinking about the conversation. I promise. Adrianna. but. If that’s the case. be careful tonight—and stay alert. so don’t give me a reason to worry. What killer in his right mind would show up under those circumstances?” Addie asked. and I’ll pass on the information. “There’s been another murder— well.

if I wander far enough. her anger rising.” But. according to Rick. I just might get a few outside shots of the ‘grand mansion’ or possibly even of our mysterious neighbor. Addie turned back to her friend. more alert. after a few days it was like it never happened. long walk.” she said as she washed the last of the breakfast dishes. so they must think the place is safe. What if he’s right and there is some sort of pattern? Maybe. “Nope. and things like this wouldn’t happen so often!” Addie went on. Need anything?” “No thanks. What do you think?” she said. they’ll probably be crawling all over that club this evening. We’re the closest thing he has to family around here. Do they have any leads this time? Everything was so hush-hush with the first murder.D. What do you think?” and both girls burst out laughing. as she began to walk from the room. it’s the same thing this time.” “I gathered that much from your conversation. “Just be careful roaming around alone. Rick doesn’t think it’s a good idea to be going there tonight. I’m going to make a quick run to the grocery store. people would be more cautious. Hell. so he’s being a little overprotective. The scenery is so beautiful around here.” she said with a wink. we shouldn’t go there tonight. I thought I’d take a nice. smiling mischievously. and maybe. It’s amazing what can accumulate during the week. are we?” replied Kate with a smile. call me and I’ll join you. It seems to me our mystery man likes his privacy. and. Marteeny to think the two incidents are connected.J.” Pausing in the hallway. We have a good police force in this town. but maybe he has good reason. It’s my turn to buy. I’ll clean up a little. “I’ve got some things to do in town before I can go anywhere. okay? I don’t want to be the one to tell Rick if anything happens to you. Kate turned to look at Addie. for caution’s sake. since it’s such a beautiful day. though. “but don’t get your hopes up. 42 . “Good idea and good luck. If he’s cute. we’ve waited this long— what’s one more night?” “Kate. do some laundry. we’re not the least bit worried. Maybe if the police would keep the public informed. I might even grab my camera and take some pictures we can frame and hang on the wall. be practical.” she said with a grin. Addie. are we supposed to stop living because some deranged maniac seems to have an issue with women who have dark hair? Come on. “Come on. “Next thing you know he’ll be telling me to dye my hair. no matter what kind of commotion Rick’s reporter friend thought he heard while he was there—right? We just have to use common sense and be extra cautious.” “Well. Addie repeated Rick’s concerns about the description of the murdered women but tried to make light of the situation. “Maybe we should buy some Mace. And.” “You know how he is. They haven’t shut it down. you go on. as I’ve told Rick.

but lately everything seemed to put her nerves on edge. was in fairly good condition. through the woods. as nature intended. so thick they could hide a grown man easily? What if— “Oh. she paused to lean over the side of the stone wall. Slipping a digital camera around her neck. where the scene before her nearly took her breath away as the great stone mansion came into full view.” she thought. She had walked about a mile further. Across the bridge. pink buds ready to burst forth at any moment. A rosebush. An array of wildflowers surrounded the entire house. the woods became a little thicker. as Rick’s conversation.” Addie said. it’s broad daylight! There’s nothing here to be afraid of. After dropping a load of clothes in the washer. and bordered only by a neat wall of small rocks. what was wrong with her? She had never been a scaredy-cat. Reaching the bridge. The road continued into a small clearing. It really was breathtaking. We have to meet him at six o’clock. lined either side of the walkway extending from the porch steps all the way to the road. filling her with sense of wonder at the beauty of nature. “My own little paradise. “so leave if you’re going. combined with the strange sensations of the previous night. Whoever had done the gardening for the previous owner had a unique talent for blending formal gardens with natural beauty. doing what little cleaning there was to be done. She was surprised to see that the tiny stream flowing underneath was teeming with all sorts of fish. we don’t have all day. locking the front door behind her. all the way to the main house situated atop the cliff high above. when the woods ended abruptly. 43 . for heaven’s sake. left to grow untamed. continuing her climb. in a rainbow of colors. came back to haunt her. She took a few shots of the cottage before starting down the road. he might call out the cavalry. God. The narrow roadway wrapped around the side of the small house and continued on the hill behind it. so relax and enjoy the day. and.” Addie went methodically through the house. Dozens of tulips. She ran down the sidewalk and reached the gravel road that stretched out in front of the cottage. It had started to crumble in a few places but.The Vampire’s Lady “Nothing’s going to happen to me. otherwise.” she told herself. she ran to her room and changed into a pair of old jeans and a T-shirt. she went outside. snapping pictures as she went. A feeling of apprehension preyed upon her mind. She started up the small incline and headed toward the old stone bridge that lay near the halfway point of the large hill. climbed a white trellis on either side of the front steps. behind one of the many trees on either side of her. edging closer to the gravel road cutting through it like a gray ribbon. Maybe she shouldn’t be wandering around alone. What if someone was there. if we’re late.

hands on her thighs. Instinct took over. unlike the cottage. rifle in one hand and the other resting on the massive head of the dog. came up behind it. but. the only color surrounding this house came from rosebushes.” he said in a stern voice. was set back under what looked like a small portico. stood like an iron lawn ornament—a very large lawn ornament—watching her intently. She found herself locking eyes with the largest dog she had ever seen. she bent forward. she caught movement from the corner of her eye. overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. she turned around to face her would-be attacker. as 44 . black shadow bounded toward her. Marteeny The house was Gothic in style.D. Coming to a stop herself. she straightened and. Will I make it in time? she thought in a panic. made of solid stone. When she stopped for a moment. She snapped picture after picture. she let her breath out slowly. as she continued to snap pictures at a furious pace. with as much trepidation as curiosity. miss. in one color only—blood red. heel!” came the sharp command and the running behind her ceased abruptly. After a few minutes. deep in shadows cast by the large oak tree bordering the house. nerves causing her heart to beat almost as fast as it had while she was running. its deep growl filling her ears. closing the gap inch by each. as a large. “Stay!” the man commanded the animal as he approached the spot where Addie stood waiting. as a tall man. probably from one of the trees surrounding the property. Her eyes could just make out what looked like a figure standing there—watching—her! Maybe this is the mysterious owner was the only thought going through her mind. A large door made of solid oak. Is someone there? she thought to herself. big and black. but she’d try like hell! She imagined she could actually feel the ground shake as the creature came charging after her.J. It was partially hidden. until she heard another sound. Realizing she had stopped breathing for a moment. A lush lawn of emerald green flowed right up against the building itself. with a massive turret on each of the four corners of the dwelling. She wasn’t sure. her eyes traveled the length of the nearest tower. built like a professional wrestler. She knew now why she put up with the pain of daily jogging! She turned instantly and ran headlong in the general direction of the gravel road that led to the safety of her own home. The animal. Occupied as she was. as she tried to catch her breath. Its head had to be higher than her waist as it stood staring for one minute and then fell back on its haunches the next. “Brutus. as she quickly lifted the camera and snapped the picture. “You’re trespassing on private property. There were hundreds of them. she failed to notice the dark blur advancing toward her from the corner of the house until. until they came to rest on the window near the very top.

This time his voice was not quite as stern.” “Well. but they will protect the family they’re responsible for at all costs. no … listen. We’ve been having some trouble with …” he hesitated a moment.” he said. I meant no harm … and I didn’t mean to intrude. though. Normally. I really didn’t mean to intrude. “I was out for a walk and thought I’d take some pictures. his size was not the most disturbing thing about him. with bulging muscles and a shaved head. giving her a strange look. eyeing her up and down. It was the guns he carried—three of them to be exact. Brutus here has been trained for security and he does what he’s told. There was silence for a long moment while the man seemed to be assessing the situation. given the right circumstances. This only added to her discomfort. bringing her back to the situation at hand. I have to apologize for frightening you—Brutus and I both. She noticed that along with the rifle. she continued her explanation. giving him a taste of his own medicine. “Did you need help with something. he was an extremely large man. he carried two pistols sheathed in shoulder holsters. that she had no right be there. It’s just … it was such a nice day … I live in the cottage. As a matter of fact. I really am sorry. one under each arm. As she had noticed before. Look. He is huge. needlessly.The Vampire’s Lady if scolding a small child. pistol in hand. “Did you say you were from the cottage?” he asked. These animals were originally valued as fierce guard dogs as well as strong fighters.” she replied with a smile as she looked at the dog. The house and grounds are so beautiful. he sounded almost friendly. or have you just lost your way?” he asked. then. I’ ll bet he was a marine at some point in his life. I’ll just go back now … it won’t happen again. Taking a deep breath to calm herself. he’s not a vicious dog. “poachers on the property and the surrounding land lately. Why do they need such tight security for a manor house? she wondered. “That’s all right. I did. letting her know. turning slightly to point. “Yes. “No. in the direction of her home. in no uncertain terms. I’m sorry. nodding toward the dog who was now half asleep in the cool grass. so. stop to watch their conversation. This breed can also be very loving and gentle. before he continued on. Intimidating as he was. she thought to herself. I’ve seen him take down a man twice my size in a matter of seconds. What kind of dog is he?” “Mastiff —but don’t let his lazy demeanor fool you. The whole thing was beginning to anger her as she stared intently back at him. anyway.” she stammered. but then he signaled to his companion that all was well. the 45 . “I think he’s lost interest in me now. The owner has taken to patrolling the area.” she told him as she saw another man along the far side of the house. No indeed.

“Miss!” the man called after her. Well. “Thank you. Marteeny next time you decide to visit. she was very good with dogs. I’ll let you get back to work. “Just so you know.” he said as he turned to the dog. that’s a relief.” she said.” She turned to go but then remembered something.” At his soft laugh she realized something.” she said. A dog biscuit and a pat on the head. and he’s yours to command. “This guy’s just a big teddy bear—unless he’s pissed off !” “All our men are in uniform.” A large grin spread across the stern-looking face which made her realize in amazement. too. and. “Oh. say hello to the pretty lady.” he informed her. and she’ll give you a treat. “Brian. so don’t be alarmed if you notice us during our rounds. just between you and me. “Well. a little concerned at this new development. And.” she told him. Normally. she did as he told her. but she let him grab her hand and lead her toward the dog. I didn’t even ask you your name.” he said. miss. it was nice meeting you. Was someone in the woods behind the house last night?” 46 . I guess that was a tactful dismissal if I’ve ever heard one. I don’t know.” “How will I know it’s your men and not some poacher?” she asked. since the properties are so close. “he’s a sucker for a pretty face. much to the dog’s pleasure. as he sniffed the biscuit and took it gently from her hand. Come back for a sec. the dog stopped growling immediately. shoving a biscuit into her hand. okay. and. Brutus. To her great surprise. even under these rather odd circumstances. she thought. Brian. Nevertheless. when everything was said and done. and. again.J.D. “Now. a little hesitantly. He’s master of this domain. he is pretty alarming. “I’m sorry.” “And I’m Adrianna. the beast was licking her hand. But how do I ask permission if I don’t know how to reach the owner? she muttered under her breath as she turned and headed back to the cottage. you said you’d be patrolling near the cottage. “I kind of like having two hands. you may want to ask permission first. I will. at your service. I apologize for intruding.” he instructed her. He really was a magnificent animal. reaching out toward her. “Just say ‘heel’ and give him this. miss?” Well. although a deep growl escaped him at her approach. smiling at her companion. indicating the khaki pants and shirt with a large brown bar on each shoulder.” he said. and I’ll show you. since I’ve obviously taken up too much of your time. “And there’s only one Brutus.” “Brian. but this one was so large it was hard to control her nervousness. the owner has asked us to patrol all the way to the cottage. “And will they all have dogs? You know. She stroked the large head.

I would have said something about it to her.” he called. “Bye. I’ll go and reassure the ol’ bloodsucker.” “Christoff said she was taking pictures. I didn’t see the harm in a few snapshots. but. she’s from the cottage. Does Christoff think there’s a problem?” Thomas turned to look at the tower window. “Here name is Adrianna. she ran the rest of the way to the cottage.” Thomas said as he slapped Brian on the back. another figure approached the guard. “Come on. no. He’s … concerned.” she said as she started the walk back. It was nearly one o’clock in the afternoon! “Boy. let’s hear all about your great adventure. I’ll just be going now. next time. I actually had a very interesting morning. Kate entered the kitchen. confiscate the camera.” Thomas said. so she headed upstairs for a long soak in a hot tub while she tried to make sense of the morning—or was it afternoon? Surprised. miss. standing back in the shadows. he said. bursting through the front door out of breath and exhausted. time really does fly when you’re having fun. She wondered why Addie was 47 . so I’m sure our lovely lady won’t have captured much of an image. “Anyway. Addie replied. she realized she’d lost all track of time during her odd adventure. it was just a feeling—probably just my imagination. that particular window is so shrouded in darkness from the trees. Peeking inside the bags. Adrianna. And. “Who was that?” Thomas asked as he stared after Adrianna. if you want to be specific. Kate had not yet returned.” she thought as she grabbed a change of clothes and headed for the bathroom. You know how dramatic he can get sometimes. Why. for your information. “No. I was over there by the sink. we just received our orders this morning. now. as she was having a second cup of coffee. Bye. please let us know. “Isn’t this the very same spot I left you in this morning?” Kate questioned as she set the groceries on the kitchen table. As she turned to look at him. After she had left. but he was there—and she saw him. to be sure. her arms full of packages. for safety’s sake. did you see someone?” “No. it isn’t. When Addie reached the cottage. she was taking some of the house. which is the only reason our favorite vampire can be standing there at all at this time of day. after finding out who she was. An hour later. “Yes. as he watched Thomas walk away.The Vampire’s Lady He gave her a strange look.” Brian nodded.” Kate said as she started shoving cans into the cupboards.” she urged Addie on.” “Really? Well you can fill me in while I put these away. Bye. Enjoy the rest of your day. “No. And. Anyway.” Turning. now. “He was in the window.” “I will. “If you do notice anyone or anything strange. but.

“Well. maybe. We have to call first and let them know we’re coming. Are these trespassers really that dangerous? And they’re patrolling near our property. “Yes. at least. Sounds like a smart man to me. I can’t answer your first question. is all that firepower really necessary for a few poachers? What I saw was a small arsenal. right?” she asked hopefully. The owner doesn’t trust the police to keep his family safe. too. enjoying herself immensely as she watched Kate’s eyes grow to twice their normal size.” Kate said.” “Are you serious?” said Kate. but … I don’t know. “Wow! Everything happens when I’m not around. are any of them good-looking and male?” Addie had to laugh. more importantly. at least—or the name of the person we need notify. Addie. But he did say we could visit.’” And Addie proceeded to fill her in on the visit with Brian. Kate. of course. “Extremely” “Well don’t stop there. so he’s taking matters into his own hands. as I was a little too preoccupied to give him the third degree. On a more serious note. I think you made great progress. but the answer to the second is a definite ‘yes. “Think about it. “Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?” Addie pointed out.D. Marteeny sitting there with a silly grin on her face. one of them. only there’s a catch. enjoying the confused look on Kate’s face. Now.” Kate laughingly told her.” Kate said. I can’t believe I didn’t think to ask him for that. for one thing. When you think back over everything I’ve told you. when we don’t have a phone number to call. She had her answer in the next few seconds. “It seems we may have a small army living up there. At least now we have a contact in the ‘great house. “I met our neighbor—well.J. Addie questioned her friend.’ It’s a start. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with that. “Well. contact has been made. you tell me how we’re supposed to do that. and. “Well. feeling sure she’d found the answer to the mystery. Kate. “Yes. Brutus. doesn’t it all seem a bit … odd?” “Odd how?” “Well.” she said as she gave more thought to the entire conversation with Brian. How many people are we talking about and. “What other reason could there be for armed guards at an old manor house? There hasn’t been anything dangerous happening out here we should be concerned abou—oh my God—the murders! That has to be it. for her friend did have a one-track mind—and it was focused largely on the opposite sex.” Addie told her. flopping into a nearby chair.” Addie said in frustration. It may be a little over 48 .

What if it was one of these so-called poachers. She was really excited to show Kate the shots she had taken of the mansion. but the police haven’t had much luck finding the ones responsible for these attacks.” “I’m one step ahead of you. How’s that sound?” laughed Addie while she poured the steaming liquid into a cup.The Vampire’s Lady the top. “But even if that were the case. “Kate. We just have to be a little more alert ourselves and take some extra precautions. “The plan is a simple one. Kate. our neighbor seems to be taking care of it and including us in his plans. she connected the camera to the computer and waited. and then we go dancing to work it off. Now. but I took one shot—there it is—that I’m anxious to see. That should do for starters. and we’re going to relax and have some fun. Forget about poachers. but Kate’s theory had put another idea into her head. Whatever the problem is. or whatever it is they’re really looking for? What if it is someone dangerous and they were near our house?” “I didn’t think of that. especially outside.” Kate replied. I’m just going to download my pictures to the computer while you’re doing your thing. and anything else unpleasant. Addie let’s not jump to any more ridiculous conclusions. She scooped up the camera from the table and headed into the living room. who are we to complain?” Addie really wasn’t sure what to think. Oh. that’s odd. and he’s as wealthy as we think he is. you’ve already told—what was his name. If our elusive neighbor does have a family to worry about. “Did you capture anything interesting?” Kate asked as she mounted the stairs. “Actually.” Addie said. and. pounding a fist on the table. We’ve been working hard for weeks. and we’ll leave on some extra lights in the evening. he might feel safer with his own security. She bent over 49 . I’ve already come up with enough for one afternoon. That’s an order! So what’s the plan for this evening?” Kate said. No more leaving doors and windows unlocked. I did. so the bathroom’s all yours. Sitting down at a small desk. and then we can leave. and let’s talk about tonight. The place is beautiful. remember when I told you I thought someone was watching me last night?” she asked. Hmmm. We meet Rick for much-needed sustenance. if he protects us in the process. continuing as the other girl nodded. vampire killers. come on now. give me another cup of coffee. but after a second she laughed. We have just enough time to get ourselves up to club standard. so I’m sure they’ll be keeping watch. “I asked Brain if they were patrolling last night.” “What’s odd?” Kate asked. “Sounds good to me. retreating back down the steps. I’ve already had my bath. Brian? You’ve already told him about the incident. well. He said they’d only received their orders this morning.

D. Both girls decided it would be a great idea to wear something from their own shop. I saw him plain as day. she tried to get back the feeling of excitement a night out usually gave her.” Addie said. wrong choice of words. maybe! “Oh. The reason I took that shot was because there was someone standing there watching me. but right in her own backyard! “Both of the murdered women had long. I know I didn’t imagine it. “That’s so strange.” she told herself as she dressed in a black-and-white floral skirt with a matching black lace camisole. Marteeny Addie’s shoulder to stare at the computer. something both girls had been neglecting since they’d bought the cottage. starting tonight. I thought it might be our mysterious neighbor.” Rick’s words echoed in her mind as she stared at the image looking back from the mirror. “Can you zoom in a little?” Addie did. I know someone was there. She checked her image once again in the mirror and was satisfied with the reflection staring back at her. but that was going to change. brown hair and eyes. “Life shouldn’t be all work and no play. patting her on the shoulder. Odd. She could make out nothing in the window but a dark shadow. what am I looking at?” “That’s a window in the front tower. shaking her head. “Just give me a few hours to prepare. Strange things were happening.” she said. She loved spending time with her friends. a tall man with dark hair. She was going to have a great time tonight if it killed her! “Oops. Later that evening. Kate leaned in closer. Maybe this particular maniac did have some twisted obsession with dark-haired women. for heaven’s sake.” she said out loud as she stepped into the hallway in search of Kate. but look—there’s no one there.” Kate said. She began to wonder if it really was a good idea to go to the club tonight. It tends to make you cranky. “I guess I really do need to get out and unwind a little. confused. not only in town. That place is something!” “See this shot here?” Addie pointed to the picture of the tower window” “Yeah. 50 .” “We both do. Kate. Maybe. pushing away from the vanity to retrieve the outfit lying on the bed. “Nothing like a little free advertising. as she was dressing for their night out. maybe. maybe you’re just being silly!” she told herself.J. but still there was no one in the picture.” she smiled to herself. Addie sat before the mirror of the newly restored vanity wondering if she was taking things seriously enough. Yes. “What am I looking at? Wow! You weren’t kidding. and maybe she should wear her hair up tonight. her good mood was returning. Maybe they hadn’t beefed up police patrols. Maybe he would be back to try again.” And she flew up the stairs. Taking a deep breath.

his powerful eyesight allowed him to easily keep the two women in sight.” she replied. And I’ll return the complement: that color really suits you. “Umm. The other would fall before him.” Kate said. “My thoughts exactly when I bought the outfit. a fitting reward for doing his lord and master’s bidding. the next he was off like a shot. like the zoom lens of an expensive camera. One moment Enoch appeared almost lifeless. admiring the way the burnt-orange peasant top and matching wide-legged pants complemented her friend’s flowing red locks. are we? Wow. 51 . One victim would finally be delivered into the hands—or should he say claws—of his father. Hidden eyes watched their every move with great interest. They made sure they locked the front door behind them. and a lone figure sat still … silent. but if we don’t stop bringing them home. the two women failed to notice the vehicle parked along a dirt path leading into the woods a few yards away from the cottage. He’d follow his prey all night long if need be. He could play this game of cat and mouse for a little while. but. “We really did get lucky on that last buying trip. that outfit looks even better on you than it did on the rack.” Kate declared. He’d decided to try the human way tonight. Addie. thanks. as the car sped after its quarry. as they left to meet Rick for dinner. We made some great purchases. I guess. Although the first car was miles ahead. as his vehicle roared to life. the shop will never make a profit!” Addie laughingly agreed. in the end. He loved the feel of so much power under his control. Driving down the gravel road. the outcome would be the same.The Vampire’s Lady “Talking to ourselves.

as usual. “Thank you. He kissed each of them on the cheek and held each woman’s chair until she was seated. thought Kate. the restaurant. this is my 52 . “Behave. coffee shops. The Chateau was one of those restaurants. was a favorite with the local patrons. but several years ago the beautiful Victorian mansion had been purchased by a wealthy businessman. what an interesting-looking young man. “Hmmm.Chapter 4 Winwood was a quaint New England town approximately a hundred and fifty miles from the great city of New York. “Again. Fulfilling his retirement dream.” Kate announced.” Kate observed with a twinkle in her eye. lovely antiques. offering a welcome alternative to the noise and chaos of the larger city with its quaint antique shops. boutiques and. “Adrianna.” they replied in unison. of course.” Rick replied. Kate. He turned to the two women as he rose to greet them. The long lines waiting to be seated on most weekends were proof of that. “You both look very nice tonight. turning it into one of the most exclusive dinner establishments in the area. Though small in size. Rick had made reservations well in advance. it was full of activity. In its prime. he waved to them from a table in the far corner of the room. Nice to know chivalry isn’t dead. Addie just shook her head. smiling. and its world-famous chef. it had been the home of a silent screen star. with its beautiful decor. smiling. Luckily. Staying true to the period.” he complimented. as usual. he’d had the place completely remodeled. restaurants with award-winning cuisine.” Rick said to his companion. Kate—and don’t embarrass Rick!” “Who me?” she replied with an innocent look. and as the girls entered the restaurant. they noticed he was not alone. As they approached. “Here they are. “I’m starving.

A friend of mine called this afternoon.” said Kate when her turn came to shake his hand.” she said. The cops have very few leads.” “Rick said you have this idea that something happened at Nightlife last night that may be connected to the latest attack. He wanted my opinion about giving them some information he had—or thought he had. “Actually. He looked to be in his early thirties. He said he’d stopped by the club about one o’clock to pick up a friend. easy grin as he shook their outstretched hands. The next thing he knew. Were you able to follow up on that at all?” Addie asked. “Likewise. “Not much. looking meaningfully at Addie. Nick flashed them both a quick. the police are afraid vigilantes will take matters into their own hands because they feel the authorities aren’t moving quickly enough. Look at it from their point of view: it wouldn’t do to let the public know they’re stumped. Addie couldn’t wait any longer to ask the question she’d been dying to ask since her phone conversation with Rick that morning. Looking around to make sure no one was within hearing distance. They seemed in an awful hurry to get to the park 53 . He was in a state. were you able to find out anything more about last night’s attack?” The two men exchanged a look before Nick replied. I haven’t even had a chance to fill you in on this latest bit of news. as he introduced a very studious-looking young man. I do pick up bits and pieces here and there from my own sources. Nick. the reporter I was telling you about …” he said. They were just leaving the parking lot when he heard someone scream. He works for the Daily Gazette. I did luck out a bit on that subject. and trying to get any information from the powers that be is like pulling teeth. and Adrianna decided she liked him immediately. given the strangeness of the few things we do know. I’m afraid. “So.The Vampire’s Lady friend Nick Anderson. but everything had gone very quiet. because he said the police were on the wrong track concerning last night’s murder. “… from the club last night. Rick. and they tell me that the police have never had an MO quite like this one before. Everyone else automatically did the same.” he continued. Nick. “The pleasure’s all mine. It’s a very strange case. giving him a ready smile. We’d surely have chaos on our hands if a witch hunts gets started. so they wouldn’t miss a word of what he had to say.” he told them. who came to take their drink orders. When she left. so they’re keeping things on the ‘down low’ until they have something more concrete to go on. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Rick motioned to the waitress. He stopped to listen. Nick leaned in closer. with sun-bleached blond hair and enormous green eyes that looked startled every time someone spoke to him. a large group of people came out of the club. and.

they seemed agitated. They talked for only a few seconds. right?” Kate stated. we certainly can’t have that.D.” “You’re kidding. Just like that. Marteeny across the street. Kate. indicating the subject was closed. or the strange little cyclone appearing out of nowhere. let him finish. Now. this is where it gets interesting—and a little strange. “As I was saying. but Addie and I agreed we’re not going to live in a plastic bubble just because some nutcase is on the loose. Rick. so let’s order before I fade to a mere shadow of my former self. “Well. “Now do you two understand why I’m not comfortable with you both going to that place tonight?” Both girls were staring at Nick as if mesmerized. he couldn’t shake the feeling that there was some connection to the incident at the club. Anyway. enough of this talk.J. Then poof!—the figure just disappeared right before my friend’s eyes.” Rick said. The group from the club seemed to be talking to this dark figure hidden in the shadows.” she said. this is where it gets interesting. but my friend insisted that’s what he saw.” “What—but that’s impossible. on the edge of her seat with anticipation to hear what else Nick had to say. everyone just—left. Now. when he heard about the murder across town. snapping out of it. Nick’s friend isn’t even sure that what he saw at the club last night had anything to do with the murders—the murders that we’ve been told happened in a totally different part of town. As if nothing at all had happened.” Addie scolded. decided to change the subject before an enjoyable evening turned melancholy—and before Rick put a stop to their night out. or men disappearing right before their very eyes— nothing! It freaked my buddy out! Call it instinct.” “Smart move. “This whole thing is mind—” “Shhh.” stated Addie. “No one just disappears into thin air. No one questioned the screams they’d heard. and. by then a large crowd of patrons from the club had gathered around to see what was happening. We appreciate your concern. This morning.” “Exactly what I said. Here are our drinks. we do understand. until Kate. I’m beginning to lose my appetite. because I need food. the next thing he knew. intuition. whatever you want.” Rick replied. When a few men from the first group—my buddy assumed they were club security—noticed the gathering crowd. trying to hide his frustration 54 . “Yes. before anyone realized what he had seen. Now. which is not a good thing. I told him to talk to the police and let them decide what to do with the information. when all of a sudden there was this small … whirlwind is the only word he could think of to describe it. A few of them approached the onlookers. all he could make out was a dark figure off in the distance. but something told him to leave—and fast. I hope he took my advice. When he looked in the direction of a group of trees that seemed to be their destination.

“There’s a nutcase out there preying on women.” she said.” He was unable to control the frustration he felt about her nonchalant attitude. so I’d like to check on her and make sure there are no problems.” he said. Rick insisted on walking them to their car. not just yet. “Now. “I’m sorry. giving him another hug before climbing into the waiting car. We’ll stay together. really. remember …” “We know. so all I’ll ask is that you promise me you’ll both be careful tonight. we know. fine. “Well. It’s her first time closing alone. “I’ll give you a blow-by-blow account of our fun-filled evening. and we’ll keep our wits about us. he tried to repeat his warning.” 55 . a little upset at her lack of concern. “We promise. Seeing the look on her friend’s face.” “I know. Nick’s strange sense of humor had them all laughing so hard they could hardly eat their meal.” Nick felt he had to add. I’ve already said my piece on the subject. “Please try not to worry. Now.” she said. Addie immediately regretted her flippant remark. we impede our ability to fight back.” he said. for my sake if not your own. Rick.” Addie said. Anger. so he understood that they really had listened to every word he’d said.” The next two hours seemed to fly by. looking directly at Addie. Please try to take this a little more seriously.” Addie explained. “I was just trying to add a little levity into a stressful situation. “Are you off to the club now?” “No. okay?” “Yes. We do take it seriously. be careful!” the two women said in unison. no wandering off alone.” Nick told them as he looked again at Rick. it’s still a little early. “Besides. and Nick has filled you in as best he can. Rick. I won’t let some maniac control my life. laughing. No one is safe until he’s caught. If we let fear control us. After a good-bye hug from them both. I’ll call you tomorrow.” the girls replied. can make you careless. as well as fear. so maybe I’ll see you both there. but keep your cell phone close—and call me if you need anything. I’m going to the club myself tonight. “It’s not a joke. We have a new employee.” “Great! We’ll look for you. When they were finished.The Vampire’s Lady as they each gave their dinner order to the waitress. “Think I’ll do a little more snooping of my own. including Kate. let’s change the subject so we can enjoy dinner.” “He’s right. Addie. reaching over to squeeze his hand. Kim. “Good night. you know. We have to make a quick stop at the boutique first. just be a little more cautious.

Pulling into the parking lot. He watched as they climbed into the car and sighed deeply as they drove away.” Unlocking the front door.” she said.” But as the troubled priest turned to walk to his own car.” Kate said as she hugged him. Rick. A prickling feeling ran down her spine. I’ll let you know. If I find out anything more. since it was after hours. The business was doing well enough that both Kate and Addie had decided Sunday was to be a permanent day off for everyone. The boutique was a five-minute ride from the restaurant. too?” Addie questioned. the girls noticed only one car.” Nick told his friend as he climbed into his own car. “I’ll keep an eye on them from a distance tonight. “Is something wrong?” Kate asked when she noticed Addie shivering slightly. “…but you really do need to lighten up a little.” Addie smiled at Kate. Marteeny “Will do. “Huh? Oh. I’ll talk to you soon. laughing. “And you need to stop encouraging her. The shop was open between the hours of 10:00 am and 9:00 pm on weekdays and closed at 7:00 on Saturdays.” Kate replied. waving. “Thanks.” replied Kate. Maybe Addie was right. Bye for now.” “Yeah. relocking the door behind them. Turning quickly. maybe. remained. I’d hate to incur the wrath of the redhead!” Nick said. It was as if eyes were boring deep into his back. I think Rick just has me a little freaked out.” “I’m sorry. she can be … intimidating.J. they entered the shop. wishing he could rid himself of the nagging fear in the pit of his stomach.” Kate said with a mock salute. “And they think we aren’t careful. he told himself as he slid into his own car. “Maybe it was slow and Kim felt she didn’t need her. as Nick snickered in the background. sometimes. man. Heading back to the rectory. Kim’s. “Kate …” Rick gave her a warning look and then turned on Nick. but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. And that has got to stop. “I thought so. a feeling of unease came over him.” “Try not to worry. in a prime location on the main street of the town. Father. “Safety first. “Yes. It also gave 56 . he surveyed the parking lot and the surrounding street. A strange sensation came over Addie as she turned off the engine. he was so preoccupied that he failed to notice the sleek black Porche that exited the parking lot after him and turned in the same direction as Addie’s car had only moments before.D. He was letting fear rule him. no … nothing. so they won’t think we’re spying on them. Wasn’t Nancy supposed to work tonight.

pleased with their decision to hire her. Addie. Oh. the fear in her own eyes was unmistakable. and.” she thought. twohundred-thirty-pound frame. Nancy knew we were going to have a problem. but this guy … well. “Kim. what was wrong with him? Or was he just creepy looking?” Kate asked. “Hey. Addie thought as the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. “What do you mean. I don’t usually let people bother me. soulless black. who was a little difficult. you know we don’t get very many male customers in this type of shop.” came the reply from a petite young girl with short brown curls and large black eyes. he was almost too handsome.” she told them. as she poked her head out of the back office. you know. He was so perfect it was unnatural. on the whole. of course. but our visitor never returned. to set up new displays. but. “Well. I was just about to lock the safe. he just flashed this evil grin and walked slowly out the door. a few come in looking for something nice for their wife or girlfriend.” she said. he might just stick around a while. let’s just say he sent chills up and down my spine. so it all worked out well.” “Why. “Kim …” “Addie. Kate. “I asked if I could help him. When our ‘friend’ took one look at Ed’s six-foot-two. we did have a rather strange incident about an hour before closing. Oh. Did you have any problems on your first night closing?” Addie asked her. Addie quickly noticed that everything had already been put back in its proper place on display tables or hung neatly on racks. his eyes were solid black. he caught our attention.” she continued. Ed stuck around for a while. “Kim seems to be very efficient. or to fit in a quick buying trip to restock. as she looked at them. so 57 . he was handsome enough—in fact. we get very few. “No. so. Then he said something about just looking. if that’s possible. “There was one customer. strange?” she asked. There’s that prickling sensation again. and she actually shivered at the thought. though. not wanting to frighten the girl if they came upon her suddenly. No pupils. and he stared for a moment. if need be. like midnight with no chance of daylight ever appearing. About an hour ago. but Nancy charmed her into buying three beautiful suits.The Vampire’s Lady them both a day alone in the shop. but since there was someone as good-looking as me to talk to. “None worth mentioning. Addie. and he came right over. “Everything looks great. but the minute I saw those eyes—” she said. That was when he became a little … difficult. a man walked in. I told him we were getting ready to close. so she called Ed from the men’s shop across the street. no whites like everyone else—just deep. are you still here?” Addie shouted. and.

I’ll stop by in the morning and see if we can hire someone to patrol.” Addie said as they left the store. she turned off the car.” Addie thought. Addie started the engine and then drove out of the parking lot. with a steady flow of customers almost all day. waving as a buzzer sounded signaling the car had automatically unlocked. Marteeny we started to close up shop. I was a little nervous after that guy was in here. They were very impressed with the merchandise from that last trip to New York. Climbing out. you don’t think it’s possible … well. you were right. thanks again. Sighing deeply.” Kate said. Waving in return as she climbed into her own vehicle.D. especially at night. locking the door behind them. even if it’s only in the evenings. yes. which had become quite somber. trying to do her part to get everyone back in good spirits.” “Okay. trying to lighten the mood. bright and early. we had a really good day. do you?” Kim asked. muttering something about forgetting her head if it wasn’t 58 . You’re opening again in the morning with Nancy.” “Well.J.” Addie said. “Damn!” as she suddenly remembered a package she’d left back in the shop.” she said. Everyone was silent. “We were very busy in the morning. at least for a little while. Just as Kim was about to turn the key in the ignition. she headed back toward the building.” “I told you that line would sell well. we’ve heard. as they walked across the darkened parking lot to their waiting cars. then. so I told her to leave. “We’ll just wait for you. that our strange visitor could be connected in any way to the murders. there were two. she exclaimed. By the way. that would be great. “Addie. so you don’t have to walk to your car alone.” the girl said. anyway. “Well. did you hear there’s been another murder?” “Actually. Come up with some scheduling plan so no one is ever here alone.” the girl called after them. “I really should see about getting another security light installed—soon. Probably should have had Nancy stay. but Nancy and I had everything pretty much under control by eight thirty. and. There’s an agency not far from the Chateau. at least for a while. She looked tired.” “Thanks. right Kim?” “Yep. We really do have to come up with some sort of extra security. probably not a smart move on my part. Other than that incident. “Anything is possible when you’re dealing with someone as unstable as the one responsible for such horrible acts of violence. We probably should have a meeting with all the employees on Monday. “Talk about perfect timing. I was just about to do the same. I wrote out an order for a few things we’ve sold out of. try not to worry. I’ll come by after I’ve gone to the agency. We need to discuss some safety measures for the shop. but. heading for the nightclub.

” she prayed. she kept going. she retrieved the small package and was turning quickly to dart back toward the door. Of that he was certain. As she walked. almost at a run now. Running inside quickly. as she sensed movement behind her. An evil smile split the handsome face. “Who’s there?” she whispered. not even a cricket chirping as she quickened her pace. She had only a split second to see the huge. It was so quiet—not a car around. 59 . and. she went straight to the service desk near the rear of the store. “Someone help me. Get a grip. He knew he must return to the club and finish the task his father had assigned to him. Knowing the small shop by heart. not waiting to hear the lock click behind her and not noticing that it hadn’t. But first things first. Reaching under the counter. please. not a person in sight. coming from somewhere inside the small shop. the one his father sought. when she thought she heard—no. it’s time I sought my own entertainment. Outside. Eyes watched her every movement. his tall form blending with the shadows of the night. Fear kept her frozen in place—unable to move—unable to run. He’d been watching as the two women drove away from the shop only minutes before. as he listened to the sounds of a woman dying.” Enoch spoke aloud to no one in particular. it couldn’t be—a deep growling sound. please. the scent of blood and fresh meat filling its nostrils. Kim didn’t need to turn on any lights. he would have the one with the flaming hair for himself. after delivering the brunette to his father. “You’re being paranoid!” She laughed nervously as she unlocked the shop door. black form come leaping toward her before she felt the agonizing pain as something sharp tore into her throat. Looking around but seeing nothing out of the ordinary.” No one ever is. She would be there tonight. he would find her there tonight. alerting her that something was wrong—very wrong. girl.” she told herself. Yes. she couldn’t help but notice the silence. a dark figure stood alone. the hair on the back of her neck standing on end. and she went directly to where she’d left her purchase. trapping the scream she never had a chance to utter. “Oh.The Vampire’s Lady screwed on. I’m not ready to die. barely able to speak as she slowly forced her foot forward. “Shit! Come on. A tingling sensation ran down her spine. “Since my brother seems to be well occupied. nearly losing her supper when a baby rabbit scurried across the parking lot directly in front of her. She walked a little faster.

” It was said that the visible partner—if you could call her that. since very few had actually seen her—was Sonya Simone. being ever resourceful. the press did manage to uncover a few bits of information and bombarded the public with television and radio reports daily. a wave of secrecy surrounded the club. in their defense. much to the chagrin of local reporters. which had been favorably compared to a few of the smaller nightclubs in New York City.” The press could be so very descriptive on occasion! Her silent partner was even more secretive. that and the murders. Some things will never change. after extensive remodeling. She was supposedly a woman of exceptional beauty. could “mesmerize with a glance. the premier dance club in the area. and eyes as black as ebony. What they did know was that the two partners had purchased the historic movie house on the main street of town and. So far. The owners themselves were something of a mystery. with golden-red hair flowing halfway down her back. had thrown quite a gala for the grand opening celebration about a month ago. which made reporters work even harder to uncover the slightest bit of information they could dig up on this mystery person. managing to totally elude the press. having been somewhat elusive during the actual construction phase. they were having little success. Addie and Kate found themselves walking up the front steps toward the entrance of Nightlife. It was all the media could talk about lately—well. but. The elegance of 60 . The renovators had tried to stay true to the period of the original structure. it was rumored.Chapter 5 By eleven o’clock that evening. with awe-inspiring results. But. most of the listening public did seem quite interested in any juicy piece of news that was available about their newest local “celebrities. which. but even with all the press attention.

But where one was fair. since the owners would surely want no trouble inside the club. So it wasn’t just her they were watching. I can’t say that I have. “Wow. Both girls tried not to stare at the two ushers holding open the exquisitely designed stained-glass doors. This was the first chance Addie and Kate had found to finally see the place. laughing.” she said. and. she turned slightly to look back toward the entrance. as they made their way into the club. We are going to have a great time. Stopping for a moment. the other was dark. “They’re almost too pretty. she couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable as she walked past them and felt their eyes upon her the whole time. as well as a few celebrities. you don’t agree? Have you ever seen such hunks in your life?” “No.The Vampire’s Lady the Victorian decor attracted the wealthy.” “What. They were at this moment climbing the elegant black marble steps to the main entrance. since work on the cottage had kept them quite busy almost every weekend since the club had opened. so let’s get started!” 61 . intent on forgetting their mundane lives for just a few hours while they drank and danced the night away. as gorgeous as they were. Addie was so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she was a little startled when Kate’s comment finally penetrated the many sounds going on around them to reach her ears: “If even half the men here tonight are as good-looking as those two. causing her to wonder if the club employees had been instructed to look for anyone suspicious since the attacks had begun. It would make sense. from the big city. I knew that’s what you were going to say. “And you’re absolutely right. with black hair cut close to the scalp and long lashes framing deep brown eyes. “Somehow. as Addie laughed at her friend—but she had to agree with Kate’s assessment. with long blond hair and clear blue eyes. as if they were searching for someone or something in particular. leaning in close to whisper in Kate’s ear. The description of Kim’s tormentor from the shop flashed through Addie’s mind. since they were finally here. Beautiful was not a word Addie would normally have used to describe any man. we’re going to have a great time!” Addie couldn’t help but smile despite the uneasy feeling that had come over her.” Addie replied. better late than never. the two girls had every intention of thoroughly enjoying themselves. Both were tall—extremely tall.” Kate mouthed the words. Is it just me they seem to be watching so closely? she wondered. but it was the only one that fit the perfect features these two men possessed. Yet. She looked at the two doormen and noticed them staring intently at everyone that came through the door. Swarms of chattering people pushed through the doorway. The two men were extremely handsome. Oh well.

it was his eyes—for she found herself staring into the most beautiful blue-gray eyes she had ever seen. laughing a little nervously. They were beginning to think this was never going to happen when—“Oh. circling the entire room. were surrounded by booths of various shapes and sizes. no one seemed worried. Even though the doormen were dressed in black tuxedos instead of the red and black. A jolt shot through her entire body. excuse me. Given all that had been happening. no … I don’t think so. scattered throughout the club. I’m sure I would have remembered.” Adrianna thought as she and Kate continued their trek across the room.” Kate said as they moved further into the room. She and Kate carefully maneuvered their way through the crowd. except for the original wrought-iron balcony. his strong hands keeping her from stumbling. as she watched couples gyrating vigorously to a popular song. as she saw men and women. “No. it made sense to be on high alert. Marteeny “Damn straight! Let’s find a few of the beautiful people for ourselves. In fact. six feet four inches. No. they were still employees. It took her a full minute to come to her senses before she could respond. Addie couldn’t help but notice his voice. all in red shirts and black pants. indeed. It was deep and sensual. made from the finest crystal.D. Addie felt herself beginning to relax. for anything out of the ordinary. to be exact. Two long bars. They were watching the throngs of people. causing her to shiver.” she said. giving the large room a luxurious atmosphere. she noticed. with a strange look on his face. “I’m sorry. looking for an empty table or booth where they could sit and order a drink. eyes intently searching. Adrianna studied the smiling faces around her. on either side of a glistening mahogany dance floor. the thought that any of the people drinking and laughing here tonight could be the next victim never seemed to enter anyone’s mind. for he was very tall. hung high above their heads as they weaved through the crowd. What was that? she wondered as he stood staring down at her with those amazing eyes. did I hurt—have we met before?” he asked. newly stripped and painted. It was filled with patrons eating.” Addie apologized. It was hard to believe that this lovely place was at the center of a murder mystery that authorities were at a loss to solve. “Life goes on. as the pressure from the throngs of people surrounding her forced her into the path of a man going in the opposite direction. The second floor was an exact replica of the first. Sparkling chandeliers. drinking. as she lifted her head up—and up. 62 . But his height wasn’t what made her catch her breath. He grabbed her gently. No one seemed concerned. There did seem to be a lot of security about.J. just like the two men at the front door. That must be it. and generally having a good time.

who worked at the coffee shop down the street from the boutique.” said a girl with short blond hair. The smile that appeared on his handsome face almost took her breath away. “You two better sit with us. it will take more than a few murders to stop Joyce in her quest for 63 . and this booth has the best view. She saw him smile again and nod his head slightly. nor sleet. or we would have been here earlier. “I will be the next time. “I should have been more alert.The Vampire’s Lady “I know I would have. nor snow—nor crazy serial killers—can keep us away.” she continued in a sing-song little voice. I’m fine. but I’m making it my goal tonight to find out!” Addie replied with determination.” And he gave her a devastating smile before turning to walk back through the crowd. “That’s my girl. laughing. I’m sorry for being so clumsy. “Yes. “It’s always like this on the weekends. looking over her head. “It wasn’t your fault. And people have a tendency not to be very courteous after a few drinks. they turned to see two friends. Besides. the more the merrier!” “Great—thanks! It’s a good thing you two were here. Joyce and I always come early to get our favorite booth. whose name was Lisa. as he turned and continued walking. “I have no idea. you know.” he stated. “Addie. that less people would want to be out after dark.” Addie said as they slid into the booth next to the other two girls. “I had no idea this place attracted this kind of crowd.” Those blue-gray eyes scanned her face for a moment. “Oh my God—who was that?” Kate said. well. “Are you all right now?” “Yes. before he said.” he said. looking almost as dumbstruck as Addie. Kate!” Hearing their names called.” she heard Kate say. “Neither rain. motioning for them to join their table. returning her gaze. a very pretty girl with long. She knew that Lisa had been here almost every weekend since the club had opened. But that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. sandy brown hair. Three steps up from the main floor took them to a rounded booth on the level closest to the dance floor. or we might have been standing all night. “This place is extremely crowded tonight. “You would think with all that’s been happening lately.” he said. “It’s really packed tonight. and you’ll never find another empty booth. they continued to worm their way through the ever-thickening crowd. Waving. with the attacks and all.” she told him. She turned slightly to glance behind her and saw him standing in the midst of the crowd. because the place fills up quickly. where they had the best view of everything happening around them.” Joyce. Is it always like this?” she asked. said.” Lisa told them.

where is that waitress with my drink? That was all she needed. but it didn’t. as those eyes stared into hers. I must be overtired and overworked. who were also watching Kate with awe. on its way. making Addie wonder if “giant” had been one of the requirements when they had done the hiring for this place. seeking some unknown destination. She was barely able to pull her gaze away.” Lisa informed them. Turning to the bar to see if her drink was. I guess. She waved in greeting as Nick. She continued to watch the crowd. She. She was usually a very reasonable. She had long blond hair. Addie focused her attention on her friends. is hard at work. She also noticed that the girl had what Addie could only explain as an “aura” about her. penetrating. 64 . which seemed to draw the attention of everyone to her—male and female alike. Well. “She doesn’t waste any time. fighting their way through the ever-thickening crowd. indeed. Addie scanned the crowd. which had everyone laughing. she thought to herself.D. their new reporter friend. waving in return and pointing to something partially hidden in the pocket of his jacket. It happened on at least three different occasions and with three different people. She would have thought little of it if it had happened only once. That’s got to be it. dark green. Why am I being so paranoid tonight? What is it about this place that has me spooked? she wondered. I must be losing my mind. a good strong cocktail to chase away the fantasies filling her tired mind. then. noticing Kate was already deep in conversation with a man who had just walked past their booth.” Kate whispered in her ear. when she began to notice something odd. until the girl broke eye contact and walked gracefully away to get their drinks. but it was her eyes that seemed to hold you with a glance. very pale skin. A little confused. and ruby-red lips. as a waitress came to take their drink order. wondering what had just happened. “Always in search of that Pulitzer Prize. was a very tall girl. Marteeny the perfect male. but he was too far away for her to be certain. Pulling her gaze away from her friend. controlled person. or were people stopping to stare—at her—as they moved past the booth. “I see our friend. smiled enthusiastically. Is that a camera? Addie wondered. Nick. also. Deciding she was letting her imagination get the better of her. her gaze fell upon a man seated deep in the shadows near the far corner of the room.” Addie replied.” Addie thought to herself. where she saw a familiar face passing through the sea of people. She smiled at Lisa and Joyce. becoming totally caught up in the whole atmosphere of the place. only a few feet away from her.J. too. Was it just her imagination. Addie blinked a few times to clear her head. and Addie realized she had seen him. Addie felt almost mesmerized by the deep.

and she realized that the man was gone. “Mesmerize. as she answered her friend. but we do have fun. I’m going over to the bar. as she met his penetrating gaze. “The answer to that question would be a resounding yes. Addie failed 65 . Addie will promise not to mesmerize him with her beauty. “Is everything okay?” Kate asked.” Lisa said jokingly. “Well. this group is becoming morose. it just popped into my head. she’s probably jealous because you look so great tonight. She failed to notice how intently the waitress was looking at Addie.” said Addie. We’re here to party. “Everything’s fine. or that her friend seemed to be going out of her way to avoid eye contact with the young woman. His eyes were directly on her—and her alone! He actually leaned forward to get a better look. Addie dragged her eyes away from the stranger and forced herself to smile. He was a handsome enough man. Lisa?” “Huh? I don’t know. what a strange word to use—what made you say that. I noticed.” she shouted as she disappeared into a group of people making their way to the bar near the back of the room. come on. noticing the look on her friend’s face. “Get that jealous waitress back here—never mind.” “Aw. Relaxing shouldn’t be this hard.” Addie replied as she sipped her drink. from her mind. I’ve been working too much lately. “Never met her before in my life.” But her gaze returned once more to the back of the room. downing a large gulp from her mixed drink in an effort to drive thoughts of the waitress. for she. she noticed. then—be right back. so let’s party!” and she downed a shot of whiskey in one gulp. “Do you know her?” Joyce asked. As she immersed herself in conversation with her friends. Anyone else need anything? No? Okay. also. hear.” “And fun is why we’re here. but something about him made her shiver in fear. among other things. for some reason. Wears me out sometimes.” said Kate as she reached for the drink that had just been set before her. she’s like a shotgun blast. she sure was sizing you up. “Is she like that all the time?” Kate asked Joyce. Hey. had noticed the waitress’ preoccupation with Adrianna. but she needn’t be. wondering at her choice of words. I guess I’m just a little tired. We really have to make an effort to get out more. that’s all. “Hear.” “Yeah. Addie turned suddenly toward her friend. There are plenty of good-looking guys to go around. If she seems interested in any one of them.The Vampire’s Lady This time she was positive it was not her imagination.

an evil sneer slashing across his face. but only he knew this particular woman had to be the right female. Julian. Yes. And he was most certainly aware of the panic that had burst forth inside the vampire. and he was determined to find out just what. when. as she had entered the club and nearly collided with his enemy. as well. Again. He remembered the jolt surging through him when his body came in contact with hers.” “Thomas. I was … thinking about something. this time from across the room. he thought. he thought. that’s enough. Julian sat thinking of the woman he had just met. a short time later Julian had noticed him sitting among the shadows watching the girl. there is something you might want to try once in a while. I apologize for my rudeness. when he returned with his captive. Who is she? he wondered. 66 . searching the crowd. across the room someone else was wrapped up in his own thoughts. He hadn’t missed the way the vampire looked at her—or she at him. “What? He’s acting like he’s in the twilight zone or something.” Thomas said. Thomas. show some respect!” the red-haired woman beside him said as if scolding a small child. He couldn’t help but feel the emotion that had sparked between the two as they touched. It was not going to be easy to escape with her—but he did so love a challenge. They were all hoping to find the prize that would elevate them in the eyes of their master. The only problem now was how to get the woman away from her friends without drawing too much attention to himself. “Sorry. and he didn’t even hear me. “Sonya’s right. that was.” said the woman.” Julian said. the woman his father was seeking. glory would be his today. No one had ever affected him like that—not for a very long time! There was something special about this particular woman. Earth to Julian. In the largest of the booths usually reserved for people of prominence. I called him twice. It wasn’t intentional. She has to be the one. While Enoch made his plans. exactly. His attention had been drawn to her immediately. Thomas.” Julian explained. “Now. His father had others in his employ. “Jules—hey. and he. It hadn’t escaped his notice that there was plenty of extra security tonight. rising like a tidal wave.D. “All right. My antics of the previous night must have them all spooked. hovering in the shadows of the nightclub. defending himself. and the danger only made it that much more interesting. for he had witnessed the exchange between—them. human!” Christoff said as he glared at the other man. had found her. Enoch. Marteeny to notice the man from the shadows focusing on her again.J. The Dark Vampire continued to stare menacingly at Thomas. We have more important things to be concerned about than petty squabbles.

since we do not own the land. What is it. Was this person somehow connected to Julian’s enemy from the past? Rumor had it that son of a bitch had somehow procreated.” “Of course.” Thomas said under his breath as he cast a sidelong glance at Christoff. “Julian. Sonya said enough. Let’s hope it’s enough and we have a quiet night for a change. with the size of the parking lot and the park across the street. We have people positioned throughout the club. Julian. the eyes of the stranger shifted suddenly from the woman—to him. Even though her head was turned away from him. but. it seemed to be directed at one woman in particular. her meaning clear. Our positioning in the surrounding woods is limited. that’s the best we can do. They are outside as well. a word. The waitress who had just left the girls’ table approached him. He had seen the anger flare in the midnight eyes of the Dark Vampire. But even more disturbing. he could see her perfectly: every line. Julian knew the other man’s attention was focused on Adrianna. but I noticed while waiting on those women over there …” she began. where they can observe everything that goes on.” Julian said. Cruelty—destruction—an evil so pure it permeated the entire room. he could still sense the tension that filled Adrianna as she sat staring at something—or someone. In a split second he relived the night his humanity had been stripped from him in an instant and changed his life forever. they will patrol and try to keep an eye on as much as possible. brown hair. nodding toward the booth where she had just left Addie and her friends. from the large brown eyes to the flawless skin of a soft cheek framed by waves of long. as flashes of something familiar flooded his mind.” “Then.” Charleze said.The Vampire’s Lady “It’s all right. “… something odd. please. His gaze followed hers. Was this being 67 . and he could just make out the form of a man sitting in the shadows near the back of the room. Even in the darkness.” she told him. and there was no mistaking the evil radiating from it. It may be nothing.” Julian cut in. Charleze?” “I’m not sure. it may not be covered as well as we would like. Even though she was halfway across the room. and there was no mistaking his sinister intent. she has the same coloring as the two murder victims. “If you’ll notice. His eyes followed in the direction Charleze had indicated until he found what he was looking for. for now. The vampire nearly flew from his seat. Christoff ?” “Yes. “Is everyone in place for tonight. I sensed … a presence … or something. indicating Adrianna. As Julian continued to stare. every curve. the dark-haired one. “Thomas. Still. At least someone knows when to admit he’s wrong.

J. “Sonya. Turning to the woman beside him. and … he’s not human. Kate was leaning forward to say something to her. they are being watched. “I can’t be sure. She felt herself finally beginning to relax. there it was—the feeling of menace so strong it sent a shiver down her spine. here in the club tonight. but Addie was still safely surrounded by her friends. Julian said. Christoff. Turning to the man next to him. where she motioned with a beautifully lacquered finger for the two men at the door to follow her outside. Before her friend could get the words out. the next he was not. and why shouldn’t she? The music was great.” “Sure Jules.” the figure taunted—and then he simply disappeared. We may be in for some trouble. nodding toward Adrianna and her friends. He had to be. get some men together and walk the perimeter of the club. Closing her eyes. but targeted—what do you mean?” “There’s someone. come with me. She had known Julian a long time. Unaware of the plans being made around her. Marteeny one of his offspring? Julian’s gaze burned into the man from across the room. Although the stranger was nowhere in sight. When you reach them. For some reason. alert the men outside. I saw only one. you’ll get no argument out of me. she walked toward the main entrance. keep an eye on them until I can get there. or something. and she was surrounded by good friends. the look on your face! Who is it? Who are we looking for?” Sonya asked. I could feel the evil emanating from that foul thing halfway across the room!” And he turned to follow Christoff down the stairs.” he said. 68 . the cocktails even better. Start on the right side and work your way around. when one of her favorite songs came blaring across the dance floor. Yes. If we have unwanted guests in the club. but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. she concentrated. “seem to have been targeted. Julian said. unless … their strange visitor was a vampire also—which was even more disturbing. Sonya did a quick search herself. Julian’s eyes scanned the entire room. One second he was there.D. There was not much that could spook him. nodding slightly as he mouthed the words meant for the vampire’s eyes alone: “Save her if you can. Addie grabbed her hand. but I have my suspicions. Adrianna sat sipping her drink. Julian was sure the evil presence was still somewhere in the vast club.” “Julian. Her eyes flew open and. not at this distance. The women in that booth.” The blue-gray eyes looked again toward the booth. but it’s safe to assume he’s not alone. but something most definitely had him in a state right now. “Thomas. the black eyes taking in every detail. turning quickly. they should be easy enough to find. but the stranger merely sneered back at him.

“Come on. pale hand reaching out to her as she started to move forward. The two women were immediately caught up among the dancers. I think my imagination has gone haywire or something. never breaking eye contact. turning around in the small confines of the booth to search the surrounding area—but the stranger was nowhere to be found. “What the?—” she exclaimed. but. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. unwillingly. toward that outstretched hand. The song’s almost over. “I’m sorry. and. Kate. and the hair on the back of her neck rose in warning.” Kate said. Adrianna was standing up to leave. Maybe it is the murders. you need to get a grip. a grin of pure evil crossing his abnormally handsome face. the attacks. really. as she stood frozen to the spot.” she thought. the man from the shadows. I have the perfect solution. reached their booth. without a trace. The next thing that happened had her doubting her own sanity. His gaze shifted to stare at something behind her. his evil black eyes boring into hers. There’s nothing unusual going on here. when the now-familiar tingling feeling crept along her spine once more. “What is wrong with you tonight? You’ve been acting weird ever since we got here. work. Her will was not her own. come on. and the next he was gone—completely. as quickly as she had become locked in that evil gaze. twisting and turning to maneuver her way out of the booth. Had the women taken 69 . Then. She wanted to run—she wanted to scream—but she could do nothing except move.” Kate told her. along with a few others. You’re just stressed from everything that’s happened lately—you know. We’ll dance until you can’t stand anymore and exercise all that stress out of you. concern showing on her face. she was released from the hold those awful eyes had on her. but instead. hey.” Kate said as she pulled Addie down the steps. just as Thomas.” she said to herself. as fear squeezed the breath from her lungs. “I must really be losing it. “Either that. the pale hand falling to his side. I don’t know. We’re all a little freaked. the move. Addie.The Vampire’s Lady “Let’s dance. She registered the long. noticing that something was amiss as she pulled Addie by the arm and dragged her from the booth. shaking her head in confusion. is that what has you so freaked out?” Kate continued her questions as they moved through the crowd. “Addie. yes. He continued to inch forward. Is it the murders. but there’s something about this place that makes me … uncomfortable. You’re supposed to be enjoying yourself. In the distance she saw him approaching. You haven’t noticed anyone acting strange?” “Only you. you’re a bundle of nerves. One minute he was there.” Kate replied with a slight smile.” “My thoughts exactly. or I’ve had more to drink than I realized.

Now he knew what Julian had meant by pure evil. Matching her movements to that of her partner (he really was very good). golden highlights glistening in the glow from the chandeliers as the heavy locks swung forward onto his shoulders.” Thomas thought as he blended into the crowd of people surrounding the booth Addie and Kate had just vacated. his face was partially hidden from view. Her eyes were drawn to the large bar situated on the left side of the room. they would have noticed the shocked look on the young man’s face as he stood watching them. his features were stunning. she took in every detail. He was perfect. only seconds before. but she could feel the intensity of his gaze as he picked her out of the gyrating crowd. Now. as they blended with the other dancers. Was he—yes. well. “What the hell!” Thomas muttered to himself. He had seen it for himself—stared right into those eyes from hell! Those eyes had. she found herself studying the crowd surrounding them. to the straight nose and classically chiseled chin.J. but there was no other word way to describe that face. and she hadn’t gone out nearly as often as she would’ve liked. had the dark-haired woman captured in their sinister gaze. His approach had seemed to make the stranger think twice about any plans he might have had concerning her. Addie couldn’t help but laugh at her friend’s enthusiasm. Was everyone in this place genetically gifted? she wondered. “That might have to change. for she was suddenly free to move on. with black hair falling freely down his back. she had gone out every weekend to one club or another when she was in college. It seemed his boss was right to be concerned about the two women. One was possibly the tallest man she had ever seen. he was! He 70 .D. surrounded by lashes so black she wondered if he used mascara (no. All she remembered was his eyes. Back out on the dance floor. She stared for a moment. unable to pull her eyes away. other things had taken priority. She had always loved to dance. he was much too masculine for that).” she told herself as one song blended into another and two very attractive guys stepped forward and asked them to dance. and soon she forgot herself in the rhythm of the music. And the other—she gave a small gasp as she realized it was the same man who had bumped into her earlier that evening. “Well. where two men stood staring out over the crowd. at least six feet seven inches. though. From his beautiful gray-blue eyes. as she watched him intently. and the man himself was. Marteeny the time to turn around. All this was surrounded by waves of dark auburn hair. Because of the lighting. I’ll just make myself comfortable until they return and I can introduce myself properly. and then—Oh my God! she thought. She hadn’t had a chance to really study him earlier. gone—just like that. Since then. excitement shooting through her.

The Vampire’s Lady was moving directly toward her. Somewhere in the back of her mind. her head turning as if in slow motion. making a decision. staring in the direction of her dance partner. But he had seen something else that captured his interest. he closed his hand around hers and pulled her close against him. She was floating in a dream. her body molded perfectly to his. He walked with a sensual grace. caught up in those gray-blue eyes as if in a trance. She smiled at him. Then. like some predatory animal. The man she’d been dancing with started to approach her but thought better of it when he noticed the other man approaching.” Julian said. her cheek resting on his chest. Julian held his hand out to Adrianna. she couldn’t take her eyes off him as he moved steadily forward. as he moved closer. She stopped moving. and then meet up with Sonya. Ah. She was burning inside. I’ll join you as quickly as I can. barely able to breathe. Then he pulled her even closer. When she found him. He was standing right in front of her. Julian had searched the room with his eyes but found no trace of the evil presence he had noticed earlier. “He may have disappeared from our sight. She felt her body growing warm with excitement. but she was rooted to the spot. Leaning toward the Dark Vampire beside him. He descended the three steps to the dance floor with fluid grace and began working his way toward her. After a moment he lowered his eyes. hugging lean hips and muscular legs as he moved across the dance floor. silk. and something more. Their bodies moved slowly to the rhythm of the music. her hands locked together behind his neck. her head tilted upward and brown eyes met blue. getting back into the rhythm of the music before her eyes began to wander again. Her eyes continued to travel from the top of his six-foot-plus frame to the tip of his polished shoes. he said. she thought as she melted into the soft fabric. and came face to face with him. “Where will you be?” “There’s something I have to do. to watch Kate leaving the dance floor. but it doesn’t mean he’s gone. hesitating for a brief moment as if doubting the wisdom of what he was about to do. and Addie realized she was holding her breath as he inched his way closer to her. steady beat. She turned. Continue with a thorough sweep of the room. tailored to fit him like a glove and emphasizing the width of his broad shoulders and strong arms. Adrianna found herself searching for her handsome stranger again. but hesitated a moment before asking. and her head seemed to clear a little. if that were possible.” Christoff nodded in agreement. He was dressed in a black shirt. she noticed the tempo of the music changing to a slow. The pants were also black. as strong fingers stroked her 71 . causing her dance partner to reach forward to steady her. She nearly missed a step.

“I’m afraid I—” But before he could finish. as he held her pressed tightly against him. His soft breath sent shivers along the rapidly beating pulse pounding furiously in perfect rhythm with her heart. Then. Dropping his arm. Thank you—thank you for the dance—but I really must go. as they continued to talk. head bowed. Finally. her fingers tangled in the long strands of auburn hair. he inhaled deeply.” What was he about to say? she wondered. in reality. Were they really?—yes. Confusion filled her. that almost every female eye in the place was focused on these two men. causing her to bite her lip to prevent herself from crying out. she almost gasped at the intensity in his eyes. She also noticed. her partner stepped away from the taller man. She closed her eyes. 72 . brushed the stray wisps of hair from her neck back across her shoulder. nodding slightly. his breathing strained. sliding gently upward. He seemed to be struggling with some inner demon. They had only been dancing. Her arms wound even tighter around his neck. was mere seconds. but when she looked again they were the same beautiful gray-blue. he just—froze.” “Adrianna. exposing the long column of her throat. “I must apologize to you. When he finally looked at her. Julian moved a short distance away. I don’t even know your name.D. without warning. but the hand holding hers suddenly tensed.J. She felt herself shudder with delight. No one had ever made her feel like this. raising his head until his eyes met hers. pulling her back toward him. gently tugging at her partner’s arm. the man he’d been standing with earlier came up behind them. “I’m sorry. Then those same fingers. but I must go. Adrianna studied the newcomer with his black hair and those eyes. as he bent his head slightly to listen to what his tall friend had to say. yet still gripping her hand. he spoke in a voice deeper than she remembered. they were midnight blue—amazing. as he slowly stepped away from her.” he said. allowing herself to be caught up in the moment. She couldn’t even think of anyone except this man. slowly and sensuously. “Our time tonight was much too short. as his lips gently pressed against the small curve where neck met shoulder. avoiding eye contact. fighting a losing battle for control— but that was ridiculous. She didn’t know what the dark-haired man was saying. No one had even come close except—who? She couldn’t remember. regaining his composure. Marteeny back. “Adrianna … I’m not sure this was a good id—. Her senses were consumed by him. which had been loosely wrapped around Adrianna’s waist. Then.” she whispered. coming to a complete stop even before the music had finished playing. She could have sworn his eyes were different. somehow. After what seemed like ages but.

red hair. this is Addie. he walked away. She found her friend back at the booth talking to a young man who looked as if he were also about to leave. After a few minutes. Addie. she wondered. Well. flashing a large grin. She was almost to the stairs when she noticed Nick. one man stopped and turned to stare at her with blue-gray eyes before he.The Vampire’s Lady but we will meet again. and large green eyes. “There’s no point in standing here any longer. leaning her voluptuous body close to him in private conversation. “Great to meet you.” he said. raising a finger to his lips. quickly moving toward the front door. I barely know the man. Just for a brief moment. a look of purpose on his face. Addie was surprised at the spark of jealousy she suddenly felt as she watched the two figures huddled together. where they were met by a woman with long.” he said. that’s refreshing. “That was weird. Addie wondered. I wonder what’s going on. and then. As their eyes locked. When they reached the small group waiting there. Why. like most of the other people who seemed to be connected with the club. Thomas. She started to wave to him but thought better of it. Could she be one of the mysterious owners. but she knew that was impossible. Then she said to herself. moving toward the front door. Addie watched as men throughout the club began to rise. Adrianna watched the two men move across the dance floor. everyone but the woman went through the stained-glass doors to the parking lot outside. she thought. but she had to admit she didn’t like the possessive posture of the other woman. What had just happened? Standing there alone. Raising her hand to his lips. The crowd parted automatically as they made their way toward the main entrance of the club. Not perfect.” Addie stated as she finally reached their booth. he stopped for a split second. Thomas. but pleasingly wholesome. She studied the newcomer. Was he going to join the others. “Yes. indicating the cute stranger Addie had noticed from the dance floor. Even from this distance she could tell he was quite handsome. motioned to someone across the room. Turning. there’s some commotion in the parking lot. Addie. only nodding slightly as he continued to move through the crowd heading for the very same door the other group had just gone through. the woman looked around the club and. She felt shaken—and more than a little confused. he brushed the knuckles gently with a feather-light kiss. with brown hair not quite reaching his shoulders.” and she headed back toward the booth. with a flick of her wrist. searching the room for Kate. turning. She could almost hear the “shhh” as his lips formed the sound. disappeared through the door. “Something’s happening.” Kate made the introductions. she thought. too. 73 . He was too far away.” Addie asked herself out loud. The woman placed a delicate hand on the arm of the man Addie had just been dancing with.

no trouble Dave. you can’t miss them. “We know. they’re easy to spot. ever since the first attack hit the newspapers. “Okay. right?” Thomas said to the man next to him. “They all look like freakin’ wrestlers! Muscles bulging everywhere. when Thomas interrupted. This Thomas will be hard pressed to keep Kate away from the action. coming to stand beside him. but he won’t let me go with him.D. she thought.” the girls replied together.” Kate explained. Addie smiled to herself. and there was no mistaking the frustration in her voice.” Thomas laughed. We’ve had some … problems here lately. with a little difficulty …” he said with a slight smile as he looked meaningfully at Kate. relieving some of the tension. “Right.J.” This caused everyone to laugh. Am I right? The correct answer to that question is ‘Yes. “… to do what they can to keep the trouble away from the premises and keep the patrons safe. Kate loved a little excitement. “There’s a lot of security in here tonight to keep an eye on things. Nothing will happen if you just stay inside. “There’s some strange things going on inside. She was about to question Lisa about what she’d seen. “Trouble. whom Addie had almost forgotten was still there. The owners are working with the police …” This caused a strange look between the two men. She had thought she was the only one who’d noticed these things. If you look closely. which is why you should stay put while we see what’s going on outside. “Listen. there’s been some really weird things happening around here lately. as Dave continued. The ladies were just curious to know what’s going on. I wish we had more time to get acquainted.” asked Joyce. people stopping to stare at you for no good reason.’” he said when he saw the stubborn expression on both their faces. Thomas. Thomas?” another man asked. “… to convince them we can handle things much better if we know they’re safe inside the club. you’re right. then you should also know it’s better to stay inside the club until we’re sure it’s safe outside. I’m trying.” he told them. “He was just going to check it out.” Addie replied.” “How do we know who are security? It’s not like it says ‘security’ on your uniforms or anything. 74 .” “Thomas is right. too. as tall as a three-story building. we have armed guards all around. “No. “I have to go now.” This comment came from Lisa. “Creepy waitress.” Dave said.” Thomas started to say. Marteeny “Same here. and it was obvious there was something odd going on outside. backing Thomas. “Oh.” Lisa continued as Addie looked at her in surprise.

” Kate thought about that a moment and then agreed. “No. Adrianna relented a little. “Thomas said. they finally made it to the front door. and she said. after a whispered conversation 75 . no matter what happens. he whispered. he forgot to mention that little detail. That tall drink of water you were dancing with. “FYI. but don’t let him know where you heard it—he’s half owner of this very club and the former owner of that cute little house you both live in!” Smiling at the astonished look on Addie’s face. and remember—stay inside. where two really large men had been left. I mean Julian. we didn’t have much chance to talk. looking at Addie. “All right.” Addie shouted to Lisa and Joyce and then began making her way through the crowd. he and Dave went to join the others. it seemed. where are they going?” Joyce asked Lisa. The only ones who’d noticed anything were those who had responded to the red-haired woman’s call. “No.The Vampire’s Lady taking Kate’s hand. “And why should he be concerned about me?” “Jules. I may have mentioned it.” he said. but the other girl just shrugged. everything happened so fast. “That sounds reasonable. but there’s one way to find out. and he seems to have developed a great interest in you. “I don’t know. Something tells me we should listen to him. trying to leave. we won’t go outside. “I hope we meet again. “Who’s Jules?” she asked. confused. we can’t.” Coming to a halt in the middle of the floor. soon. to stand guard. but we can work our way up to the door and see if we can figure out what’s going on. didn’t this Julian tell you who he was when you were dancing?” Kate asked. Anyway. Come on. “Well. Addie glanced around and realized people were still dancing as if nothing were going on. Staring at her friend. He can’t get mad if we don’t actually leave the building.” Leaning toward them as if he had some great secret. See you guys later. Addie. A couple approached them. just a little-known tidbit you might be interested in. to stay in the club.” “Do you think there’s been another attack?” Kate asked. a worried frown creasing her forehead.” Squeezing their way through the crowd. although not with much conviction. Jules will kill me if anything happens to you.” Kate protested. although she was pretty sure she already knew the answer. That’s Julian Reynolds. She had finally met her elusive neighbor and hadn’t even known it! “How does he know where we live?” Addie asked Kate. “Hey. knowing instinctively that they were needed. seeing the concern in her eyes. but. Actually. right?” “Right.

It doesn’t look like they’re letting anyone go anywhere they don’t want them to. Marteeny with one of the men. she thought. Addie realized Julian must have been with the group heading toward the park and the woods beyond it. she checked to make sure the guards weren’t watching and then. they turned back and re-entered the club with dazed looks on their faces. If something is going on. turning the small wrought-iron latch. But only a slight mumbling reached her ears. Reaching the window. Something was bound to happen soon. They saw a group of men walking away from the club. They could wait. while another. Well. group was gathered around the front entrance. They were too far away. “Calm down.D. where something had evidently already happened. they seem to have it under control—but I want to see for myself. “Come on!” she said.” Kate pointed out. Where on earth are they going? she wondered as she tried desperately to hear what those left near the front of the club were saying. opened it enough for both girls to look outside. “Rick is going to kill us if it turns out he was right about this place being dangerous. her voice rising above the music. If they wouldn’t let anyone get close to whatever it was that was going on out there.” Glancing around. that’s just great. There must be something big happening. she and Kate would just have to stay put near the window.J. “I think the decision has been made for us. Searching the strange sea of faces. 76 . grabbing Kate’s arm and dragging her friend along behind her. smaller.” Addie said. Addie noticed the hallway leading to the restrooms had a large stained-glass window facing the front of the club.

Chapter 6

It seemed the two women weren’t the only ones interested in the mysterious happenings of the evening. Blood-red eyes watched from the shadows, as Julian’s group exited the club, walking with purpose across the parking lot. A hiss of pure hatred escaped the thin lips as Enoch stared at the man in the lead. “Julian!” He spat out the name as if it were poison he’d been forced to swallow. For a brief moment, his evil mind flashed back to the dark-haired woman he’d seen inside the club. She had to be the one his master wanted. Julian’s reaction to her confirmed that as nothing else could. He moved to follow the group heading into the park directly across from the club but then thought better of it. Hanokh was near, and brute strength was going to be needed for what was to come. That was his brother’s area of expertise. Glancing around, he noticed armed guards everywhere, confirming what he already knew. There would not be another chance this evening to approach the woman, for she was inside under lock and key. Julian was no fool. He knew how to protect what was his. Just as well, Enoch thought. He now knew who she was and he would find another opportunity to meet with her—and soon. Turning quickly, he stepped further back into the shadows. He needed to get this information to his father as soon as possible, so, when he was sure no one was watching, he disappeared in a flurry of wings, the swirling of dust and leaves the only sign he had been there. Julian proceeded with caution through the darkened parking lot, motioning the others off in all directions as they entered the park across the street. Someone had broken most of the street lamps, making it hard for a normal person to see, but he didn’t have that problem. His eyes pierced the darkness—where he saw two bodies, bloodied and broken, lying under a park bench. A moment ago they’d been locked in a lover’s embrace, never thinking it would be their last. The boy couldn’t have been more than twenty-one and

D.J. Marteeny

the girl … something about her made him stop in his tracks, as he noticed the long, dark hair, once soft and luxurious, now soaked with blood. A vision filled his mind of similar hair lying against his chest—so soft he wanted to bury his face in its richness. Anger consumed him as he knelt beside the mutilated bodies, but his attention was soon diverted as he noticed movement to his right. Rising quickly, he watched another victim fall to the ground, as a creature, blackwinged and hideous, spun around and looked directly at him. Blood dripped from sharp fangs as it hissed, flying toward him in a fit of rage. With one swift movement, Julian struck, crouching low as the thing attacked. Spinning around, he kicked out with his right foot, catching the creature directly in the chest and sending it smashing into a nearby tree. Within seconds, Julian was on top of the screeching monster, snapping the head from the shoulders as the creature disintegrated in a cloud of dust. Julian’s eyes blazed red with anger as he ran toward the creature’s latest victim, now lying motionless on the cold ground. Kneeling, he examined the body, already knowing it was too late. There was nothing that could be done for the unfortunate soul. This time, the victim was a little older than the young couple lying only a few feet away and, as Julian rose, the glare from the one remaining street lamp illuminated something lying just under the back of the broken body. Bending forward, he gently moved the man aside, looking strangely at the shattered piece of equipment lying there. Picking it up, he examined the item closely and opened the back to pocket something that had been inside. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, he smashed the shiny object to bits on the ground before him. “I hope whatever is on this fi lm was worth dying for, my friend,” he said, as he spared one final glance for the body before him, blond hair streaked with blood, green eyes staring back at him, dull and lifeless. Turning quickly back toward the woods, as screams of terror came from somewhere deep within, he motioned to the men he saw moving through the darkness a few feet away from him. Something told him they needed to hurry. All his senses screamed a warning, alerting him to the impending danger. They moved forward with caution, using the trees as cover as they fanned out in a long line to cover as much distance as possible. From somewhere ahead he heard the sound of running feet, but, before he could give the order to take cover, two men, part of his own “specials” squad, came stumbling toward him, the larger man literally dragging the other. Horror filled Julian, as he realized the reason the bigger man was carrying his injured comrade. The other man, quite literally, had no legs! From the nature of his wounds and the large trail of blood behind them, it was obvious he was dead, but his friend would not leave him. Spurred into action, Julian ran toward them.

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“Lucas, it’s me, Julian,” he shouted in an attempt to get the man’s attention as he moved slowly forward, but the sound of his voice only served to panic the crazed mind even further. The injured soldier veered off to the left in an attempt to hide among the sheltering trees. Julian and Christoff, who was approaching from the right, quickly followed, tackling the man to the ground, as he screamed and fought against the two men holding him down. As he whispered softly, Julian’s voice finally began to penetrate, and the trembling body eventually went limp in his arms. “Lucas—look at me,” Julian ordered. “Try to focus, man. You have to tell me what happened.” The man tried hard to do as he was ordered as he recognized the face before him. Eyes wide with terror, he pulled frantically at Julian’s clothing. “Hurry, Julian—run—its coming! That thing—” his voice began to rise in panic, “—that beast—it’s coming for us!” “Beast—what are you talking about? Lucas, look at me! Try to concentrate!” Julian said as he stared into the man’s eyes. He willed him to be calm, but this only seemed to agitate him further. “I’m telling you, Julian, we have to go—now!” the soldier said as he clutched at Julian’s shirt in desperation. “That thing is going to—” but before he could finish, the most ungodly howl pierced the night, stopping him midsentence. Terror flashed in his eyes, as he fought to break free of Julian’s iron grip and ran like a madman back toward the nightclub. Julian stood slowly, his eyes locking with Christoff ’s, as both men turned in the direction of a group of large trees off in the distance. Thomas and a few others came to stand behind them. “What the fuck was that?” Thomas asked, trying hard not to show his fear. His hands gripped tightly on a small automatic bow loaded with razorsharp arrows. “Trust me, you don’t want to know,” Julian muttered almost to himself. “Thomas, take the rest of the humans and fall back to the club.” “No, Julian, we’re here to help—” But before he could finish, Julian grabbed him roughly by the shoulders. “Believe me when I say that none of you can be of any help in this battle. You will only be a hindrance to the rest of us,” he said, indicating the vampires standing behind him. “Because even we cannot keep you safe, and I won’t have your blood on my hands, Thomas. So, please, do as I tell you, and go back to the club, now!” he shouted as he watched his friend, confusion clouding his face, gather the handful of men surrounding him and turn hurriedly back toward the club. The remaining vampires stood facing the woods—tense, waiting—and then loud crashing sounds could be heard coming from within, as the trees

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split apart, branches flying out in all directions. Before any of them realized what was happening, a large black form sprang from the darkness, coming to land with a thunderous sound not ten feet from where they stood staring with horror-filled eyes. It landed on all fours, the ground literally shaking from the impact, as it sniffed the air with its long snout, the scent of fresh blood sending it into a frenzy. “Werewolf—shit!” Julian heard Christoff ’s shout from behind him. Another ear-splitting howl pierced the night, as the beast rose to its full height, a mass of black fur and razor-sharp claws, standing nearly seven feet high on two legs! The huge jaws, filled with dagger-like teeth, and the thick black fur were covered in blood, but Julian’s attention was riveted on what was in the beast’s hand. Dangling from the sharp claws, a piece of blue denim caught his eye. His fury rose to a fever pitch, as Julian realized what the creature held—the missing legs of the man Lucas tried to drag to safety. Blood was everywhere, and the vampire found himself fighting to keep his own hunger in check, trying to focus on the problem at hand, as the monster’s bloodshot eyes scanned the group standing before it. Turning to his men, Julian shouted instructions, “We stay together. The only chance we have to bring it down is a group attack. Go for the jugular. We can’t kill it without silver, but we can cripple it!” But before they could take any action, a whizzing sound reached their ears, as an object came flying from the shelter of the trees. It struck the beast from behind with such force that the onlookers could see the shiny silver tip of a spear protruding through the massive chest. But it had missed the heart by mere inches. The creature howled in pain and fell to its knees. They watched in amazement as sharp claws grabbed the shiny metal, the silver burning through flesh and bone, and the beast, with the strength of ten men, pulled the entire shaft of the spear out through the front of its chest, its mournful howl once again echoing through the night, as it tossed the weapon into the group of men gaping before him. As they watched it fall down on all fours, the massive head hanging down in agony, the onlookers watching in amazement as the gaping hole made by the spear started to close, healing in seconds. When the wound had closed completely, the grizzly animal rose to its full height once again, muscles bulging, as it eyed the crowd surrounding it. From deep within the fur-covered chest, the monster summoned a deep growl, echoing the frustration it felt as it realized it would not taste victory this day. Turning with inhuman speed, it dove into the woods and disappeared from view in the opposite direction from which it had come. Christoff gathered his fellow vampires around him and prepared to follow the beast, but he was stopped short by a shout from behind.

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“No! Not tonight, Christoff; we don’t have the weapons to kill it. We weren’t prepared for this. There will be another time,” Julian said, grabbing his friend by the arm. As the vampire looked around, he noticed other creatures, bedraggled remnants of the wolf’s army, fleeing after their leader. Even with their limited reasoning, they knew it was useless to fight without the beast to help them. He scanned the night for his own men and saw many covered in blood and ash, walking toward him. There would be time for a head count later. Vampire senses tingling, Julian turned his head from side to side, sniffing the night air. Everything had suddenly gone very quiet, as the group stood waiting, watching. The stench of rotting flesh filled the air, as piles of ash burned around them. Julian focused his attention on the woods at precisely the spot where the silver spear had appeared before it had struck the manbeast. Alert to some new danger, he poised himself, ready to face any threat that came his way. After a few minutes, his heightened hearing picked up a sound, a soft shuffling, like blades of grass and weeds crunching together. Someone, or something, was coming through the woods. Raising a hand, he motioned those around him to be silent. Within seconds, a figure emerged from a group of trees. As the rest of his men fell into formation behind him, Julian watched as the man stood before them, a silver dagger in one hand and what appeared to be a long sword in the other. Drawing steadily nearer, the newcomer bent to retrieve the spear from the ground. While the others watched in awe, he pushed a small switch, shrinking the long staff until it was no bigger than the matching dagger he held. Looking Julian directly in the eye, the stranger neatly dropped the weapon into a leather belt attached to his waist. “What is this?” Christoff asked, coming to stand alongside Julian. “I don’t know, but I’m sure we’re about to find out,” Julian replied as he continued to watch the man walking toward them. Showing no apparent fear of the vampires, the stranger came to stand directly in front of the small group, eyeing Julian thoughtfully. While everyone else showed definite signs of a battle hard fought, this man was barely winded. He had no torn clothing and no blood anywhere, so it was no wonder his next statement took Julian completely by surprise. “You may have taken this battle today, vampire, but you will not win the war without me. We need to talk,” he said as he met Julian’s surprised gaze without the slightest confusion or lack of control—something very few could do! Christoff and Simon stepped up, flanking Julian, but this did not seem to intimidate the stranger at all, as he continued to stare, a smile on his extraordinarily handsome face. “I am not the enemy here, warrior,” he said to Christoff as he noticed

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the protective stance the Dark Vampire had taken beside Julian. “I only wish to talk with Julian.” He spoke in a quiet, soothing voice, as if he were trying to tame the savage beast within the warrior before him. Julian sensed power emanating from this man, but a power unlike anything he had ever experienced before. Julian took a step forward, and his eyes met those of the stranger, radiating a power of his own. “Who are you and how do you know me?” “I am called Michael, and you would be surprised at what I know. You are something of a paradox, my friend,” he continued. “Oh really, and why is that?” Julian asked, not letting his guard down for a second. “A vampire battling your own kind …” and with a nod toward the woods, “… as well as our furry friend—I would say that is not the normal way of it,” he continued, as man and vampire stared at each other. “Evil is evil. Men fight other men; why should it not be the same for our … race?” Julian replied. “Point taken. There may be hope yet, my friend.” As a slow smile creased the stranger’s face, Julian wondered who, exactly, this person was and what he wanted from them. “You have not yet earned the right to call me friend,” Julian said. He then turned to Christoff and issued his orders, “All traces of what happened here must be disposed of. Take as many men as you need. Let me know when you are finished. Then you can escort this one back to the house. Watch him carefully until I arrive.” Looking around once more, he added, staring intently at the newcomer, “You will get your chance to talk there.” As Michael nodded in agreement, Julian turned and headed back in the direction of the club, shouting orders to his men as he moved through them, “Simon, see that the wounded are taken care of—especially the humans. No one is to be left behind.” As the blond vampire nodded, Christoff grabbed his friend’s arm. “Julian, wait. What are you doing? You shouldn’t be going off alone.” The warrior couldn’t hide the concern in his voice. “This enemy is ruthless and cunning— tonight proved that. There may still be remnants of those bastards waiting in ambush. You may be good, but you can’t fight them all alone. Wait but a moment, and I will come with you.” “They are gone, my friend. If you will just take the time,” Julian explained as he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, “you will sense it yourself.” Opening his eyes once more, he looked at the man who had been at his side through every battle he had fought over the centuries. “Without the beast to stand with them, the rest are cowards. I’m in no danger, and I have something I must take care of. I’ll return to the house as soon as I can and, Christoff …”

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he said as he looked around the surrounding area, “I’m sorry it must fall on you, again, to clear away the evidence of tonight’s trouble.” The Dark Vampire gave a nod of understanding, as Julian disappeared into the night. He trusted his men to follow his orders without question. He must get back to the club. He had to know if she was all right.

Addie stood on tiptoe, straining her eyes to peer into the darkness outside of the window. A few others had joined her and Kate. It seemed everyone was trying to get some idea what was happening outside. There had been some sort of confrontation right out in the main parking lot near the front entrance, but that seemed to be over now, and she could find no one who could tell her what had actually happened. Where was Julian? she wondered, a sick feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. And why did she even care what happened to a complete stranger? She barely knew him, but, in the brief time she’d spent with him, she’d realized one thing: she wanted to get to know him—very well. Would she ever get the chance? Suddenly, a feeling of intense relief washed over her as Kate shouted, “Oh, Addie, there he is!” Adrianna looked in the direction Kate was indicating, and there he was, his tall frame breaking through the trees surrounding the park, as he walked slowly back toward the club. She was still amazed at his gracefulness, and the sensuality of his movements caused her to catch her breath. Those amazing eyes scanned the activity before him, as he took in what was happening near the front of the club. “He looks fine,” Kate said, grabbing Addie’s arm. She watched as the worried expression on her friend’s face dissolved before her eyes. She understood exactly how her friend was feeling. She’d experienced the same intense relief moments earlier when Thomas and a few others had come running from the park. But she had also noticed that something had them extremely agitated. Julian, on the other hand, seemed calm, in complete control, as he came steadily toward the club. They watched him walk across the parking lot, some sort of ash or cinders covering his once-immaculate clothing. Other than that, he seemed none the worse for wear. He went directly to the front entrance, where a man was being tended by—well, what a surprise—none other than their own sultry little waitress; what was her name? Charleze. Evidently, the man had been injured in whatever altercation had happened in the parking lot. Their heated conversation was growing louder now, as Addie strained, hoping to hear at least a little of what they were saying. “Is he all right?” Julian asked the girl as he reached the injured man.

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“He was cut up pretty badly, but he’ll heal. He’s more angry than anything else,” she stated. “When he saw that damned thing attacking the girl …” with a nod of her head, she motioned to a young woman who was crying hysterically, “… he acted instinctively. They fought, and he killed the son of a bitch.” Julian followed the direction of her gaze, where he noticed the pile of smoking ash. “He is sorry, though, that now there’s no one to question about what happened here tonight. But I think it stands to reason that this attack is related to the others, Julian. That bastard was drinking from her! If Adam hadn’t arrived when he did, she would’ve been the next victim.” Again a twinge of fear ran through Julian, as he stared at the intended victim. Once more he noticed the long, dark hair falling past her shoulders. His own keen eyes took in her soft brown ones, now grown large and round from the fright she had received. “This can’t be happening,” he thought. Turning back to Charleze, he said, “It would seem, though I’m sure she wouldn’t agree, that she was the lucky one. There are more in the park that we didn’t reach in time.” “How many this time?” “We’re not sure, yet. Christoff and Simon will report back to me at the house.” From the corner of his eye, he could see the young woman still crying while being attended to by Sonya. Her onyx eyes met his in a silent message as she approached, still talking in a soothing tone to the frightened girl. “Sonya,” he nodded toward the woman. “How is she?” “She will be … fine.” “Good. Take her inside and give her anything she needs,” he told her. “Also, can you see that she gets home safely and that she … understands … what happened to her?” “It will be taken care of.” Sonya, turning to lead the girl back inside the club, stopped for a moment to look at Julian, an unspoken question in her eyes. “Christoff is fine, Sonya, as always. He’s taking care of a few things and will meet us later,” She gave him a quick nod and then returned her attention to the girl. Turning back to the injured man, Julian asked, “How do you feel, Adam?” The man before him was covered in blood, but how much was actually his was hard to determine. He was shorter than Julian but well muscled. There was a deep gash across his chest, where the majority of blood seemed to be coming from, as well as two smaller ones across his back. The wounds were already starting to close and heal, one of the benefits of being a vampire. “I’m all right, Julian. Sorry I wasn’t able to get any information out of the bastard! It all happened so fast. I heard the girl screaming and saw her

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struggling with someone. He was going to take her down right in front of the club. I had to do something! It was as though he purposely attacked her right on our front doorstep, like he was purposely trying to draw attention to us. Who would do that, Julian—and why?” “I wish I knew, Adam,” said Julian thoughtfully, “but right now I have more questions than answers. We’ve coexisted among the humans undetected for a long time. We’ve had no problems with anyone, and it’s obvious these attacks aren’t from any of our people. Who would want to stir things up now—and why?” “Are you sure you do not know?” Julian heard the question, as the man called Michael approached him from behind, flanked by Christoff and Simon. He looked deep into Julian’s eyes, as Christoff grabbed him roughly by the arm, pulling him away. “We’ve finished our little … task, Julian,” the dark warrior told the waiting vampire. “And you will have your chance to talk soon enough, stranger, away from the commotion, as he’s already told you, which is more than I would do for you,” Christoff informed Michael. “Your hostility, although I understand its underlying cause, is really not necessary, my friend. I am only here to lend what assistance it is in my power to give,” Michael told him. “I have very few friends,” the Dark Vampire hissed at him, “and last time I checked I hadn’t counted you among them. But he,” Christoff said, nodding his head in Julian’s direction, “is one of the rare few I know I can count on, and nothing, or no one, will harm him while I live,” he said, staring meaningfully at Michael. “Fair enough, warrior, but believe me when I say I mean no harm to any who fight for his cause. I am only here to help.” Christoff stared at the strange man for a long time, before he replied, “That will be for him to decide. Now, come on.” And the stranger found himself being led away into the darkness. Julian stared after them, deep in thought, not wanting to believe the suspicion that had been forming in his mind for some time now. He’d tried to capture the stranger’s gaze for a moment as they were talking, trying to read what was locked deep in that complex mind, but he could not penetrate the barrier the man had placed there. The stranger’s will was strong, which took Julian completely by surprise, for very few could hide their mind from his power. How did this man accomplish it? He was not vampire or anything remotely similar. Of this Julian was positive. As far as Julian knew, the man was merely human—or was he? Turning to the vampire standing next to him, he ordered, “Simon, take Andrew and a few others; see what you can find out among our contacts about any strangers in the area. Also, see if any large

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estates have been purchased in the last few months and by whom. They will be both remote and long deserted. We have to find out who is behind these killings before the backlash starts to point in our direction. It’s getting harder with each incident to contain the situation.” Adam came up behind Julian, concern clearly visible on his face. “Julian, the girl—she saw her attacker’s face—the eyes, his teeth.” “Sonya will take care of it,” Julian reassured him. “All she’ll remember is trying to unlock her car, as someone grabbed her from behind. She’ll think you hit the man and knocked him out when she screamed. Her thoughts will be confused on any other details. She won’t be able to tell the police very much if and when they question her.” As if on cue, they heard the shrill pitch of sirens in the distance. “It seems someone has already summoned our local law enforcement. I guess it was too much to hope that this incident would go unnoticed by the media,” Julian said. Then, seeing the look of concern on Adam’s face, “Don’t worry, Adam; everything will be fine.” “If you say so, Julian. Do you need me to do anything?” “Go back to the house with Christoff,” Julian told him as he saw Thomas approaching through the crowd, “and see if you can find out anything more about our guest.” The young vampire nodded and then disappeared into the crowd. “Julian! You’re all right—and everyone else is okay—and what the hell was that god-awful howling sound?” Thomas asked more with his eyes than with the words coming out of his mouth. He looked at the vampire with concern—and immense curiosity. But Julian wasn’t fooled. He could see the fear behind that curiosity. “It was just as I’d feared—a werewolf—an extremely large one. But, as you can see, everyone is fine. We had some help from an unexpected source,” he told Thomas, “and a touch of silver.” “Ahhh. Well, what do you need from me, now?” “Just do what you can with the … evidence, so our friends the police don’t get … the wrong impression,” Julian told him as he started to walk away. He hadn’t gotten very far, when he stopped and turned back to Thomas. “You know, Thomas, there is one more thing you can do for me.” “Just name it.” “There was this girl. I was with her inside—” “I know the one; she’s quite a looker,” Thomas interrupted, that roguish smile appearing before Julian could finish his question. “Yes, I’m well aware of that. See what you can find out about her,” he whispered almost to himself. He finished, “I need to know everything.” With the smile still on his face, the young man replied, “Already taken care of, Jules. Sometimes it really hurts just how much you underestimate

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me. It just so happens I’ve already introduced myself to her friend, and there’s something I’ve been waiting for the right moment to tell you.” Thomas went on staring at Julian with a mischievous look in his eyes. Julian matched him stare for stare, refusing to rise to the bait. “Hmmm, indeed. Out with it, Thomas. I’m in no mood for games tonight.” “Oh, right—sorry,” the younger man said, not bothering to hide his disappointment at the vampire’s abrupt response. “Well, imagine my surprise when, after a few minutes of conversation with this gorgeous redhead, I find out that she is none other than my—our—next-door neighbor,” he stated, feeling a sense of satisfaction as he noticed the expression that flashed across Julian’s face. “That’s right, boss. She and her friend, who just happens to be the woman you were dancing with, are the ones who bought the cottage. Can you beat that! So you see, your lovely lady has been sitting there right under your nose all this time. When you’re ready to send out the neighborhood welcome wagon, just let me know,” Thomas said with a grin as he turned to walk away. Julian stared in amazement at the back of Thomas’s head, the brown curls blowing softly in the breeze as the young man headed back inside the club. Not missing a step, Thomas turned back to impart one last bit of information, “By the way, her name is Adrianna Avani, and you can thank me later.” His shoulders shook with laughter, as he continued walking. His neighbor—was it really possible? If this is one of Thomas’s little jokes, Julian thought. But, somehow, he knew it was the truth. And, suddenly, comprehension dawned. It had been her that night he’d had the nightmare! Adrianna was the presence that had drawn him to the cottage. That would explain why he had been so affected when they had touched in the crowd tonight. Well, this promised to be interesting—very interesting. But then another thought filled his mind, as he remembered dancing with her, holding her close, the feel of her body against his—and again, just as it had happened then, he felt the hunger rise. Yes, this would be interesting and very, very dangerous—for her. Shaking his head, he turned quickly back toward the park. He had to see for himself that all was in order before the authorities got there. But before he could get very far, three police cars skidded to halt in front of the club entrance, preventing him from going any further. As the door to the nearest vehicle swung open, Julian watched a short man in a rumpled suit slowly climb out. He was no taller than Adrianna, about five foot three. His unkempt black hair sticking out in all directions would cause one to think he had just climbed out of bed. “Bertram,” Julian sighed deeply. Despite the man’s disheveled appearance, he was as tenacious as a bulldog and nearly as mean. It was going to be a long night.

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While she was still standing near the window, an uneasy feeling gnawed at Addie’s insides, as she watched the scene unfolding in the parking lot. Something big was happening, she could feel it, but would they ever know for certain what had gone down here tonight? Would any information actually reach the public this time? Then she remembered Nick, sneaking his way out of the club, his ever-present camera loaded and waiting. Where was he? she wondered and couldn’t help but worry. She hadn’t seen his tall, lanky frame exiting the park with everyone else. He probably snuck off in another direction so no one would realize what he’d been up to. Yes, that had to be it, she thought to herself, and she relaxed a little. He’d probably been right in the thick of things to get some good shots. Well, at least they’d be able to find out something from him if the police hushed up this incident as they had the others. Everyone still in the club wanted some answers. They’d all heard the screams coming from the park, along with what sounded like men fighting— and what was that ungodly howling? It had sounded like something straight out of a horror movie—you know, the ones with a huge full moon rising high in the night sky. Her eyes traveled upward, but tonight the sky was starless, and the only moon that shone was in the shape of a crescent. So, no werewolves, right? God, she was letting her imagination run wild! Anyway, being so far away, they couldn’t see anything clearly, and the guards at the front door were still refusing to let anyone leave the club. How did they manage to keep things under such tight control? she wondered. She’d seen a few people, panic written all over their faces when the screams had started, rushing forward in an attempt to escape to their cars. But as soon as they approached the guards, it had taken just a few well-spoken words to calm them down and convince them to return inside, where they would be safer. As the crowds of people trying to leave grew larger, so did the number of guards, with the same results every time. It’s really weird, she thought. Well, they were probably right, it was safer inside—but if that were the case, why did she feel like a virtual prisoner? Kate had been leaning close to her, straining to see out the window, when Addie heard her exclaim, “Oh my God!” “What is it? What’s wrong? Is Julian—” “That’s the most perfect man I have ever seen!” Kate said in awe as she grabbed Adrianna’s face, turning it in the direction she was looking. Adrianna followed her friend’s gaze as two men, who’d been talking to Julian moments before, came walking in their direction. She recognized the tall, dark one as Julian’s friend from inside the club, but it was the other one that her awestruck friend was staring at and, she had to admit, he was, quite literally, the most perfect man she had ever seen. Even with the dim lighting,

The Vampire’s Lady

she could see that his hair was like spun gold cascading almost to his waist in long, soft curls. He was easily as tall as Julian, strong and powerfully built, which was the only thing that saved him from looking almost feminine. As the two men passed in front of the window, the girls quickly pulled back inside, but not before the stranger locked ice blue eyes with Addie’s deep brown ones, sending a silent message. Suddenly, a feeling of intense calm washed over her, as the fear of the evening seemed to vanish. She felt peaceful, as if all was right with the world, which she knew was definitely not the case. But it didn’t seem to matter. Shaking her head slightly, she turned to Kate, wondering who this man was and what strange powers he possessed. She didn’t remember seeing him at all that evening—and someone like him she would not have forgotten easily. “Did you notice him in the club earlier tonight?” “Absolutely not,” Kate answered, still gaping at the stranger. “You’re sure?” “Addie, you know me. A face like that I would never forget!” “You’re right. So, if he’s not working for the club, and he isn’t a patron, who the hell is he, and where did he come from? Did they just pick him up in the woods?” “I don’t know,” Kate said. “I guess that’s possible. Anyway, whoever he is, Julian and his friends sure seem interested in him. I wonder why?” They stared at each other for a moment, until they realized something else was happening. The police seemed to be moving through the crowds of people, questioning and gathering what information they could. “I think it’s time we left. With the police here, they could decide to question everyone that was here tonight. We could be stuck here for hours,” Addie said, suddenly realizing she’d had enough of the club scene for one night. “Would that be so bad?” Kate asked a smile on her face. “I was hoping to get a chance to talk to Thomas again. He’s really cute, Addie, and there’s, I don’t know, something special about him, a sense of mystery or something. Anyway, I’d like to get to know him a little better. And you might be able to see Julian one more time,” she added encouragingly. “Kate, I think Thomas is occupied elsewhere,” she said, pointing across the room. They both looked to see Thomas talking to Sonya and then both of them heading for the back of the club. “And besides, he’s our neighbor. We can see him—them—whenever we want to. Don’t look so disappointed. They obviously have more important things to think about right now then a pair of infatuated women,” she pointed out. “Look, there’s a group of people leaving,” she said, surprised. “Maybe our confinement is over. The car is close


looking into her friend’s 90 . turning in a complete circle so she could examine the parking lot and nearby park. totally confused. but you’re right.” she said. through the front door. “No. they made their way to their own car. She was in no mood to answer a million questions. right?” Kate asked. Working their way into a large group of women. where Addie saw Charleze talking with a young girl. Somehow. looking around. They were out in the open now. the girls flowed. they were able to avoid the police.” Just a frightened girl.” Addie told her as they blended in with the crowd gathering before the exit. She must have been in some sort of scuffle. as the crowd disbanded and everyone went off in a different direction. you didn’t imagine anything. didn’t we? I know I didn’t have that much to drink. Kate. We both heard it. Kate. The red Mustang stood out like a beacon among the row of cars. Then she noticed it—a horrible stench in the air. Apparently. A shock of alarm went through Addie when she noticed the girl’s red-rimmed eyes. unnoticed. There are no physical signs of any kind of trouble—just that awful smell!” she said. but it started out to be such a promising evening. “We heard the screams. Addie found she could barely pull her own eyes away from the scene. but the girl seemed unaware of her surroundings. If we go out with a crowd we should be able to avoid being questioned by the police. as usual. “I hate to admit this. the guards at the front door were now allowing people to come and go. They were a deep brown.J. There’s definitely something weird going on at this club. “Oh my God. what is that smell!” she asked Kate as they ran the short distance to her car. and fighting? We did hear it.D. And there are no outward signs of a disturbance of any kind. I only hope more people don’t have to die before the police find some answers. I wasn’t imagining things. Marteeny to the front door. for her pretty face was covered in scratches. there are no injured. until she felt a cool breeze against her cheek. “Hopefully there will be plenty more. as she locked the door and started her car. But look around. As quickly as possible. Had the serial killer been here tonight? Did he have something to do with what happened to this poor girl? She stared openly as they moved past the two figures. “Addie. Come on!” “You’re probably right. like burning flesh—but that couldn’t be possible. other than the two people we saw near the club. and the waitress was helping her into a car. she thought as she gave one last glance around the parking lot before unlocking her car and jumping hurriedly inside. and for this Addie was extremely grateful.” Kate said as they ran quickly down the hallway. but I think Rick was right. something did happen out here tonight. and her hair was long and brown.

I think we’ll put clubbing on the back burner for a while after tonight.” The car whipped out of the parking space.The Vampire’s Lady wide eyes. 91 . tires squealing as they sped out of the parking lot and headed for home. “Let’s get back to the safety of the house.

he may decide to do that anyway!” “Who are you to be so arrogant. “At least the rest of us were trying to carry out the master’s orders to destroy everyone who tried to interfere with the plan. as it met. Fear forgotten in its frustration. you worthless. spineless. you wouldn’t need my help. he’ll be waiting for our return! I—said—hurry!” the man roared as he shoved the whining creature out in front of him. We could’ve used the beast’s help sooner! We wouldn’t have lost so many if you had been there when we first attacked. Terror. He was growling angrily at the vampire stumbling along beside him. Hanokh’s deadly gaze. “What I do is my own business!” he said as he shook the flailing vampire—hard. rose into the vampire’s throat. the creature continued its tirade. Looking down on the pitiful creature.Chapter 7 A tall figure. You should’ve been able to destroy them in a matter of minutes. scum!” He grabbed the injured vampire by the throat. you fool. nearly choking it with fear. “I should’ve let them find you back there and finish you off —you’re pathetic! Of course. “Who are you to question me. “If the lot of you were more skilled. You were supposed to be there to lead us! Where were you? Off somewhere else. My father sent me in case of an emergency 92 . Hanokh whispered through clenched teeth. lifting him high off the ground in one swift movement. concerned more with fulfilling your own depraved cravings than his wishes. How hard could it have been? You outnumbered them two to one. Hanokh!” the vampire beside him spat out as it turned to face its tormenter. “Hurry up.” The hulking figure came to an abrupt halt. walked quickly along the path. like bile. and then turned away from. bulging muscles rippling down a broad back covered in blood that flowed freely from an open wound in his shoulder. the black eyes boring into the pathetic creature standing before him.

I needed time to form a plan. Hanokh spared himself a moment to summon enough courage to enter the room. hard. Dried ground. cracked and split from lack of moisture.The Vampire’s Lady only. After a moment’s pause. spread out for miles before them. until they stood before a large. the arrival of the Avenger was … unexpected. The only reason I chose to leave the battle was because he had silver—lots of it! That was … unexpected. and they entered a place void of any signs of life. as he continued walking. But he was no threat to me. His own steps faltered slightly as he led the way toward the crumbling edifice. They both stared at the huge mass of decaying stone rising into the night sky before them. the land was now decorated only with dead wood and scattered rocks. “Yes. Slowly entering through the front door. “I can’t fight all your battles for you!” “We were doing just fine until the stranger came. Stopping momentarily. Hanokh appeared to be deep in thought. The two figures walked a few miles more. Even you backed down!” slap! The impact of Hanokh’s massive fist connecting with rotting flesh echoed through the night as the vampire’s head snapped to one side. All remnants of the beauty it once held had been corrupted by the evil now occupying its empty halls. with the Dark Warrior and more men—we didn’t stand a chance. in a past life. That. Even Hanokh. “This news will not be well received by my father. Grass had long since ceased to grow here. dreaded what they must now face inside.” Hanokh said with an evil grin.” he said. He doesn’t expect me to endanger myself when he has such … disposable commodities to do his dirty for him. he placed both hands against the worn wood. as he tried to mentally prepare himself for the meeting he knew was ahead of him. “I—did—not—back—down!” Hanokh roared. “Then Julian showed up.” he said as he glanced sideways at the hobbling vampire. The injured vampire picked itself up off the ground. “on top of your failure. After a moment he said. stumbling in its struggle to keep up with Hanokh’s much larger footsteps. will not make him happy. Taking a deep breath. The skeletal shell had once been a magnificent building. Hanokh stared in disgust. dark hallway. a monastery. wooden door.” The pathetic figure struggled to get the words out. with all his strength and power. The woods they’d been traveling through abruptly come to an end.” Hanokh muttered. the two battle-worn figures entered a cavernous room lit only by torches mounted in stone gargoyles along 93 . tossing the whimpering form aside in disgust. until they finally arrived at their destination. as he saw the blatant fear in those red eyes. the two figures climbed the grand staircase and proceeded down a long. the broken lock allowing the door to open wide as he shoved. When the red eyes once again focused on the broad back of the man in front of him.

The figure of the tall.J. These hideous features. one more than the other. his face entirely in shadow. but … when … when we realized she was not the one we … we were looking for.” The ponderous head slowly traveled from his son to the vampire. Don’t keep me in suspense. Tangled strands of long black hair lay limp and brittle. my lord. the red eyes burning into the figure still cowering before him. Here. “Protectors. The nearly nonexistent lips curled back from razor-sharp fangs that could rip a man’s. Terror filled the injured vampire. Anyone entering here would bear witness to his true nature. to gaze into the eyes of the creature before them. We would’ve destroyed them all … but we were interrupted. coming to a stop in front of a massive stone chair made entirely of granite. What news? Tell me!” came the order. Others came. and we fought. “came too late to help us so … so we fled. Sitting in that chair. with a look that replaced the creature’s righteous anger with sheer terror. causing the pitiful creature to tremble violently. as they stared into the eyes that seemed to glow like fire from deep within sunken sockets. Hanokh stood. was the dark figure of Dragone. pointing a boney finger at the tall figure beside him. were positioned inside a massive skull. was never present among these walls. they fell to their knees before the dark form. held his own. as he pointed to the larger man kneeling before him. He relished the scent of fear in the two figures kneeling before him. said in a low. but. and. falling across muscular shoulders onto the upraised arm. lifting their heads. staring back at the only thing in this world that could instill terror in him. twice as large as any normal man’s. No. the cowering vampire kneeling beside him burst out its mumbled response: “We found a female who fit your description. The deep voice sounded almost like a growl. “You are positive it was not her—the woman I seek?” 94 . muscular man. “He. “Stand. Hanokh. here he preferred to show his true colors.D. or another vampire’s. in this place he called home. so to speak. there was no need for Dragone to maintain the false facade he presented to the rest of the world.” the vampire accused. striking terror in all that gazed upon them. menacing voice. my son.” weren’t they? Possibly—but even they couldn’t protect anyone from the horror dwelling inside these walls! A blood-red carpet ran the entire length of the room. No—this was his domain. for what it was worth. Devon and the others … they were destroyed. throat out in an instant. we destroyed her … along with her companion. seemingly as large as the structure itself. As the two smaller figures approached. his skin almost as dark as the mane of black curls covering his head. Marteeny all four walls. before he could answer. the deformed bone nearly ripping through the paper-thin veil of skin covering it. my lord … by Julian and his men!” He shouted with more feeling as he gained courage.

He knows where I was—what I did—he must. “No. but she wasn’t alone. stood his ground.” “That is the truth. “Julian would have destroyed us all. I stayed in the vicinity while they had dinner. Then. “When the fools realized this particular woman was not the one I wanted. the women went to a small clothing shop that I’d checked out earlier. The dark-haired one was never alone. you instructed them to continue the search—correct? You found no one else that might have been the one we were seeking in your … prowling during the evening? Or were there other. before turning back to the trembling form before him. Red eyes watched as the broken body slid slowly to the ground. If Julian did know of her existence. I followed them. my lord. but how? Hanokh realized he’d better come clean. “I was planning to join the others but decided to check the cottage first. only to be replaced by a questioning look.” The anger in the eyes began to disappear. biding my time. Julian was still inside the building.” “Indeed.” 95 . The dead girl was with another—a young male. After dinner. though trembling slightly. or leave her attended. he would not share her. where it lay motionless and silent. more urgent matters that needed your attention? You must have some reason for not being where you should have been when you were most needed—and it better be good!” A chill went ran up Hanokh’s long spine at the hint of menace in that question. my lord. The woman was there.” Hanokh answered. waiting for an opportunity to approach her without calling attention to myself. “You are sure these idiots did not destroy the one I seek?” “Yes. Julian would have her under his protection. my lord!” the vampire screamed in his defense. the deep voice questioned. as the fragile body smashed loudly against them. it was not. She and the red-haired woman were just leaving for town. The red eyes shot a quick glance at the larger man. “So you fled. If she was the woman you sought. He would not allow her to be with another man. they met two men. before he also found himself on the receiving end of his master’s intense anger. he grabbed the injured vampire by the back of the neck and heaved the flailing form across the room with such force that the walls shuddered from the impact. you say?” the deep voice growled. “Anything Julian’s men may have done is nothing compared to what I will do to you the next time you fail me!” the creature roared in anger. as he stared once more at the figure before him. Turning swiftly back to the remaining figure who. so I waited.The Vampire’s Lady “I … I do …” the creature stammered. rising from the chair with speed uncommon for one of such size.

But I underestimated the stupidity of the rabble you allow to work for you. Enoch.” “You’d better be!” Just then. shall we say … had to take time out for a little ‘snack. Well. They were too close to finding the woman and destroying Julian’s life forever. my lord. but Hanokh—never. yet again.D.” The towering figure looking down on Hanokh stared at his son in something close to surprise. His younger son seemed to be developing some bad habits. “No. by his older brother. the sneer spreading across his face. and you were nowhere in sight!” he screamed at his brother. which allowed me to find the woman in question. if not in bulk. looking pointedly at the broken figure lying on the floor across the room from them. when your cohorts. She fits the description. and a tall form glided across the floor joining them in mere seconds.” “You’re sure it’s her? How do you know she’s the right one?” Hanokh argued.” Enoch hissed at his brother. I couldn’t let her raise the alarm. “Good to see you made it. “No. Hanokh continued. He couldn’t allow anything to jeopardize that now. “But you seem to have gotten yourself a little … distracted.” he said. It seems I have found the lovely lady we were so diligently searching for. “As it happened. Marteeny Swallowing hard. “And no one saw you ‘remedy’ this other situation?” Dragone questioned. In his twisted mind. but he would deal with that later. She became suspicious of my loitering. looking a lot like the others we’ve… already met. a false smile spreading across his evil face. Oh. the girl working at the shop noticed me earlier. his eldest. and then I went back and took care of the problem. he realized no good could come from letting their father know how much he actually hated his younger sibling. I had her within my grasp. the door burst open. His sons very rarely questioned anything he did. hating to be bested. “I know.” Enoch. I see he hasn’t.” Enoch announced.J. placed a ‘welcoming’ hand on his brother’s back. “You—that’s impossible! I was the one who tracked her down! I was the one following her.’ You wasted precious time. so I waited for the others to leave. 96 . “because I know our friend Julian. tried on occasion. I thought I could pick up the trail of the dark-haired one when I’d finished. “Has our father told you my news?” “News? What news?” Hanokh questioned. brother—not that there was ever any doubt. looking suspiciously at his brother. who matched Hanokh in height and strength. let me fill you in then. of that I am certain. He seemed more than a little interested in one particular woman at the club tonight.

Julian made sure she was well guarded. We must work fast. did you? Since when do you make the decisions?” Hanokh growled in anger. he is a fool. brother. standing taller as he realized he might yet best his brother at something. for just a brief second. So. As his two sons glared at each other. which confirms my suspicions. Common sense would dictate taking what he needs from the woman as soon as he is sure she is the one he’s been waiting for all these centuries. It was he who turned the battle tonight. you advised. Make yourself clear!” his father ordered. You know. can’t you see what he’s trying—” “Silence!” Both brothers fell silent. he must be aware of whom she is—of what her blood can give to him. Enoch wasn’t the only one to make a discovery tonight. my father. boy.” Enoch said as he shot a look at his brother. before Julian gets the chance to take what he needs from her.” “You might be right about that. not our Julian. If Julian was that protective of this woman. I will not allow Julian’s redemption while I have the power to stop it!” he shouted as the clawed fist slammed down hard upon the arm of the stone chair. So. will give us the time we need.” he continued on. you really do need to exercise better control over those you’re placed in charge of. as they watched the face before them take in what Hanokh had just said.” “Oh. There will be no taking by force with him … which works to our advantage. because. although he doesn’t realize it. I had no opportunity. But I don’t think it’s necessary to move that quickly. “You’re speaking in riddles. “I’m sure you’re right. but. because he … is a gentleman. you see. “And Julian. I’ve already advised Father that it would be best if I led the next attack. behind those blood-red eyes? Focusing those eyes on his youngest son.” Hanokh said. “Yessss. then. logically. I returned to give Father the good news. But he won’t do that. “The Avenger—he’s here. No. unlike us.” “You lie!” Enoch accused. We need time to come up with a foolproof plan. as his evil mind processed all he’d heard this night.The Vampire’s Lady “drew attention to themselves. “So there are no more mistakes made. 97 . “You’ll say anything before you’ll admit that you failed miserably tonight. Dragone stood deep in thought. my lord. we have time to come up with the right plan that will make everything fall into place. turning to his father.” his voice hissed in agreement. of accomplishing my task.” he pointed out. “Julian isn’t our only problem. He will romance her until she gives up what he wants willing. “What Enoch says does make sense. I knew it would be more prudent to plan another attack later. causing bits of rock to rain upon the floor. ignoring the battle raging between his offspring. Father. and the alarm was given. Was that fear they saw flash. when she wasn’t so well protected.

the other a man-beast whose brute strength had no equal. with nails like daggers. those women served me well. “You’re sure of this? The Avenger has been silent for a long time. A spear. “Why would he help a vampire? The Avenger lives to destroy the creatures of the night. Hanokh!” Enoch shouted. Now it was time for their offspring to prove their worth—or pay the consequences. as we know only too well. my lord. and they are working together to destroy us!” Dragone said. “If you did not see the weapon then. Hanokh nodded. His long black robes seemed to float above the ground as he moved. for he would never let it out of his sight for a second if he’d found it.” Dragone said. which is the only reason I’m standing before you with this report. These two creatures were so like their mothers in appearance and temperament. “Yes. A look of confusion crossed Hanokh’s face.” Dragone thought. for it was silver tipped. “The woman is to remain unharmed. “Did he have it—the weapon?” Dragone asked. unless Julian has struck a bargain with him. Wait for the right moment to strike. he does not have it. Maybe he’s here to help Julian. He and he alone knows that the power of that weapon is the only thing that can destr—.” “Yes. “But I was lucky.” Hanokh finished. my son. now?” “There’s no doubt it was him.” he finished.” “Enoch is right. “Enoch. and yet they were completely different from each other. He cannot protect her all the time—not if she is unaware of his true nature. make sure she is brought here—to me. Marteeny Dragone demanded. give him the upper hand in any battle against me.” Dragone eyed his sons warily. If there is so much as a scratch on 98 . suddenly appearing back in the large chair as if he’d never left it. He’d almost told them the one piece of information that could cause them to revolt against him—and succeed. “And I am thankful for that. “Did The Avenger have the weapon with him?” “No. glad for the smallest sign of affection from the being that was his lord—and father. the most cunning. When you have her. my lord?” “Gather only the best of my followers—the fiercest. Instruct them to keep watch on Julian as well as the girl.D. Father.” Hanokh replied. “But he had something similar. My men had him a bit preoccupied. this changes things dramatically. upon his shoulder. Red eyes blazed liquid fire as he stared at his two sons: one a prince among the vampire nation Dragone ruled. from which I’ll bear a permanent scar. causing his aim to be slightly off.” “Help Julian—ha! You’re a fool.” The red eyes followed Hanokh’s hand as he grasped his wounded chest. Dragone laid a hand. “Still.” he said as he began a slow pacing. Why appear here. no—I didn’t see it. but they hadn’t seemed to catch his slip.J.

looking directly at both of his sons. to her demise. miles away another sat deep in thought. gather everyone here within the hour. “Enough talk. blood or no blood. “the one responsible will answer to me personally! My plans have changed.” he said to both of his sons. Julian. Julian must live to bear witness. as must the Avenger. the full extent of my power!” he said in a loud voice that reverberated throughout the room.The Vampire’s Lady her. trying to make sense of the events of the evening. once again. and the Avenger. They will both see. 99 . We will explain everything when they are present. While they made their plans. I want that woman! And I want the total destruction of that traitor. that the dark figure seated in the chair before them. If these things do not happen. their master. their lord—their father—would do exactly what he’d just threatened. for they both knew. without a shadow of a doubt. “you two will be the next to die. We have plans to make. and they must be made quickly.” he said. once and for all. Enoch. and it will be by my hand that you will meet your end—sons or not!” A look of understanding passed between the brothers. if they failed him again.

She remembered the faces staring at her from among the throngs of people. brown hair. “Did she really want to know. had told Addie that Julian would be upset if anything happened to her. picked up on it? Thomas. that was the only word that could describe the feeling of misery and despair she’d felt at his nearness—pure evil. other than Lisa.” She knew instinctively that the man was—evil. that he wasn’t connected to the others who seemed to be watching out for her. Why hadn’t Kate. No. to whatever it was that happened tonight at the club—or even the murders? He certainly seemed capable of something so horrendous. Even now a shiver went down her spine as she remembered those eyes … the fear that held her frozen in place as he’d approached her. Had Julian told these people to keep an eye on her? Had Thomas filled Kate in on this fact? Is that why she hadn’t said anything about the spies in the crowd? And what about the strange man watching her from the shadows—who was he? Somehow she knew. I wonder if he could be connected. The incident at the club tonight was still fresh in her mind. to say the least. What had really happened out in the park. What would have happened if he’d actually reached her—touched her? Her body trembled at the thought. who had noticed them? It had been so blatantly obvious that they were watching her. Then another thought occurred to her. she didn’t. Kate’s new friend. she realized the trouble had seemed to start right after he’d literally 100 . her best friend. Yes. without a shadow of a doubt. absentmindedly stroking the brush through the tangled strands of her long. his interest in her was—sinister. to say the least.Chapter 8 Adrianna sat on the bed. in some way. From the moment they’d first walked through the doors of the club. Why was she the only one. she had sensed that something was not quite right. No. As she thought back. and why didn’t anyone seem to know the answer to that question? The whole thing was peculiar.

she could barely have put two coherent thoughts together. But even as she tried to convince herself he wasn’t that important. and there’s plenty more where he came from—especially at Nightlife. As she thought of Julian. the way his lips had brushed softly against her neck. and Julian’s people had seemed to have that under control. That had been about the time her dance with Julian had ended so abruptly. she knew she was only kidding herself. What was it he’d said as he pulled away from her? “I’m not sure this was a good …” she tried to remember his exact words. The other murders had been so brutal. as if he didn’t want the attraction that was obviously there between the two of them. She’d felt it the moment she’d laid eyes on him. Maybe all that had happened was the little incident with the girl crying outside the front door. a deep frown creased her forehead. wanted there to be something more between them. That could explain why there were no bodies.” she thought as her eyes flew open.The Vampire’s Lady disappeared from inside the club. 101 . “I’m going to drive myself crazy trying to figure this one out—and why should I even care? I just met the guy. distancing himself from her—almost as if he were afraid of her. It was almost as if he were fighting the emotions rising within him. “That’s probably it. There was something special about him. She could feel it in the way he had held her. brown hair reminding her of the disturbance outside the front of the club. there’s a man full of mystery. to that moment. That was another mystery. pressing her close to his body. the long. but there was still a tiny bit of doubt lingering in the back of her mind. “He’s a mystery worth solving. trying to convince herself. once again. Closing her eyes. she thought. but something had happened to change everything. but one thing she was absolutely sure of—she’d affected him as much as he had her. She could almost feel his strong arms wrapped tightly around her. If there had been another attack at the club last night. she continued to stare at her own image. and the next he had pulled away. I wonder just what did happen out there. for heaven’s sake. Then. she let her thoughts drift back. and by the same culprit. Now. no signs of a struggle or fight.” she told the reflection staring back at her from the mirror. Was it something I said or something I did? she wondered. “What?” she whispered out loud. for heaven’s sake. Setting down the brush. she thought. Why had he acted so strangely? One minute they had been dancing together. seemingly both enjoying themselves. wouldn’t there have been some sort of evidence? Unless the murderer had been interrupted before he could finish what he’d started. She wanted to get to know him better.” she told herself. “Not a good … what? Not a good idea to dance with her? Not a good idea to be seen with her? Did he have a jealous girlfriend waiting in the wings while he was off flirting with her? “Oh.” she said.

too. “Could you see anything that was happening in the park? Was there or wasn’t there another attack. and waiting— hoping—for another chance run-in with Julian was just too iff y. I made us both a nice cocktail. if possible. What was that awful howling sound they’d heard—like the hounds of hell! She’d never heard anything like it around Winwood before. are you all right?” Kate asked. “Why am I not surprised?” Addie said.” Just when she’d thought she could put the whole incident to rest. I’ll just come right out and ask him about it. we can always ask Rick what Nick found out. actually.” Kate said as she handed Addie a glass of brandy. watching. She’d pay a nice neighborly visit to Julian and finally get some answers to the dozens of questions running through her mind. it isn’t just you. Is it just me. “And if I can get my very vivid imagination under control. Addie gave a little scream of surprise. knowing 102 . She wanted to speak to him alone. She supposed a wolf or coyote could have strayed down from the surrounding mountains. I was sitting here wondering—well. I thought maybe … well. She had not heard her approach. amazed at how alike their minds worked. “Hey. If not. I kind of like that idea. “I will be when you stop sneaking up on me.” Addie replied. sending a chill up her spine. What on earth could have made such an awful noise. or were we just assuming that’s what happened? And what about that horrible smell—and that awful howling noise?” Kate went on and on. Marteeny “Oh well. sorry. or we can call Nick and ask him ourselves. I’m just trying to make sense of the whole night.” she said to the image in the mirror.” Addie told her. but something inside told her that sound hadn’t come from either one of those animals. and had Julian and the others heard it also? Suddenly she came to a decision.J. as her friend sat there in a trancelike state. I didn’t mean to scare you. and she’d lived here her entire life. There was only one way to get the answers she needed. “if I ever see Julian again. She hesitated to mention to Kate her plans for going up the hill to confront Julian. “Maybe the papers will have some answers tomorrow. Addie. “I figured we could both use a little help getting to sleep tonight. “Whoa—hold on a minute! When did you become a mind reader? Those were my thoughts exactly!” Addie said.” “Oops. another memory flashed through her mind. I was obsessing—over everything that happened.” “Hmmm. She decided then and there to make another trip to the big house. and she was sure Kate would want to come along.D. She was standing in the doorway.” Kate said with a smile. trying not to show how agitated she actually was. or was it weird what happened tonight?” “No.

but one thing was certain—she wasn’t alone. we never had to worry about going out at night alone. hidden in the shadows. But you’re right.” she said. unless Nick calls him. too. “to wash our cares away. Kate. She fought to come awake. so he won’t hear the news until morning. for she felt … safe. Addie realized just how frightened she was. she didn’t remember opening them). This used to be such a safe place to live. Someone was in the room with her. watching her—or watching over her. struggling to clear her suddenly clouded mind. “I wish I had an answer for you.” “I hope he’d be considerate enough not to bother poor Rick this late at night. Then another thought occurred to her. Reynolds. “What? I know that look. I had a chance to talk to him a little while you were cuddling with our Mr.” “I know. I could do a lot worse. what’s bothering you?” “Nothing. though Kate would never admit to it. After some time. Yet she felt no fear. down the hatch. except … do you think the police will ever catch the people responsible for this mess? It’s because of them everyone is so jumpy. “Ahhh. Come on. speaking of the good father. Addie laid back against the pillows. her eyes became heavy and she drifted off into a restless sleep.” “Oh. Climbing into bed. This prompted Addie to ask. 103 .” Addie agreed.The Vampire’s Lady Thomas would be there. because you know we’re going to hear from Rick for sure after he finds out what happened tonight. ruffling the lace curtains cascading all the way down to the floor. I am. Addie? When is everything going to get back to normal?” Looking at her friend.” she said. or locking our doors. given the choice. She’d been around long enough to know most of the men Kate had dated throughout the years. but it never hurts to keep your options open. and we’re locked up tight as a drum. Kate. she asked. but her eyes were heavy … so heavy. we probably should prepare ourselves. “I thought you were interested in Thomas. Then. They both were. seeing the look on Kate’s face. and they both finished their drink. Was she asleep or awake? She couldn’t be sure. and do you know how much I’m dreading those four little words ‘I told you so’? But we should have until tomorrow. Then the dream began … A gentle breeze flowed into the room through the open doors of her balcony (funny. “I’ll see you in the morning. and he’s really sweet.” she said as she lifted her glass. okay?” Addie said as she hugged Kate and sent her off to her own room. “I know. The warm night air softly caressed her face. I’d choose Thomas. When is it all going to end. but we made it home safely. hoping for a restful night. as she tossed from side to side. laughing. We have a nice brandy. or anything like that. and a few of them were less than desirable. He’s usually in bed by now.” Addie said. you know. so let’s try to relax and get some rest. honey.

while you can. Opening the door to the tower room. As Adrianna slept. The resemblance is too similar. fear for his friend preventing him from even attempting to hide his anger. Realizing that Thomas was right behind him and knowing that his friend was just concerned for his safety. changing back to his human form. Julian stopped for a brief moment. “I had to know she was safe. Thomas?” “I didn’t have a chance to get that close to any of them. “She’s very special. “Rest. and … she reminds me of someone …” After a moment’s hesitation. or what was left of it. He ran quickly onto the darkened porch of his home. Julian gave the younger man a piercing glance. as something soft brushed against her cheek. hand poised to touch the sconce that would open the passage to his hidden chamber. I—” he said. the figure rose into the darkness. Jules. Julian. Julian. Thomas. Thomas anxiously awaited. They were all about the same height. just as the sun began its slow rise beyond the horizon. A short distance away. I think it’s possible Adrianna could be his next target. Approaching the far wall. although I’m still not sure he’s our serial killer. Someone. The shadow disappeared through the open doors. singled her out tonight at the club. turning to answer the question Thomas had asked moments earlier. “Geez. until he reached the upstairs bedroom. Just like the woman I used to know—and just like Adrianna.J. as it hurried to reach its destination. dark hair and brown eyes. securing them tightly with the flick of a wrist. stopping for a brief moment to watch the sleeping woman. Time stood still … all was quiet until. There’s a definite pattern he’s following. until he saw his friend approaching. Who knows what would have happened 104 . Inside the front door. Did you notice anything similar about the women this psycho had chosen as his targets. as he walked right past Thomas and headed up the main staircase. he continued. Reaching toward the sky.” Thomas shouted.” came the soft whisper floating toward her on a gentle breeze.D. Why. on the hill high above the cottage. my love. Julian touched down upon the emerald lawn. you cut that a little too close—the sun’s almost up! What were you thinking—if you were thinking at all—and where the hell were you? Have you no answer for me? It’s not like you to be so careless. he took the flight of stairs two at a time. pacing nervously back and forth. with the same approximate build. she fell into a deep sleep just as the dawn began to creep over the horizon. Thomas. and I think our killer wanted to be sure I would notice. finally. a shadow drifted away from the bed. “Someone I knew a long time ago. Julian sighed deeply. But the most striking similarity—they all had long. Marteeny She was tired … all she wanted was to sleep. what are you thinking?” “At first I thought it was just a coincidence—but not anymore.

with a pointed look at Michael. “I’m sorry. Find him a room. because I have an idea who might be behind these attacks— although it seems impossible. He knew. “I’m not sure why. Christoff. had the grace to look embarrassed when he saw the look on Julian’s face at this unexpected intrusion. and. “Thanks. he said. Julian turned to descend the stairs. I need to know everything. you’ve finally put two and two together. he could be the one responsible for these attacks. no offence. “It’s all right. close on his heels. He’s no threat to any of us. “I’m weak and tired—and I should think you would be.” stated Julian firmly. and we’ve delivered him right to our doorstep!” The midnight blue eyes turned black with the anger blazing inside of them. vampire?” And as Julian stared into those crystal blue eyes. Oh. Michael stood very serenely in the center of the room. I was wondering how long it would take you. his perfect features very composed. if he was right about the identity of their killer. the next he’s just—gone. Tomorrow—sorry. he said.” Julian turned to see Michael entering the room. he knew this man spoke the truth. “And I’ve had enough conversation for one night.” With a nod toward Thomas. Entering 105 . “I’m telling you. His clear blue eyes strayed from Christoff and came to rest upon Julian. I would do the same for those I am responsible for. “Thomas. “Julian knows he has nothing to fear from me. he should be locked up until we know more about him.” “So. It’s very important. See what you can find out about her background. don’t you. Somehow.” “Already in your room.” the other man replied. her family history. today—I want you to do some detective work. my friend. but I’m taking a few precautions until I’m able to join you again. but I trust you. select a few men to keep our guest company while the rest of us sleep.The Vampire’s Lady to her if we hadn’t been on top of things. One minute he’s there. That being said. Julian’s instincts had never failed him.” Looking again at Michael. and they look to me to keep them safe. there are plenty of others here that don’t. he knew you were back before the rest of us realized it. Julian. they would need all the help they could get to defeat him. that Michael could be trusted. as he glared at the stranger standing quietly before him. Christoff.” the Dark Vampire accused angrily. so we can all get the rest we need. Thomas. Placing his hand on Christoff ’s shoulder. and just as a precaution.” he said simply. Thomas. We’ll talk again tonight after I’ve rested and fed. too.” “I understand. I’m thirsty. beyond a shadow of a doubt. For all we know. So. he slips away at the blink of an eye—as if he’s not quite real.” “But—” Christoff started to argue.

D. Smash! The sound echoed loudly. He could do it again. Did Adrianna also carry within her blood the gift that could save him? He had to know—had to be sure. his body tensed. He’d lost happiness once. That glorious dark hair … Although Adrianna’s is a bit longer. but he knew it would take more than a pint of bottled blood for him to control his urges the next time he was near her. Still lost in thought. but it would take time—time they didn’t have. He had to find whoever—whatever—it was. just how much she resembled Adrianna. the scent of her and the softness of her body pressing against him.J. he began to undress. He would die before he lost it again. What was he going to do? If she was who he thought she was. Walking over to the bed. shattering it into a million pieces as it hit the stone wall. Standing there naked in the firelight. “She felt so damn good!” he whispered softly. He reached for the goblet just inches away and drained the glass of thick. as he’d watched Sonya administer to the injured girl. kiss her passionately. he thought as he remembered his fingers entwined in the soft waves. as he threw the delicate glass across the room. A chance at happiness—redemption—something he’d thought he’d lost forever when his love had died all those centuries ago. sliding them off in one fluid motion. Just as before. and it had been a long time since he had been human. When 106 . Now that he’d found her. letting his shirt slide from his arms to the ground in a flutter of silk. before it found her. so he could actually have a relationship with the woman he loved. red liquid. to run away. and make love to her—not rip her throat out! He ignored the stab of pain as he slammed his fist into the marble mantle. But these were things a human male would do with a beautiful woman like Adrianna. he tried to make sense of the troubled thoughts filling his mind. he felt the hunger surge forth. he undid the button of his pants. he remembered the alarm he had felt when he’d rushed back into the club after the attack to find her gone. if she miraculously had the same connection to him that Varga had had. as other feelings took control of his body and his senses. Marteeny his sleeping chamber. he walked directly to the fireplace. It had first occurred to him back at the club. He’d done it before. As he leaned his head against the cold marble of the mantle. He sighed deeply. There was something out there hunting her. He wanted to feel her in his arms. he must find some way to keep her. Will I ever be able to touch her without the hunger taking control? he wondered. how he’d wanted her! It had been so long—almost a lifetime—since he’d felt desire like that for anyone. In his mind he remembered the confused look on her face as he made an excuse to leave the dance floor—no. then he’d been given a second chance. as he envisioned her once again in his arms. learned to control the hunger. God.

” he told himself angrily. he backed away. and then he was instantly gone. As he moved back toward the bed. The hunger had flowed within him. softly brushing his lips against her cheek. surrounded by the darkness of a windowless room. “Get control of yourself. He fought for composure. She seemed restless and unsettled. With a swift intake of breath. he became aware of the night sky. he sat upon the bed and prepared for the day to take him. He’d made it to the mansion as the first rays of sunlight pierced the night sky. he’d hidden among the shadows. listening at the glass doors to her room. calming her immediately. my love.” he whispered. ready to burst forth as his fingers traveled downward across her velvet skin. Then he’d felt it—rising like the tide and surging to wash away all in its path. and the balcony doors had opened to him. he thought. and he’d inhaled deeply. the speed of the great eagle carrying him home. as emotions he’d thought long dead took control. as he fell backward into a “dead” sleep. while the two women talked. how he’d wanted to take her in his arms and comfort her. watching as she slept. he’d ignored the danger to himself and gone directly to the cottage. He leaned toward her. Moving closer to the bed. rhythmic breathing and knew she was asleep. He could feel his eyes bleed to black as they followed their own trail across the soft shoulder. his fingers trailing a feather-light caress along her cheek. standing very still. forcing himself into the far corner of the room. On the balcony of his former home. or you’ll be more dangerous to her than anything she might have encountered tonight. down to the gently rising mound of breast just visible through the sheer top she was wearing. “Rest. With a twinge of alarm. He soared into the night sky. But I’ve known so many beautiful women. His last thought was of soft. he’d leaned forward and whispered softly to her. He’d felt her fear as she discussed the events of the evening. she began to stir. She’s so beautiful. much to Thomas’s chagrin! Coming back to reality. He’d given a slight wave of his hand.The Vampire’s Lady he’d finally left that evening. he realized dawn was fast approaching. “God!” he whispered. What makes her so diff erent? As he made to move forward one last time. brown hair brushing softly against his cheek. fists clenched at his side. while you can. Leaning back against the wall. God. He waited patiently until all was silent. and his chaotic emotions eventually returned to normal. Moving inside. he lost track of time as he watched her a while longer. he’d waited in silence. let her know that he was there to protect her! But he dared not move. 107 . Her scent was intoxicating. Then he heard her slow.

“Was Kim Taylor there with you?” “Yes. as she came fully awake. Reaching clumsily across the nightstand beside her bed. “Miss Avani.” “Oh—yes. It couldn’t be her alarm.Chapter 9 A piercing sound—so shrill—and nonstop. knocking a box of tissues to the floor in the process. It was the phone. peaceful sleep she’d finally fallen into last night after much tossing and turning. I’m sorry to wake you at this hour but … there’s been an accident … at your dress shop. ringing loudly.” she almost shouted into the receiver. not recognizing the voice. We’d like you to come to the station as soon as possible and—” “An accident! What kind of accident? We were just there last night. We wanted to make sure there were no problems. “Miss Avani. detective.” she replied a little breathlessly. her day off. 108 .” “Why did you feel you needed to check on her?” he asked. that’s why my partner and I stopped in—to check on her. “Hello!” “May I please speak to Adrianna Avani?” came the gruff voice on the other end of the line. her foggy brain finally realized where the sound was coming from. she managed to grab the offensive object. It wasn’t set. and everything was fine. This was Sunday. What is that ringing? Addie thought as she fought to come awake. “She’s a new employee. As she forced her eyes to open. with the city police department. But something was definitely interrupting the deep. “Speaking. Who is this?” she asked. this is Detective Bertram. apprehension gripping her as she sat up and tried hard to concentrate on the voice at the other end of the line.

“The police—why?” “It’s Kim. What do you want? It’s Sunday … and I’m tired. The sense of alarm she felt was overwhelming. detective. “This can’t be happening. miss—I’m afraid she’s not all right. as she tried to get her to open her eyes. What’s this all about. detective?” Adrianna asked. She was numb. they say something’s … happened to her.” As the words finally penetrated her foggy mind. as the words of the detective really sank in. and ran to Kate’s room. that has to be it. Would you and your partner be able to come down to the station this morning?” he continued politely. Please. and when she’d finished. Kate. “Kate. Is Kim all right?” she asked as she tried to control the panic rising inside of her. Bertram hesitated a moment before replying. she could barely move. She pulled the covers back and shook her friend roughly. Not waiting for the other girl to answer. that 109 . Oh God. I think she pulled out right behind us.The Vampire’s Lady It was the first time she’d closed alone.” Addie began slowly. she was just closing up. Some early morning walkers noticed the door to your shop was open as they went by. I really don’t want to get into the details over the phone.” she said as she pounded on the door. The receiver fell from her hands onto the floor. “Kim was fine when we left her. she flung the door wide open and ran to the bedside. The police have to be mistaken. tell me what’s wrong. We’ll go down to the station and find out it was all a big mistake!” Throwing the covers off. her voice barely a whisper. “Something’s happened … what … what’s wrong?” “The police just called. get up!” Addie ordered. “No. “Kate. When they looked inside they … found Miss Taylor.” she said. trying to control the tears ready to burst forth. something’s happened. she jumped from the bed. Maybe some street person broke into the shop and was attacked. “Yes. where a mass of red hair was the only thing visible from under the mound of bedcovers. “Wha—Addie—for Pete’s sake. Yes. “Miss Avani—are you there? “Yes … I … we’ll be right there. wake up! It’s Addie. please—come on. “So she was fine when you left?” he continued.” came the muffled response as Kate pulled the bedcovers back over her head. Kate.” she told herself. I’m afraid … she’s been murdered. we walked her to her car and then we left. “No. wake up. Miss Avani. replaced the receiver. Kate jumped up to a sitting position and tried hard to focus on the person shaking her.

they realized the nightmare was just beginning. she flew to the nearby dresser and began throwing clothes wildly about. and our job will be twice as hard as before. we’d better hurry. “I know it’s a lot to take in. as Bertram told them what the police had discovered when they went to the boutique. They want us to come down to the station. sure—let’s go down to the station. had never had to face anything like this. but. I think you ladies have a right to know. it’d be a great help. realizing there was no easy way to say what needed to be said. in their sheltered lives. You’re telling us you think … the attack on Kim … might be related to the previous murders … but the pattern was … different this time?” “Yes. He really hated this part of his job. industrial110 . Marteeny she’s been … murdered. She heard Kate’s gasp of shock. but these women. “Oh my God. The detective sighed heavily.” he said with real concern.” Kate insisted. that’s right. If we can paint a complete picture of her last evening alive. before he said. “I’m very sorry. He dealt with the ugly side of life every day. Come on. The other bodies we’ve found were … completely drained of blood. Walking over to a large. but … Miss Taylor’s death was … different. then it’s a good bet we have two killers on our hands. we have to go. but if you can tell us what happened while you were with her last night. “Miss Taylor’s body was … well. as the two of them sat in the detective’s office. Kate.” sobbed Kate. wiping tears from her eyes. took a deep breath and asked.” he replied as the girls stared at each other in disbelief. She was moving in slow motion. as Addie ran back to her own room.” Kate agreed. “That’s what I thought. grabbing the crumpled clothing Kate had discarded the night before and absentmindedly setting them on the bed. if that’s even possible. It’s the only way we’ll find out the truth.J.” He hesitated. under the circumstances. cringing a little as he heard their gasps of shock. Kate sobbed quietly in the chair next to her. “Murdered! That’s crazy—she was fine last night. “I don’t understand.” Flinging the covers aside. too. it was literally torn to pieces. then things are worse than we thought.D.” Addie continued. “If we can’t connect Miss Taylor’s death to the other murders.” Addie could barely get the word out.” he said. “We’ll go there and we’ll find out it was someone else entirely—that they were totally wrong. I told him we’d be there as soon as we can. There must be some mistake. An hour later. “Okay.” “What do you mean?” asked Addie. If we can’t make the connection. We’ll get this all straightened out. even though the MO is different. Come on. as Addie. we might be able to find something that will connect her death to the other murders. We haven’t made this public.

When she mentioned the strange howling that had everyone mystified. “So … what can you tell me?” After taking a sip. Anyway.” “Of course.” “Of course. He looked thoughtfully at the two of them and then seemed to make a decision. he couldn’t hide his interest. miss. if I may—avoid that place for a while. it bothers me.” he told them. before you know. if it’s out there. and then. there was no trace of any kind of disturbance outside when they finally did let us go. You may not think so. we have a few leads. “Well. Detective. strangely enough.” Addie told him. Then. Something strange—and deadly—is definitely going on in this town. she asked. We leave with more questions than answers. “I’ll do that. so we didn’t see very much at all. With no outward signs of anything actually happening. And getting any information from the owners of the place is like pulling teeth. something I’m missing—some clue. It’s just—well. but—well. ladies. people don’t have the common sense to stay out of areas that are dangerous.” He sat for a moment. Neither of them wanted to go anywhere near the boutique 111 . and it all seems to be centered around that club.” he finished. actually feeling grateful. they wouldn’t let anyone leave the club. it’s too late. Did your men find anything after they arrived?” “Yes. Miss Avani. almost as an afterthought. “but I’m afraid that’s all restricted information. And.” he stated. I’d like to give you a piece of advice. For some reason. Do you know approximately how long?” Addie asked. “Umm. “You’re a very perceptive young lady. “Very interesting. Sorry.” he replied cautiously. these two seemingly separate incidents both happening on the same night only miles apart. we were both questioning our own sanity. as another thought entered her mind. deep in thought. Detective. it’s all so weird. standing up as they rose to leave. thank you both for coming down. but you’ve been a big help.” Addie said as she shook his hand. Well. “What is it. Addie began to fill him in on the happenings of the night before. Then. I’m afraid the shop will have to remain closed for a while—ongoing investigation and all.The Vampire’s Lady size coffeepot on a shelf beneath his window. “But you didn’t see what made the sound?” “No. “But you were there yourself. you didn’t imagine anything. Miss Avani. what are you thinking?” Adrianna asked. as they turned to walk out the door. There has to be a connection. We’re getting close. we’ll find it.” she explained as Kate nodded in agreement. including the strange man Kim had encountered earlier at the shop and the events at the club. picking up on something as she watched Bertram. please—just call. “If there’s anything else we can do. Detective. I can feel it. he said. he poured them each a cup of steaming coffee.

saying she was suddenly not feeling well. ended savagely by some unknown predator.” “We’ll do our best. How many more people were going to die before the monster responsible was brought to justice? They drove on. a fresh teardrop glistening on her cheek. had it? It had happened to her friend. How were they ever going to carry on with business as usual after this? “Just until we get forensics in there to go over everything with a fine-tooth comb. 112 .” he said kindly. Looking over her shoulder as they went out the door Addie said. leaning so far back in his chair that it nearly touched the wall behind him. and shop. turning back to look at Addie with eyes red and swollen. He did not want them to walk in on a horror scene. Marteeny for quite some time. I promise we’ll be as quick as possible. That’s the only thing that’s important. keeping all but the authorities away. miss.J. Didn’t they know something was wrong? Didn’t they know a young girl had died horribly? How could they laugh. Now Kim’s life was over. the yellow police tape swaying slightly in the warm breeze was proof enough that it was very real. as they came upon the corner where the shop stood. They drove home in total silence. she thought numbly. but. A feeling of nausea rose in the pit of Addie’s stomach as they drove past the shop. I wouldn’t feel safe with you going back to work until we have a better idea of what went down there. This time the pain was for her and Kate. it hadn’t happened to any of them. The police were there.D.” he repeated aloud.” As he watched them leave. slowing the car to a crawl. to tell you the truth. Kate decided to lie down for a while. Detective. as if by a wild animal! ***** Adrianna drove the red sports car slowly through the center of town. She moved slowly down the hallway toward her room. and everyone else acquainted with the young girl who—only a few hours ago—had been so full of life. where crowds of people on either side of the busy street were going about their daily routine. Yellow tape sectioned off the entire building. They thanked the detective. One thing stood out in his mind. as she glanced into the rearview mirror. I’m sorry. That would make sense. and be happy—as if nothing at all had happened? Well. went over their conversation. “A horrible howling sound. This can’t be happening. the detective. I know this is your livelihood. “Find the killer. We’ll make sure everything is … ready for the shop to open when we’re through. But. for the unfortunate victim at the boutique had been brutally savaged—torn apart. probably looking for any evidence they could find. When they had arrived. she kept telling herself.

she looked around for any sign of activity. Trying not to appear nervous as she heard the ominous growl from deep within the animal’s throat. I wish I had the answers.” she told herself. only eyed her warily. With the promise of a tasty morsel staring it in the face. but the police seem to be doing all they can. It might be the quickest way to get to Julian. “Sit. Julian knew something. and the animal obeyed immediately. When is it going to end.The Vampire’s Lady “I wish someone would shake me—really hard—and wake me up from this horrible nightmare. a quick smile spreading across his handsome face. remembering the armed security around the house. the dog immediately stopped growling. As she was about to go up the front steps. followed by Brutus himself. Kate. sipping another cup of strong coffee. can I help you? Are you. “Hello. and she was determined to find out what it was. came walking around the side of the house. Kate’s handsome friend from the club. Where was everyone? But the fact that no one. maybe. Addie kept her eyes alert for any sign of the security team she knew was around somewhere. it’s not enough!” Kate said as she walked into the room. friendly enough. again. She was sure they’d come in handy if she encountered her furry friend again. but she really couldn’t be sure. Addie? Who will the next victim be … and is it going to be someone else we know?” she broke off as the tears flowed. Making the short drive up the hill to the main house. they can stop me if they want to. Of this she was certain. “Hey. Five minutes later. boy. his shoulder-length head of curls tied in a ponytail. Climbing slowly out of the vehicle. she held out a hand containing a biscuit. she stopped the car in front of the old mansion. she grabbed the car keys and headed for the front door. accosted her made her relax a little. slamming the door shut behind her. Whether it was accessing the situation to determine if she were a threat or waiting for permission from the man standing beside him. “I don’t know. There was no one—only silence. “Well. But it did not approach.” the man ordered.” she said as she turned to face them. Addie tried to absorb all they’d learned that morning. She thought she saw a figure off in the distance as she drove through the woods. Coming to a decision. knowing her words offered little comfort. Remembering Brutus. also. She owed Kim that much. “Well. looking for someone?” he stated. remember me? I brought you something. or no thing. 113 . Sitting at the kitchen table. she couldn’t be sure. she ran back to the kitchen to get some dog treats Kate had bought at the grocery store.” Addie replied. She decided it would be better to drive this time.

which. due to the late nights at the club. I apologize for showing up unannounced. instead of the handshake she expected. It covered her face in a lovely shade of pink. as far as she could tell. suddenly. he asked. as he noticed her reluctance to leave. since we met so … briefly last night. Is Julian at home?” Was it her imagination. “Sorry. his smile deepening as he took her outstretched hand and raised it to his lips. he’s home—but he’s usually a very late riser. I was out running some errands and thought I’d drop by and properly introduce myself. before replying. I thought it would be all right to drop by.” said Addie hesitantly. I ran into a man named Brian the other day. “I didn’t mean to intrude. she didn’t blame him for trying to point out her carelessness. We met briefly last night at the club. yes.” “Thomas. letting the dog take the treat from her and watching as it gobbled it down in a matter of seconds. never mind. you said Julian lived here. You’d better give him the biscuit before he drowns us in drool. you said you met Brian? Well. “But I’d be happy to tell him you were asking about him. “Yeah. and. 114 . “It’s just—oh. “I don’t know if you remember me. if I remember correctly.” she said. He doesn’t see anyone until evening.D. “I seem to be making a habit of showing up here unannounced. Then.” Thomas stated firmly—but with no real trace of anger at her for trespassing. boy. it’s nothing. A long strand of saliva was hanging from the side of its huge jaw. If you could just let him know I stopped by.” she said. with a twinkle in his eye. “And. and. here you go. and he indicated that it would be all right if I stopped by. but the dog remained where it had been ordered to stay.” he said.” Then. but. “Since we met so briefly last night?—what a lame excuse!” she told herself as she felt the blush climb up her throat. She could tell by the look in its large. or did he seem to hesitate.” and she showed Thomas the biscuit. your neighbor from the cottage. he did warn me about that. she changed her mind. then you must know we’ve been having some poacher problems around here lately.” She held her hand out to Thomas. glancing at the dog. “So. Marteeny “I’m sorry.J. I’m Adrianna Avani.” she said. You might want to think twice before doing it again. She’d come here for a reason. turning to go. Julian lives here. Given all that’d happened lately. brown eyes that it wanted nothing more than to snatch the biscuit from her waiting hand. “is the reason for my tasty bribe. “Yes.” Addie anxiously replied. he continued. I’d appreciate it. “Is there something I might be able to help you with?” “Oh no. as if choosing his words carefully.” the young man said. as long as I could persuade our large friend there to let me enter the grounds. The grin widened across his face as he listened to her senseless babbling. as I didn’t have any other way of contacting anyone here. and I do remember you and your friend very well. It could be dangerous roaming the area alone. again.” Then. while I was out walking.

but I’m pretty sure he’ll want to talk to you. this is probably a stupid question. calm down. Kate and I. but you’re welcome. but … how’s Kate dealing with this?” Thomas asked. I’m sorry Julian’s … not available. her control snapping.The Vampire’s Lady and she wasn’t going to leave until she had some answers to the million questions crowding her mind.” Thomas said as he put his arm around her shoulders in an attempt to comfort her. that’s what the detective hopes to do. Will you tell Kate I’m thinking about her?” 115 . and I really am sorry about your friend. that’s not true. Addie. even if it’s just a phone call. “Look.” “Sure … sure it is. We’re not in the mood to do much after this morning. as she filled him in on everything the detective had told them. she said. the earlier attacks—and I wish someone would shed a little light on these happenings and tell me what the hell is going on in this town!” she shouted. Her chest heaved from the force of her sobs. the shock of the morning’s news causing her voice to rise in anger. can help me with. Ah. “It’s hard … for both of us. “I’ll be sure to tell him you were here and fill him in on what you’ve told me. otherwise. just found out this morning that we lost a good friend—brutally murdered by some maniac.” he said. Turning back to Thomas.” Thomas replied. Adrianna … I’m … I’m so sorry.” “Okay.” he said. Thomas. or Julian. seemingly deep in thought. come on.” she said. as unshed tears for Kim rolled down her cheeks.” “I haven’t done anything yet. There is something you. but I’m not sure Julian can tell you anything that will help you. “We’ve. I didn’t mean to be a heartless brute. Are you going to be home later?” “I think so. When she was finished. Your friend’s attack sounds different than the others—but you did say the police were trying to tie them together?” “Yes. he said. She watched him grow angrier by the minute. thanks. “Yes—two. “Here. now … tell me what happened to your friend. “Oh God. Thomas.” In between sobs. Addie.” she told him. she told him about their visit to the police station that morning. “I really can’t speak for Julian. or someone who was at that club last night. I have this awful feeling that it’s all connected somehow—the events at the club last night. our friend Kim’s death. “You know. “Come on now … better? Okay. so maybe we can set something up for tonight.” she explained. it looks like they might have two different killers on their hands. so you can have a chance to talk to him. handing her a handkerchief. “I’m really sorry about your friend. leading her back to her car.

“Given all that’s happened lately. Thomas. Oh. he did. smiling at her friend’s obvious pleasure.” Kate was staring at her expectantly. Reaching the cottage. I guess it makes sense. I do.” she said. I already have it—from Kate. do you need my phone number?” “Ah.” Then. and the article told of the attacks at the club the previous evening. causing both girls to jump nervously. Good-bye. “See you later—maybe.” said Kate. Why am I not surprised to hear from you this morning?” 116 .J. yes. Maybe our friend Nick isn’t the only one hot on the investigative trail. Addie turned to answer it. she parked the car and walked to the house. sunny day.” she said. so. “You saw Thomas? Did he ask about me?” she asked. “I was really hoping to get some information about what happened at the club last night. Addie sobered a little. Marteeny “Of course. But there have to be times when you’d like to enjoy a bright. with a deep sigh. “You don’t want to know. turned in the driveway. In a statement to the press. Addie filled her in on the visit with Thomas. It sure sounds like somebody knows something. It also stated that there were “similarities” to other attacks in the area.” “Maybe your handsome friend is a vampire. “This is getting weirder by the minute. the police had said they were following every possible lead to get to the bottom of these bazaar murders. If you work that late every night you wouldn’t be an early riser. “As a matter of fact. “Hi. At that moment the phone rang loudly. “Right. trying not to sound too eager. Rick.” he said with a smile. right? And Thomas didn’t seem any the worse for wear from his late night. remembering the reason she had gone to the “big house” in the first place.” she said.” She shut the car door. I thought Detective Bertram said details of the murder weren’t made public. stunning her friend. “He is a sweetheart. “Look at this. throwing the morning paper down on the kitchen table. “Where have you been?” Kate asked as she entered the kitchen and headed straight for the coffeepot. The article went on to say that the “disturbance” was still under investigation at this time. lost in thought. now.D. He said to make sure I tell you he was thinking about you. but I was told Julian was still asleep.” Addie stated firmly. but no real details. vampire killer strikes again! screamed the headlines. and headed back down the road.” Kate said. smiling back at him.

trying to defend their reason for going. Rick. we were.The Vampire’s Lady Addie asked.” he said. “Oh. We’re not stupid.” she said when he let her continue. give them something to think about. considering how long the security team was out there and the fact that someone called the police in. and they were only slightly injured. they handled it all right.” he said. by that time all we wanted to do was go home. We watched for a while from a window. but not well enough to prevent people from dying!” he said. and then there was this awful howling sound.” “I told you not to go there. They have good security. as a matter of fact.” Rick scolded. give us a little credit. the pitch of his voice rising as his anger grew. so we don’t know very much about what actually happened. “What kind of howling— and from what?” “That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question—no one seems to know. Addie—dead bodies—in the park across the street from the club! Young kids who’d hardly begun their lives. Since everything appeared to be under control. “Really. I suppose you were right in the thick of it?” he asked. the threat was contained. tensing as she awaited the onslaught of questions she knew he was going to ask. I told you. and they weren’t letting anyone leave. trying not to shout at her. 117 . “Yes. There wasn’t much damage that we could see. We did hear some screaming. It didn’t make much sense. They seemed to handle everything just fine. We were safe inside the club the whole time.” Addie chided. Kate and I looked around as we headed for the car. It seems I had good reason to be worried about you two. surprise in his voice. but I made sure to throw a few good punches while I had the chance. we left. “Rick. The club owners handled whatever the problem was. there was no sign of any trouble that we could see. “When they finally did let us leave. and only one guy and maybe a girl seemed to be in any way injured. We never heard anything about anyone dying.” “They found several bodies.” Rick repeated. Addie. we’re fine. and we didn’t want to play twenty questions with the police. but it sounded far away. their security locked the place down tight. Most of the trouble was outside. When it all started.” she said. You know. but there was no sign that there’d been any kind of trouble. but it was so dark we couldn’t make out a thing. “Dying—what are you talking about? All we saw were two people. Anyway. but his voice sounded strange—almost distracted. irritated because she knew she was in for a lecture. “I heard about the trouble at Nightlife last night. you see. Addie. “Sarcasm doesn’t become you. you worried for nothing.” “Howling. You should’ve listened to me. so.

none at all. looking to Kate for confirmation. against whatever it was that attacked them. along with the others. I …” his voice broke as he tried to continue. God. Addie.” 118 . So we have nothing—no evidence. They had no chance. how I wish you. Rick. It was Nick’s father that called me. Marteeny barely able to keep his voice under control. I saw him sneak outside with his camera ready—the camera! Rick! Maybe he got off some shots—maybe there are pictures of whoever did this. “Oh. Did they find—” “They found the camera. I saw the bodies. All the victims. “It was empty.” “What do you mean?” she asked. Then I went down to the morgue. the shock evident in her voice.” “I told you I was called for funeral arrangements. there’s no question. because it seems to me he died for no good reason! But one thing is certain—someone sure doesn’t want anyone to know what’s going on at that club.” “Who told you about the bodies. Among the phone calls I received this morning about funeral services for some of the victims was one from … a friend of mine. but all the other woman could do was mouth the word Who? “He’s dead. “Not just someone I knew—you knew him. Addie. Nick is dead.” came Rick’s voice.J. When I heard from Nick’s family.D. I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life. and I’ve seen some awful things in my years as a priest. Do you understand now why I don’t ever want you going near that place again?” “Oh God. that can’t be. Not Nick. I hope whatever Nick was chasing was worth the cost. He was found in the park. Rick. Addie.” “No … No. but she wasn’t sure she really wanted him to explain. not someone you knew. Addie. Someone made sure that film was destroyed. I saw … we saw him. a little quieter now. You probably didn’t see anything because you were too far away. had seen something—anything—that would help the authorities come up with some answers. The only marks found on his body were two small puncture wounds on the side of his neck. and some of them had more than just two small puncture wounds. or someone. Addie. “But that’s not the worst of it. no.” she said. were drained of blood—completely. too. Addie. I can’t believe it. “A few of the bodies were torn to pieces—literally.” Addie said. Nick included. Rick? The paper said nothing. I felt I had the right to ask a few questions. I went to the police station and talked to some of the officers—demanded some answers.

if they can’t. Anger fought with guilt. “Rick. visibly shaken after hearing what he had to say. all the victims had similar traits of appearance. They’re hoping to find something that will tie everything together. or made her follow us.The Vampire’s Lady A chill came over Addie as she listened to his words. what’s he talking about?” Kate leaned closer to the phone in an attempt to eavesdrop on the conversation. although. “Kim—I’m so sorry. How much worse can it get?” “You have no idea. Is there anything I can do?” “Yes. “Or the police would have found three bodies instead of one.” “You—what are you talking about?” “We went to the shop.” “Great! I guess all we can do now is let the police do their job and try to 119 . talk me down off the ledge. all the others were in the vicinity of the club. things are worse they we thought. As she told him about Kim and their visit with Detective Bertram.” she said. tearing her up inside. Addie. “What—Addie. Maybe she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. she could hear his sharp intake of breath. You both must have gone through hell this morning. I don’t think you should go near the boutique for a while. if they can’t make a reasonable connection. until they find some answers. Think about it.” Addie explained. she’d be alive today. I feel partly responsible. Addie. That and the difference in the way the … victims … were killed. honey. but she must have gone back inside for some reason. there’s something I have to tell you—although. staring at Kate with a shocked expression. you can’t blame yourself. Or maybe—” “All right. And we already know that … well … that you possess those very traits the killer seems drawn to in his victims.” “Worse? How could things possibly be any worse?” “The way the detective explained it. If we’d only stayed to make sure she actually did leave. Why wasn’t this one?” “What are you getting at. and the detective was right about one thing. even when they’re through with it. Rick. Addie—why your shop? If these attacks are connected. Had I known I would’ve been a little more sensitive in breaking the news about Nick. “The police are looking into the change in location for this attack. “Addie. We walked with her to the car. The murderer struck there once. We thought she’d left right behind us. all right!” Adrianna shouted. then we have not one but two separate killers—maybe more. He may be watching for another chance. Rick?” But the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach told her the answer before he said the words. Maybe Kim wasn’t the target. after Nick …” “Just tell me. “Did you say ‘torn to pieces’?” she asked. The police are already pretty sure they have a serial killer on their hands.

J.” Kate said dramatically. I forgot to tell you …” 120 . not surprisingly. They’ll find the ones who did this. going after his ‘big story. Originally. “I’m starting to get really scared. I really don’t think I want to roam around outside tonight. Rick said he’d let us know if he finds out anything else. We should be starving.” “It’s just so awful! Nick and Kim—I just can’t believe it. “Are you up for that?” “That sounds good.” she said. You both be careful. Kate.” she pointed out but. “I don’t have much of an appetite. maybe someone will notice something out of the ordinary that will help the authorities—give them the break in the case they need to solve this mess. Addie. now. Don’t take any unnecessary chances and Addie—please.” Addie heard his soft good-bye as she hung up the phone. I’ll call you right away.” “I guess we can’t say he worries too much anymore.” Addie suggested.’ He was so excited.” As they prepared to leave.” Addie started to say. “Nick?” “He’s dead. Kate. I think I’ll go crazy. This has always been such a quiet. If we keep our eyes and ears open.” Addie told her as she sat down at the kitchen table. If I hear anything else. shaking her head. “We just have to stay alert and be careful. There’s something happening here that affects all of us. Nothing like this has ever happened here. Give my love to Kate. We have a good police force. stay away from that club. but I’m as frightened as you are. It’s way past lunch.” Kate said. “Oh Kate. a new boutique in town and their nearest competitor but. I should—” “It’s not your fault. neither of them had the slightest interest in food. I guess we should eat something. “We could go back into town—maybe to Mocha Joe’s for coffee.” “Oh my God!” “I can’t believe it either. What the hell is going on—and why is it happening now?” “I don’t know. I should have tried to stop him. that something like this would happen. Rick said he was one of several victims at the club last night. Talk to you later. the coffee shop it is. Marteeny stay alert. Addie. eyes large and questioning. then. get a bagel or something. they’d planned to spend their day off doing some shopping and checking out Carolyn’s. Kate stared at her. We had no idea what was going on outside. We’ll have an early supper and then head back here for a quiet evening—before it gets dark. Addie suddenly remembered something she’d forgotten to mention.D. peaceful little town. I can still see him heading for the exit. “I would like to go somewhere. none of that seemed important. Addie. If I stay in this house a minute longer. “Well. It looks like he has good reason.

“Maybe then. But I do feel comfortable with him. but he made me feel safe. it does. trying to read the expression on Addie’s face. I guess it’s because we’ve just met. nothing like that. I don’t know. it’s just that this morning. Does that make any sense to you?” “Believe it or not. What about Julian?” “I really didn’t get a chance to spend much time with him.” “No. I don’t know. I think so. I know. But Addie. I’ll be able to get some answers to a few of the questions I’ve been waiting to ask our handsome neighbor. He mentioned something about him. and I really don’t know anything about him. and I did spend a little time with Thomas. I think he’s okay. although …” “What—what’s wrong?” “Well. “Great … yes. “Are you serious? That would be great—right?” she asked. It’s just—what do we really know about either of one them? And with all that’s been happening …” “I know. maybe stopping by later. he asked if we’d be home tonight. We should probably be a little more cautious with any new people we happen to meet. Then it’s agreed. when I was talking to Thomas …” “Yes?” “Well.” Addie agreed. I hope. We’ll give them both a chance. That’s a good thing. I’m a pretty good judge of character. “Not more bad news. and Julian.The Vampire’s Lady “You forgot to tell me—what?” Kate waited expectantly. if I have a chance to talk to Julian. okay?” “Okay. I picked up nothing but good vibes from him.” Addie waited for her friend to respond. he’s very … mysterious is the only word I can think of that fits.” 121 .

Chapter 10 Driving into town. Are you okay. deep in conversation about something that seemed awfully important to them. I did hear something like that. “I’m making sure I keep my hair as short as possible until they catch the crazy responsible. honey?” Kate asked. same height and weight. She realized she had to shake this mood she was settling into. After she locked the car door. brown eyes. Addie couldn’t help but pick up a whisper here and there as she and Kate walked by. “Hey. Adrianna watched the passing traffic.” Addie replied. I just need some food. How out of sync we become with the world around us when tragedy aff ects our lives. willowy blonde. a tall. “Don’t most serial killers usually have some sort of pattern?” Their conversation died away as the women got into their car and drove off. Again she thought. already bumper to bumper with the weekend shoppers. not wanting to concern Kate.” her friend replied. Hungry or not.” a petite woman with short brown curls was telling her friend. Addie was grateful to find an empty parking space as soon as they pulled into the lot which serviced the tiny coffee shop. “I’m fine. so let’s go inside and do just that. A sick feeling settled in the pit of Adrianna’s stomach as the words of the women played over and over in her mind. Although she wasn’t intentionally trying to eavesdrop.” “Yeah. we should force ourselves to eat something. and Kim wouldn’t have wanted that. 122 . dark hair. Entering the congested little town. “They said all of the women that were attacked so far resembled each other—long. she noticed two women standing near their own car a few feet away. or she’d soon be dealing with severe depression. Earth to Addie. noticing how pale her friend had suddenly become.

“I can already taste it. After placing their order at the counter. same as Kim was. and the profile is women with long. If we use 123 . “Oh my God—poor Kim. height.” “Of course she was in the wrong place. The shop will be closed for a week or more. and we’ll keep the cottage locked up tight as a drum. so you can’t blame yourself for what happened to her. how about this? We won’t go to the club for a while. “All right. He thinks Kim was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. brown hair. Addie. confused. then followed and attacked.” Addie said. What are you getting at?” Kate said. they’re not even sure Kim’s death is connected to the other murders. It’s our shop. weight.” Addie said when the full realization of what had actually happened finally hit her. but that doesn’t mean he was looking for you in particular. Kate. Rick brought up a point I hadn’t even thought of.” Kate said. There’s nothing like a great sugar rush to make you forget the problems of the day.” she said as she fingered a strand of her own long. Look. After a moment’s hesitation. I still can’t believe what happened. There’s a great big muffin just dripping with chocolate icing calling my name. I think.The Vampire’s Lady “I’m ready. Yes. that everyone—regardless of hair color. forcing a laugh as they entered the crowded shop famous for its homemade pastries and great coffee. “Don’t be ridiculous. this psycho may have a preference for long. brown hair.” “No Kate. Kate had to talk her out of believing such nonsense. “Kate. Why would anyone want to hurt you? The other women were just random targets. do you really think there’s some kind of pattern to these murders— that this monster’s really singling out only dark-haired women? Maybe I should be worried. Besides. “Think about it. What if it wasn’t some random attack? What if this lunatic was actually looking for someone in particular—like me—but found her instead? They’d have to kill her because she saw who they were. She knew if there were any truth to Rick’s theory that Addie would carry the guilt of Kim’s death to her grave. that’s not what I meant. Kim has short. just as a safety precaution. brown hair. and then maybe nothing will happen to anyone else. they found an empty table near the front window that afforded a great view of the main street. well. remember. “Yes. I mean—well. What if she died because of me?” Kate knew Adrianna better than anyone did. I know. That the murderer was actually looking for someone else. it’s horrible what happened to her—but. yes. or whatever—should be a lot more cautious. They were spotted while out for the evening. grabbing Addie by the arm and pulling her up the front steps. Addie decided to mention the conversation she’d overheard. black hair.” Kate kept trying to re-assure her friend when she saw the doubtful look on Addie’s face.

Well.” “Hey. Kate tried desperately to think of something to shake their mood. she said. hoping he would take her up on the invitation.” He seemed to hesitate slightly before replying. Kate couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the handsome young man. Entering the shop. I was wondering when we’d get another chance to see them. as she placed two coffees and two really large muffins on the table before Addie and Kate. she turned quickly back to Thomas. staring out the window. Addie. flashing her a mischievous grin. and people are anxiously awaiting my return. unfortunately. “I would love to. What is it they say about people who eavesdrop?” “You never hear anything good about yourself.” He winked at them both. I know. As Kate followed Addie’s gaze.” As they drank their coffee in silence. thanks. he walked over to say hello. seeing that the night owl still isn’t up yet. knowing him as I do. You’re probably right about everything. “I’m fine. twice in one day. how are you?” he asked. I can honestly say he wouldn’t mind a lovely lady stopping by to visit. I know. Addie. and I’m just being paranoid. As the traffic signal changed. he came straight toward the coffee shop. and. we should be just fine until they catch whoever is responsible for this whole mess—and they will catch them. lingering a little and taking her hand.” “Eventually. Thomas was waiting on the corner to cross the street. Marteeny our heads. flashing Addie a huge smile. “Do you really think Thomas and Julian will stop by tonight? Since we won’t be going to the club for a while.D. Then. but. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from him when he rises. remembering their meeting that morning. after ordering a coffee to go. she saw one of the men in question. well. She gave him her best smile.J. your coffee’s ready.” Kate was quick to reply. trying to hide the grin on her face at her friend’s eagerness. But I’d love a rain check. what a nice surprise: two beautiful women just waiting to give some company to a lonely fellow. sliding over to an empty chair. I can’t answer your question. Would you like to join us?” she invited. Then. “You know how it is. Tommy. how lucky can one man be?” he said. I’m running some errands. “Umm. But.” Addie said.” said a young girl who was approaching their table.” “Exactly. “Kate.” “I think that problem has been resolved. he noticed the girls immediately. I guess overhearing that conversation outside really affected me. 124 . as Addie bowed her head a little. both girls watched his progress. eventually. “I hope Julian wasn’t annoyed by my visit earlier today. if that’s all right?” “Anytime. what if eventually isn’t soon enough to stop another murder? Oh. We’ll be fine if we just keep our wits about us. “Well.

Addie. I want to get back to work just as much as you do—but I think we need to give 125 . hon. “Well. “Thanks for the words of wisdom. “What do you suppose he meant by that?” “Isn’t it obvious?” said Kate. I think Thomas could possibly be the handsomest man I’ve ever met.’” Kate replied. “After all. she turned to look at her friend. We probably should be heading back soon. taking a large bite from her chocolate muffin. “Sugar—it’s good for what ails you. Now. I’ll leave you both to your—dinner?” he said. he did have a rather stressful night. “Well. Didn’t you say that about some muscle-bound blond you met last month?” “Yes.” Thirty minutes later. as he stared at the muffins dripping with chocolate icing and whipped cream.” “Huh? Oh.” said Addie thoughtfully.” Thomas replied. your coff ee’s ready’—ughh! Could her flirting be any more obvious?” When Kate failed to get a response from Addie. it’s nothing—it’s just—what a strange thing to say: ‘when he rises. “Where did the time go?” “You know what they say. “Kate—do you think we should stop by the shop? See if they cleaned—” “Absolutely not. let’s eat up all these gooey calories before I starve to death. “Well. I hope to see you again soon—like tonight. that’s the last place we need to be. Tommy.’” she couldn’t help but point out. appearing a little embarrassed.The Vampire’s Lady “Thanks. Addie’s gaze traveled down the length of the main street. who seemed to be lost in thought.” “Hmmm.” said Kate. ‘Time flies when you’re having fun.” “That would be great.” Kate explained. you’ve made your point. “The man’s still sleeping. Look. Addie. “Riiight—well.” “You’re probably right but … it seems such an odd choice of words. “‘Hey. I guess I did—but this time I mean it!” “All right. if all goes well. anyway. as they left the shop and headed for the car. he must be tired.” Kate was quick to answer. “You know Addie.” “Its four o’clock in the afternoon!” exclaimed the girls in unison. Thomas quickly left the shop. with raised eyebrows. really. returning her smile before turning back to Kate and Addie. Kate smiled. “Uh-oh. bye for now. now what? I know that look.” Addie said. staring at the kaleidoscope of color in the late afternoon sky.” Walking back to the counter to retrieve his coffee.

It was definitely not your typical Saturday night. We probably shouldn’t be roaming around after dark. who knows that place better than we do? We could—” But she stopped when she saw the look on Kate’s face.J. Let’s not rush it. I have no idea. it’s kind of spooky. “No.” “Yeah. anyway. you’re right. really.” “I just feel like we should be doing something more—but what. time to adjust to what’s happened. “And it looks like we’re not the only ones who feel that way. so it will at least look as if nothing horrendous happened there. and the other employees. Let the police finish their job and clean the place up. “Come on.D. she noticed the streets were becoming quiet and empty.” As she looked around the town. let’s get out of here.” Kate said. let’s just get home.” 126 . After all. Maybe we could pick up on something the police missed. I’m really not looking forward to the first time we have to go back in there. Marteeny ourselves.

it’s Thomas. “I think you need to hear what the stranger has to say.” Thomas told Julian as Michael entered the room. draining the cup in one long gulp. along with Michael and Christoff. How long were these images going to torment him? The crystal goblet waiting on the nightstand glistened in the firelight.Chapter 11 The sun began to set. the flames reflecting off the golden locks actually caused the room to brighten. Julian demanded to know. Think! Do you really not know the one who is responsible for these horrendous crimes against 127 . before total blackness covered the night sky.” Julian stated. “This is no game. Are you awake?” Julian opened the door and eyed the young man standing there. He moved to stand beside the fireplace. “What’s so important that you had to awaken me from my rest?” Eyeing the vampire intently. fighting to control his temper. Feeling the raw power surging through his body. Michael replied calmly. he drank deeply. the colors surrounding the orb becoming that strange mixture of gray. the long. Looking deeply into Julian’s eyes. the lifeless brown eyes staring back at him. “Julian. at least not to me. my friend. brown hair matted in blood. Reaching for it. The past once again haunted his dreams—a beautiful face. black. Julian awoke from a sleep filled with disturbing images. Michael spoke softly. taking little notice of the anger boiling inside the vampire. “Do you want to discover those who are responsible for the brutal attacks that have been occurring in your city or not?” “What kind of game is this? We’re doing all that we can to solve the mystery of these attacks. But you are not using your wits in this matter. Raising a hand to protect his eyes as he tried to stare at the man before him. who seemed impatient to enter. he responded quickly to the pounding at his bedroom door. and red.

that he wants. but now. easy pacing. He seems to be under the delusion that he has information we want.” “No. and you must accept it so we can move forward. please.” Julian ordered. No. a mere man.” Julian said.” “Bah! This one talks in riddles.D. vampire—the answer is there. “… or perhaps it’s you. Christoff !” Julian shouted as he stopped the other vampire from charging at Michael. “Who are you. I wish you to know that my purpose here is the same as yours. back and forth. my friends. and something in that blue gaze caused Christoff to swallow the retort that had been ready on his lips. “Christoff. If any of you are the first to find the one we seek. locking eyes with Julian once more. raising his hand as a signal for the vampire 128 . I have managed to reduce the number of his followers over the years—for the evil one behind these attacks always sends his slaves to do his dirty work. Michael had begun a slow. While I am here. my dark friend? You know nothing of my lord and sire—at least not for a very long time. He only complicates matters in the guise of helping. laying a hand on the Dark Vampire’s shoulder. He knows nothing!” Christoff raged. to think we need your help to win a battle? We’ve been fighting. It has been the sole purpose for my existence for a very long time. I usually prefer to work alone. I only meant that Julian’s strength and leadership are without question. this particular creature has risen from time to time throughout the centuries and left a trail of blood as his calling card. Marteeny humanity? Do you still refuse to admit what you know is the truth—that he has returned? Search your heart. Julian. and killing. I have no problem working together for the common good—but know this. for there is something connected to you …” Michael said. for centuries—before you were even a seed in your sire’s loins!” “You think so. let’s hear it—and this better be worth my while. he wishes to involve you all. The expression on Christoff ’s face made it obvious to everyone in the room what his intentions were toward the tall stranger. to root out the evil that is plaguing this area and destroy it. but his eyes never left Julian’s.” Michael said very matter-offactly. “And the last thing we need is his help. yourself. so let’s hear what this—Michael—has to say. All right.” Julian said. warrior. I will follow him as you do. “Arrogant fool!” Christoff shouted in anger. This is not the first time I have seen this darkness and felt its smothering presence. “I mean no disrespect to your leader. it seems.” Michael said. Let’s see if he’s right.J.” “Easy. “You’re posturing— your show of authority is wasted on me. A slow smile spread across Michael’s handsome face. “We’ll accept help from anyone who can truly give it. you will need my help to destroy him. my friend. in front of the small group.

vampire. as a confused Thomas asked. you see. including Thomas. He lived for generations before making you. frustration causing him to lose patience.” As Michael spoke those word. The answer is buried here. fear gripped Julian’s heart. but it was the last thing he wanted to talk about right now.” Michael stated simply. “If you’re so sure you know who this monster is. because of the nature of the one we seek. Moving to stand in front of the fire. You know I’m speaking the truth. Comprehension was dawning on Julian’s face.” But as Julian waited for Michael’s response. and I don’t recall one of them where a man such as yourself was needed for us to claim our victory. “You’re going to need me this time. as he replied calmly. I need you as much as you need me. Looking back at Michael. hoping the warmth would dispel 129 . Yes. please. seeing the awareness in the gray-blue eyes. then why are we wasting time? Just tell us where he is and we’ll destroy him!” Julian shouted. “Ah. The young man had proven his loyalty to Julian a thousand times over since that night when fate had thrown them together. For some reason. Julian. I was sent to stop him. how much should he tell those who would surely be risking their lives in the fight he knew would be coming? Most of the vampires among Julian’s horde knew his origins. Julian turned slowly to stare at his friend. he asked. “Christoff ’s right. We’ve fought many battles throughout the centuries. but I do not know where he has hidden himself. will get you nowhere with me. yes …” Michael said. and soon—before he reaches the girl? For she is the key to what he is now hoping to accomplish. placing a hand on Julian’s heart.” he said. staring hard at Julian. Could Michael be right? Could his past finally be catching up to him? And. So. my ancient friend. if it were true. the light comes on as the mystery reveals itself. “And why should your presence be so important to us?” He did not even try to hide his irritation. having lived almost as long as he—but none of the humans did. something told him that this was no ordinary man standing before him. finally.The Vampire’s Lady to stop his angry attacks against the stranger. Julian heard a whispered question. Direct your anger where it is most useful. “but you refuse to believe what you know is the truth. causing the same havoc throughout the centuries as he’s doing right now until. Yet even you do not know his true origins. work together.” he said. A smile crossed Michael’s beautiful face. I know who we seek. “so can we just. Julian?” With a sigh. he’s lived for generations. As I was saying. From behind him. Julian had thought it best to keep Thomas in the dark concerning his early years—but not any longer. “Temper tantrums. Julian knew he owed him an explanation. “What’s he talking about.

he was furious.D.” The room fell silent for a moment. “He wasn’t happy with this turn of events. as he wanted me to do. “I had title and wealth then. Only the most powerful would enable him to achieve his goal. as some are. Thomas … I have a story I should have told you a long time ago—and it’s not a pleasant one. “His plan—the vampires would rule the world. as his mind drifted back through the years. It was then that I realized there were other ways to exist. Only the best and the strongest did he convert. “And those who were once his most loyal subjects were now his strongest enemies. The hunger—that awful hunger—drove every sane thought from my mind until.” Michael put in before Julian could respond. Only the strongest would do for the army he was amassing.J. Life was good where I came from.” “That was his only purpose—the destruction of the human race?” Thomas asked. I didn’t have to take human life.” Julian paused for a moment.” he said. I dared to hope—to believe in a miracle. We searched out his minions and destroyed those that we could. Taking a deep breath. he looked again at Thomas and slowly began his story.” He paused. “I convinced others to flee and taught them to feed my way—without killing. But because of this other poor soul. In his arrogance. This appealed to—him. “It seems my past is about to catch up to me. I was like a thing gone wild. In his army he’d chosen well. the two vampires seemed caught up in memories of a violent past.” “In the early stages. horrified. that seemed to be his main goal. and so I was taken against my will and turned into an abomination by the most evil creature of our kind. “Then a rumor surfaced. there was chance for a cure 130 . the more we destroyed. and. He was known as Dragone. and Thomas heard him whisper. Julian continued. The destruction of humankind meant little to him—in fact. but it was all the monster in me knew. turning to look at Christoff. finally. The more he created. almost as if to himself. and most served him willingly. Marteeny the coldness he felt inside. he sought to control all before him and become the master of all he surveyed. and he would be their god!” Julian added. The ones not chosen he would harvest for food. I wasn’t born a vampire. It was our way of paying back a little of our debt to society—to those who’d been slain by our own hands before we realized we had another choice. “His purpose was the same as most of his kind throughout the centuries— power. I was turned a very long … centuries … ago. It seems I was not the only nobleman who had lost his mortality to a monster. against all odds. I—did things I will regret for the rest of my unnatural life. his voice rising as anger and hatred took control. a small spark of humanity buried deep within my lost soul managed to surface. In fact.

I refused to allow myself to hope again. Turning back to Thomas.” “You should learn to trust your feelings. I refused to believe it could be the same evil. he was content to let you be. against all odds. “And if I can sense her.” “None that you were aware of. I’ve been having strange dreams. and eventually I found her—and so did he. Manson. Your pull toward her is strong. It became his obsession to thwart me. for there was no sign of him for many years. but still my mind rebelled against what I knew was happening—beginning again—the same as the last time. I could sense her. Adrianna. there was a chance to regain what had been stolen from me—my humanity. ending my one chance for a normal life and killing the only thing I’ve ever truly loved!” Julian fought for control. he said. “She’s the reason he’s here. “Yes.” Julian continued. Julian cast him a questioning gaze. my friend. feel her. images of the past. He destroyed anyone he thought had the power to save me—until he found and destroyed her. so can he. I thought he’d been destroyed. Evil finds a way. I searched everywhere. Hitler. My maker had also heard the rumor and was immediately on the hunt for anyone he thought would help me accomplish my goal. As long as you were a vampire.” Michael interrupted. “Did you have a chance to do some looking into her background?” 131 . Bin Laden—there are many names a face can hide behind. as the memories flooded his mind. “After a while. as understanding dawned. I should have known. “You just refused to read the signs.The Vampire’s Lady to my affliction. looking directly at Thomas. who carried this gene. unknowingly passed to a select few of this man’s descendents. “Adrianna.” Michael said. someone has surfaced who could be the means to your salvation—once again. but I refused to believe what my senses were telling me. refused to believe he was here to torment me again—until I saw her. for he would not allow me something he could never have—redemption. “You can’t mean … No—there can’t be another!” “Can’t there.” Julian’s eyes grew wide with surprise. my friend.” Michael told him. “It would seem so. If I could find a woman.” Thomas said in stunned surprise. A certain gene. Then the murders began. It is always present. From the moment she moved into the cottage. Wondering if.” he said. But now. the right woman. could cure a vampire of the same bloodline. he’d been granted another chance— another miracle—Julian turned again to Thomas. but I couldn’t understand why after all these years.” “So he’s been with us all this time?” Julian asked. my friend? Your senses have been telling you the truth ever since she entered your domain.

Then. then so can he. It’s a lot for even the strongest person to take in. if her blood is a match—if she carries the gene …” “Enough!” Julian commanded. and only then. We must move quickly. a smile making its way across his handsome face. His friend stood shaking his head in disbelief. we would still have to test the theory—and our lovely lady will certainly need some convincing as to her role in the plan. “What’s wrong. by the way. I spent several hours reading.” muttered Julian “It is true. I still have some research to finish. Julian? Does the name mean something to you?” “It can’t be true. back to business. Did he dare to even hope for another chance to regain his lost humanity? He couldn’t think about that right now. Answer Julian’s question!” Christoff shouted at Thomas. and time to convince her we’re not all something out of her worst nightmare. his irritation with his nemesis very apparent.J. Julian. Her fear of what I am. How can I expect her to accept any of it?” “You know as well as I do that time is not a luxury we can afford.” he said. of what my kind represents. If we can find her. her last name being a variation of the original family name. It will take time—time to get to know her. would cloud her mind to anything else I might have to say.” 132 . someone sounds jealous—but you’re right. time to make her aware of the existence of … our kind. Adrianna’s safety must come first. for the vampire that started the Awanian bloodline was none other than Awan. But. The fact that she and Adrianna share the same ancient ancestor is very important.” Thomas said. will I be able to try to convince her to give me the one thing that I desperately need from her … her blood. Thomas. Julian’s first love was also a descendent of the Awanian bloodline. but it looks as though Adrianna may be a descendent of the Awanian bloodline. the daughter of Dragone himself! So. in point of fact. “You and I know that only we have the power to keep her safe—but how do we convince her of that?” “I was relying on your considerable charm to take care of that problem.” stated Michael simply. I went to city hall. Julian knew he spoke the truth. Her safety is of the utmost importance. “We’re not interested in the details of your mating rituals. but she’s unaware of everything—and wouldn’t understand it if I tried to tell her. “To answer your question. “Aw.D. along with the lovely Kate. the blood that runs through Adrianna’s veins now runs through Julian’s—because Dragone is his sire! Of course.” Michael pointed out. Marteeny “I made a quick run into town this afternoon and ran into the lady in question herself. Staring into the other man’s eyes. human. “All that you say may be true. and you know it.

as well as Brutus. he said. Julian. with the fangs and the creepy eye thing and all. and it’d better be good. She came across Brian. you can be a little intimidating at first …” Thomas felt he had to point out.” “Well. but she knows me a little better than she does you. to ‘properly’ introduce herself after last night at the club. So consider it given. she has some interesting information for you. but the lady appears to be pretty … resourceful.” Thomas added quickly.” “What sort of information?” “I’ll let her tell you. 133 . Julian. she wants to talk to you.” he said slyly. not your mindless skirt chasing!” Christoff growled at Thomas.” “Brian. this morning. I already have kind of a plan in the works for this evening. She was here once before. confused.The Vampire’s Lady Michael replied with a smile. trying to get the last word in. “Thanks.” replied Julian “Can you get to the point?” “The point is. So you and I are going to drop by tonight. Thomas shot him a scathing look but turned back to Julian.” Thomas said. “Out with it. I’m a big boy now. Courting her will take time— time we don’t have. “But you’re right. “We’ve already made it known that we have ‘poachers’ in the area. considering the source. who. Brian told her we were watching the cottage along with our own property.” “Not much chance of that. She came looking for you this morning.” “Adrianna was here?” “Yes. “We need a serious plan. you—” “Will you two ever just—shut—up!” Julian ordered. Thomas. smiling. I told her you were unavailable but that I’d give you her message. Although you keep them pretty well under control when you need to. “You know. by the way. “Me! At least my women don’t have to bleed for me.” Thomas spoke up. days ago. Turning to Thomas. stepping between the two of them. Thomas. at least when it comes to the ladies.” “Of course you are. How does he figure into all of this—and when did he see Adrianna?” Julian asked. and it wasn’t the first time. so you can acknowledge her visit—and. “Is that so?” Julian replied with a threatening look at the younger man. I can visit her on my own. so she’ll be a little more comfortable if I’m around. A dog after my own heart. You know. is useless as a watch dog.” “Indeed.” Christoff said. Jules. Anyway. while out for a stroll. “I haven’t had the chance to mention it yet. “… you know.

Julian.” Julian replied. smooth and soft to the touch as he wrapped his long fingers around it. he saw what Michael meant. “It’s the best we can do for now. Julian turned his gaze back to Thomas. as Thomas continued his little speech. Nodding his thanks. “Now.J. Julian turned to Michael. if you will all excuse me.” “All right. if you doubt me still. “Take this. we …” he said as he glanced at Thomas. “You know. can you bring the car around while I finish dressing?” 134 . “… have a short errand to run. he said.” Julian said as he watched them all file from the room. We can’t give Dragone an opportunity to strike again. calm your fears. “Call the others together for a meeting.” As Julian reached for the blade.” “I hope you are right. my friend. Michael said. as insane as your babbling sometimes is. and what will you be doing?” Christoff asked. The handle was beautifully crafted of white marble. your idea just might work. If we can convince her there’s a real danger in the area—if the murders haven’t already convinced her—we might actually be able to keep them both safe if I have someone watching them at all times. It will at least buy us some time until we can come up with a better plan. “Who are you and how do you know so much about my life?” “All in good time. Prepare them to watch the cottage for a while.” Julian stared for a long moment. “We have more important issues at the moment. Then we’ll return to join you. Let’s just hope his little plan works. Michael withdrew one of the small daggers Julian had seen him use in the woods near the club. “Romeo and I will pay a visit to two beautiful ladies tonight. It’s made of silver.” and. Marteeny “And besides. the soldier in him needing to know the complete plan.” he said. I can keep Kate occupied while you tell Adrianna that the poacher thing is really getting out of hand and we have to beef up security … and how you would feel much better if she’d let you post guards on the actual property of the cottage. because you feel responsible for her safety as well. it will help you in your fight. so it can be safely wielded in your hand. “If you know so much about me. which has an adverse effect on a vampire.” Julian told him. for you harbor no evil in your soul. Pick a handful of our best men and fill them in on what’s happening. you should be aware of that.” With a slight smile. But. I only hope it buys us enough time. The handle is made of marble. he slid the knife through his belt loop. Thomas. taking a step back.D.” “I can’t use that.” Michael pointed out to him. reaching inside the long coat he still wore. “Thomas.” The Dark Vampire glared at Thomas as he walked out the door. “This knife will not harm you. Turning to Christoff.

she knew those strange blue eyes were watching her closely.” came the reply. I think she’s in the kitchen. a slight rumbling noise was coming from the direction of the big house. leaning forward to whisper in her ear. Moments later. lean frame climbing from the car—and he wasn’t alone. 135 . She couldn’t help but chuckle herself at the mischievous look on Thomas’s face. and to a stop in front of the cottage. as she watched the black Lincoln. and it’s a good thing. as a matter of fact she is. I’d hate to see the look of disappointment on your face if I told you she wasn’t here. Excitement— as well as a definite case of nerves—filled her. right. for she knew who was inside before she saw his tall. “Is Kate around?” Shaking her head in amazement at the man beside her. “You read him well for knowing him such a short time. to look sophisticated. approaching the cottage. long and sleek.” he said eagerly.The Vampire’s Lady “What. she replied. It came from the top of the hill. without much success. He turned and quickly disappeared through the front door. He bowed slightly. “Not a word. no flying? It’s such a short distance. Her pulse had quickened the moment she noticed the car’s descent. rushing ahead of Julian to jump up the three front steps and come to stand before her. She pulled her eyes away from Thomas’s retreating figure to stare at the man now standing before her. and you’re severely limited in the flying department. where she sat sipping wine on the front porch. down the long gravel road. we’ll take the car. You could be there in seconds. thanks. ***** Something was disturbing Adrianna’s quiet daydreaming. Thomas mimed the act of zipping his lips closed.” Julian explained patiently. “Lips sealed. the smile widening as he nodded toward the man coming up the steps behind him. Julian was sliding across the smooth leather seats of his car.” she heard a deep voice say. Please.” Thomas replied quietly as he left the room.” he said with a wink. “Oh. as he exited from the opposite side.” “Even better.” “Since you’re coming with me. “I told you I’d deliver your message. he asked. “Yes. trying. fresh from the oven. for his bubbly personality was infectious. Her gaze roamed slowly over every inch of him. as he headed down the gravel road. She probably has some wonderful home-baked treat.” he ordered Thomas. waiting for you. Thomas’s smiling face greeted her. trying. “He couldn’t wait to get here.” he said. Even though his face was in shadow. too. to ignore the wide grin on his companion’s face. go on inside. without success. and then. as he leaned against the porch banister. standing tall. across the old stone bridge.

He said you came to visit this morning.D. Say something. “He’s very genuine. Julian. we are neighbors. It’s just that … I might not always be there to greet you.J. girl—you’re acting like a love-struck teenager. around the house as well as the cottage. so …” “… here you are. dropping by unannounced as I did—not just once. After all.” she replied in response to Julian’s observation. he continued. laughing a little to herself. Anyway. I like to know things are being attended to while I’m … indisposed. “Yes. trying hard to gain some semblance of composure so she wouldn’t make a complete fool of herself. “Can I get you something to drink. God. perhaps?” “No. the whole reason Kate and I moved out here was to enjoy some peace and quiet. but I’m the one who should be apologizing to you. That’s why there’s so much security around the property.” she finished for him. In my line of work. and I don’t think it was all because of a dog treat. “Because Brutus doesn’t take to very many people. which is the reason we have the animal patrolling the grounds. I’m afraid. indicating the chair next to her.” When she nodded. I’m sure if you talked to Brian. you idiot! she thought to herself. a glass of wine. an easy read. so our love-struck friend will still be disappointed.” he said. “Oh no! Please don’t think that I don’t take your warning seriously. We wanted to escape from the pressures of our jobs and 136 . but it might be dangerous for you to roam around alone until these people are found and dealt with—especially anywhere near the woods. a poacher. “I’m glad you came. flashing a smile so devastating it caused her heart to skip a beat. “Please. “Impressed—why?” she asked. wasn’t it?” she replied. “Does that strikes you as funny?” he asked. and I wanted to tell you how sorry I am that I was unable to see you.” he answered cautiously. but twice. her breath coming in short gasps. she thought to herself. there’s no need to apologize. despite what Brian might have told you. that you’re aware of the … problems we’ve been having on the property lately. get a grip. Somehow.” he said. Adrianna. “and we really can’t stay long. I don’t always make it home until the next morning. you managed to tame the savage beast. so I’m … not quite at my best in the early morning hours. You and Kate are always welcome at my home. staring at her intently. “We’ve added a lot of extra security. Thomas told me you met Brian—and Brutus. It’s just that. I’m afraid I’m not much of a drinker—of wine. Marteeny Her heart was pounding so loudly she was positive he could hear it. “Brian did mention something about that … a poacher. and I must say that I’m impressed. thank you. She forced herself to relax.” “Please.” he said. well. won’t you sit down?” she said. I thought a return visit was in order.

” As the turmoil boiling inside Adrianna began to subside. Lord. Rising from the chair. terrifying everyone. She knew she was babbling. and shouldn’t someone be doing something about it. but she couldn’t seem to stop the words from pouring out of her mouth or the tears from flowing down across her cheeks. A torrent of emotion overwhelmed her. his soothing voice willing her to relax. she began to pace back and forth. and what was his first reaction? All he could think about was the blood—pounding in her veins—driving him 137 . and she felt herself calming. He knew he was fighting a losing battle. her mind told her. “Shhh. “… it’s all right … I’m here now. The small amount of that precious fluid hadn’t been nearly enough to give him the strength he needed so badly right now. and why all this was happening. relax. tears filling her eyes as she tried to tell him what had happened to Kim and Nick. She asked if he knew who could have done such an awful thing. Julian’s emotions were spiraling out of control. He’d thought he’d never feel this way again. somehow. the events of the day suddenly hitting her full force. as Julian pulled her close. the closeness. as well as the hunger. too. as lust. It had been so long since he’d enjoyed the touch of a woman. willing to give him that chance. and he held her tightly against him. as in fresh human blood—if he was going to be anywhere near her? He had to do something. The single goblet of blood he’d downed earlier that evening was doing him little good.” she said. suddenly. the raw passion. so he could focus on the torrent of desire rising within him. inhaling deeply as he breathed in her scent … for a few precious seconds. Then. raged their own war inside of him. I won’t let anything happen to you. If I could just hold her … he thought. But no sooner do we arrive then these awful attacks are monopolizing the headlines. But now she was here. Come on … take a deep breath … that’s my girl … just relax. how she affected him—he wanted her so badly! When would he learn that he had to feed first—really feed.The Vampire’s Lady the noise and chaos of the city. never have another chance at love and some semblance of a normal life. Yes. We thought this cottage would be the perfect place to do that. just when she thought she couldn’t take any more. the softness. with Julian. She knew. and now there are strangers roaming around my property and yours. calming her almost immediately. and soon. So long since he’d had to exercise such extreme control over the bloodlust—as well as the other emotions warring within him—to allow himself to feel the pure emotion of love once more. or she’d quickly find out that the real monster was the one who now held her in his arms! He closed his eyes tightly as he whispered soothingly to her. Kim is dead—and I find out Nick is. that she was safe as long as she was here. Adrianna …” he whispered. she was enveloped in strong arms. as he dared to bury his face in the soft folds of hair falling around her shoulders.

“… must be very careful. almost a growl. I didn’t know. We’ll talk more with you both tomorrow. Adrianna. still embarrassed at the way she’d fallen apart in front of him. we’re going to have to take some precautions ourselves. I’m sure the police are doing all that they can.” he said as he 138 . are you all right? Did something happen?” Kate asked as she looked from Addie to Julian and back again. So. go inside. Feeling a little more in control. and don’t hesitate to call …” he said as he handed Addie a card with two numbers on it. he continued.” “Thank you. hoping she couldn’t see the blue-gray of his eyes already changing to blood red. You already know we’ve set security in place. before he was so far gone he would just take what he wanted—what he needed—despite the consequences and no one could stop him! After a few moments.” she said as she turned away to hide her embarrassment. She could only imagine what he must think of her. Adrianna. It’s a dangerous time in the city right now. turning as Thomas and Kate came outside to join them. They have limited resources. we really should be going. which is why we can’t stay any longer. I—” “Again.” “There’s nothing wrong with expressing real emotion when it concerns someone you cared about. stepping back among the shadows and hoping she hadn’t noticed the tension in his body. and things will only get worse before all is said and done.” “Addie. but. as he whispered. We should know more details after the meeting. you have nothing to apologize for—not to me. but now that I do. “I need you both to listen to me very closely. looking intently at both women. I promise you I’ll do everything in my power to find out what happened to them. especially when you’re out alone. “… if you need anything. forcing her gently away from him. “Now. this only proves the gravity of the situation. And the death of your friend was shocking—and such a waste of an innocent life.” she said. it’s just—it’s the whole Kim thing. thank you. until they can get to the bottom of the strange things that are happening around here. lock the house up tight.J.” Julian told her. the others will be waiting. for now. “My pleasure. Marteeny crazy! He had to leave. She didn’t seem to notice his voice was a little deeper. I’m sorry about your friends. and we’ll arrange for more if the need arises. he realized that her sobbing had stopped. but they’re only human. Good night. again—for everything.D. Kate. “I’m fine. He moved slowly. Do you understand now the need for caution? You and Kate …” he said. Thomas and I are on our way to a meeting tonight to discuss the entire situation. “Better now?” “Yes. “I’m sorry. Adrianna. soon! He had to feed.” he said with a smile that took her breath away.

but. “Hope to see you both soon. honey?” she asked. turning to look back at Addie. he wants to go to New York for the day. I think I’ll call him in the morning and see if he’d like to go for coffee or something.” Kate agreed as they locked the front door and climbed the stairs together. Julian turned to look at Adrianna one last time. I won’t worry at all. if you’re going to be with Julian. you know. so he won’t have to sleep the day away. Anyway. ladies. I’ll call him in the morning. He knew she was too far away to see the concern clearly etched on his face. I just need some rest.” Thomas told him. let’s call it a night. running down the steps. sent a shock wave through her entire body. Two people have died that were close to her. if they aren’t in the area already. We could kill two birds with one stone and do a little shopping for the boutique …” Kate suddenly sobered a bit as she remembered the shop was closed. Back at the cottage. “They should be arriving soon.” Remembering the message in his mind that first evening: “I know she’s here. right?” “That sounds like a great idea. studying Addie’s tear-stained face.” Thomas said. “Good night. and Kate …” Kate stopped before her bedroom door. Kate was looking strangely at her friend.” “‘Sort of’—what exactly does that mean?” “Well.” and. His touch. “You know. We must work quickly!” “Simon was getting a group together as we were leaving to come here. Thomas.” came the reply as the black car sped up the hill.” “Well. I was a little worried about leaving you alone if you didn’t want to come. Kate. “… or not. though feather-light. because of everything that’s happened. so I can show him I’m not always such an emotional mess. “He knows she’s here. So. Addie.The Vampire’s Lady took her hand and raised it to his lips. but I wouldn’t have come with you. with Kim and Nick. leaning in to place a kiss on Kate’s cheek. he joined Julian in the car. and we were going to see if you wanted to tag along.” “Good. You and 139 . As he prepared to open the car door. “… it was really thoughtful of you both. He looked at Thomas and nodded toward the car. well. he thought it would be a good idea for us to get away from it all.” “That sounds like a good idea. “We need to get the men in place around the cottage as soon as possible. Thomas and I have made some plans ourselves for tomorrow … sort of. he said to Thomas. as he lifted a hand to wave to her. Climbing inside. that settles it then. “Are you sure you’re okay. “You mean after I made a complete fool of myself in front of Julian? Yes. because. I’m fine.” fear gripped him. He’s obviously not working at the club tonight.

and have a great time. special about him. I think he craves it—and I know he’s attracted to me.” Kate was thoughtful for a moment. as you said. oh. It’s almost as if he’s afraid to get wrapped up in a real relationship with someone.J. “but it’s true. but. I feel like I’ve known him my whole life. you need time to get to know each other. Addie. Kate. spend money. You usually like to keep your options open. “You did.” “’Night. coming from you.” Addie told her. Marteeny Thomas have just met.” “Maybe. “Calm down. I only meant that you don’t usually fall head over heels for someone as soon as you’ve met them. I don’t know.” “Thanks. even if I can’t reach Julian. I think you might be right. so go. I noticed that right away. and have some fun. I know. Do you think that’s weird?” “It only sounds weird because it is.” 140 . Addie. There’s something. huh? Well.D. but … you want to hear something strange. I know. at the same time. Anyway. it sounds corny. laughing when she saw the look on Kate’s face.” she said when she saw the look on Addie’s face. before she replied. Good night. I’ll be fine. but I think with Thomas it’s different. Maybe that’s why I’m so attracted to him. especially coming from me? Even though Thomas and I have just met. There’s a challenge there. go to New York. And I intend to do the same.

is it?” 141 . “Okay— Adrianna. This is Adrianna Avani. answered: “Hello.” she told herself. you aren’t the nervous type. before he replied. She’d heard Kate and Thomas leave over an hour ago. cozy sheets and get into a nice. hot shower. “He’s … not available at the moment. After four rings. she was just about to hang up when a young man. she flipped the top of the cell phone and punched in the number. She sat staring at the phone. can I speak to Julian.” she told herself. Just go ahead and punch in the number. girl. can I help you?” “Yes … yes you can. and she was sitting at the kitchen table trying to summon up enough nerve to pick up the phone and call Julian.Chapter 12 Addie awoke the next morning to beams of sunlight streaming across her bedspread. Taking a deep breath. her makeup was freshly applied. “Come on. “Oh. Reynolds residence. would you just tell him I called? If he becomes available in the next hour or so. her fingers playing nervously with the business card Julian had given her the previous evening. You’d better hurry and call him. yes. she could tell by his voice when he replied. “It’s a perfect day to go into town for a cup of coffee. sounding out of breath. I was wondering if he’d like to get a cup of coffee with me. before he makes other plans. as if the young man was choosing his words carefully. their warmth chasing away the slight chill of the unseasonably cool summer morning. Can I take a message?” Damn—not again! Addie thought to herself before she replied. he was definitely laughing. or was the young man snickering? Yes.” Was she imagining it. umm. Thirty minutes later she was dressed. so she forced herself to climb out of the warm. and you find yourself on your own all day. please?” There was a moment’s hesitation.

around then. I guess not. I’m certainly not going to sit around and mope about it.” he said. It’s just that … well. she thought as she locked the cottage up tight. What right did she have to be angry with him when he was probably up really late last night trying to come up with a plan for keeping them all safe? Something told her if she was going to let Julian Reynolds into her life. “Well. but then she felt a little guilty. so you wouldn’t be alarmed when you saw them. She realized that Kate and Julian would probably kill her when they found out she’d gone to Winwood alone. She’d just turn this into a let’s-pamper-Addie day.” she said out loud. he can come and babysit me 142 . Maybe Rick will be up for a cup of coff ee. so she decided to go into town for a manicure and haircut. I’m sure he’ll be ready for a bite to eat. sounding a little concerned.J. wait!” Turning. Marteeny “Yes. one of Julian’s bodyguards. All he has to do is pull it out of the rack at a reasonable hour!” she said aloud. That had to be one of the strangest phone conversations I’ve ever had. it is. It made her feel a little uneasy. six o’clock.D. what are you doing here? Is something wrong?” “What? No—I thought Julian told you. “All right. just as big as he was and also fully armed. I just thought I’d point the others out. she saw Brian. but I’m positive he won’t be up in the next hour. motioning to two other men. “We’ll be assigned to the cottage for as long as you need us. Was that what she really wanted? “He’s going to have to prove he’s worth it!” she told herself as she grabbed her purse and headed out the door. Brian. “And Julian could have come with me if he feels that strongly about my safety. she thought to herself as she slowly pressed the end button on her own phone. “Addie—hey.” And. there was no mistaking the laughter in his voice. no. I’m not sure Julian would be happy …” “If Julian is so concerned about my welfare. He sent a few of us down to keep an eye on things around the cottage and the nearby woods. “Well. It’d been a while since she’d treated herself. coming down the gravel road from the main house. it seems I’m on my own today. this time. or something. You might want to try calling back around. especially after last night. oh. say.” she said. “Yes. She’d really been looking forward to seeing Julian again.” she said. so I thought I’d run a few errands in town. and she heard a click as he hung up the phone. just like the first time she’d met him. “I’ll give him your message. Is there a problem with that?” she asked sweetly. “Hey. were you going somewhere?” he asked. They were standing just inside the woods and nodded when they saw him pointing in their direction. it would have to be on his terms. Thanks—I guess. Again he was well-armed. She was more than a little disappointed. beginning to get irritated. He was always there for her. Uh. but she wasn’t going to become a hermit because some crazy person was running amok in the area.

“Get a grip on yourself. She remembered how nervous Kim had been that night. There was so much secrecy surrounding Julian Reynolds—and she was beginning to wonder why. Addie. I just wanted to let you know we’d be in the area. to see if he’d like to join me. Then. realizing Brian was just doing his job. ***** Forty-five minutes later she was driving into the Winwood. “Money has its perks. and the city was bustling with shoppers and people taking an early lunch break to beat the afternoon crowds. with patrons hoping to purchase clothing with the New York flair for half the cost. as if they had a will of their own.” But she couldn’t help but feel uneasy. hesitating a little. She watched the yellow police tape flapping in the warm autumn breeze. Brian. as a matter of fact. “I’m sorry. She looked around the empty lot. her gaze was drawn automatically to her own boutique across the street. in the direction of the little shop. Was he the murderer? She’d told 143 .The Vampire’s Lady himself. I guess. as she climbed out of the car. she calmed down a little. I have things to do. If he does. I really should get back to work. Suddenly the blaring of a horn made her aware that she was about to walk out into the street directly into the path of the oncoming traffic. afraid of the strange man who’d been inside the shop earlier that evening. starting to get angry with the whole situation. and I can’t wait for an armed escort just because that’s what Julian wants. once she’d reached the parking lot of the small shop. Be talking to you. but I really do have things to do. the hair salon owned by her friend Joni. but it seems he wasn’t up yet. I can’t worry about that now. she couldn’t seem to go any further. are we?” she said to no one in particular. Addie. “Hardly ever.” she said. but since he’s not around. “No. waiting to see what sort of reaction she’d get from the bodyguard. he has people to take care of it for him. which was usually so busy this time of day. Bye. but. Her feet moved slowly. “or you’ll be the next casualty!” This time she looked both ways before running quickly across the street. It was now around eleven o’clock.” Brian said. the memory of the last time she’d seen Kim alive rushing back into her mind. her heart pounding. I did call. She jumped. There was something so forlorn about the now-empty shop. I really do have things to do!” she said. “In a big hurry.” she told herself. “What. but. I know you’re just following orders. “Why is everyone acting so strange? Oh well.” And he was gone before she could say another word. miss … he’s … rarely up at this hour. Well. She parked in front of Transformation.” the bodyguard explained. never? He never has things to do in the morning or afternoon?” Addie asked in surprise.

” she told him as they walked back across the street and into the coffee shop. They found an empty table and seated themselves. but we could grab a quick cup of coffee. Suddenly she felt a strong arm encircle her shoulder.” She felt him take her hand in his and give it a gentle squeeze.” 144 . tell me about Kate’s new friend. I’d like that.J. You have other responsibilities that come first. “Addie.” Addie informed him with a smile. There was always that possibility in his chosen profession. and I can accept that. If he was the murderer. I shouldn’t have come.” “Oh.” she said hopefully. Rick asked. so I thought I’d run a few errands—and see if my favorite priest would let me treat him to lunch.D. Come on then. I know. She leaned into him. Now. But now that I have the cottage. but I couldn’t seem to stay away. smiling down at her. so we can all get caught up on what’s happening in our lives. It just makes things worse. I have a meeting at one o’clock. if you’d like. we’re going to have to set a standing date—dinner with me and Kate at least one day a week. but he didn’t know how. and trust that the ones responsible will be found and dealt with properly. He always seemed to be there when she needed him most. not just the horrible aftermath. had told him what the man looked like from the description Kim had given her and Kate. Rick. feeling safe for the moment. “I didn’t mean to come. The woman’s a shopaholic. “She found someone else to help her feed her habit. and she didn’t know what she’d do if he ever left her. He wanted so much to protect her from the horrors of the world. you shouldn’t be here. wherever the need for them was the greatest. “But you’re right. wrapped up in her own thoughts. and a familiar voice whispered in her ear. where is your other half this morning? I find it hard to believe she’d let you come into town without her. as time drifted by. Rick. Mary’s for as long as he had. “Speaking of Kate. “I hope he burns in hell!” she said aloud as tears formed in her eyes. She stood. I seem to be on my own this morning. “I might just be able to accommodate you for a little while. Anyway. When she’d gone. Priests were always being transferred here and there. You know I really don’t get to see you enough. Marteeny the detective about him.” he said. her addiction is being taken care of as we speak. she continued. “We both have to deal with what happened. A waitress came up to them immediately and took their order.” Sobering a little. “Yes. She knew they were lucky that he’d been stationed at St. if I only have you for a short time.” Rick said as he leaned close to place a gentle kiss on her cheek. as she turned to face him. we’d better get a move on. He was her best friend. Addie. She only hoped his living arrangements wouldn’t change anytime soon. honey.” She squeezed his hand affectionately. I know. “There was actually something good that came out of that night at the club.

it’s Julian Reynolds. 145 . when this guy came and asked me to slow dance. hey. Addie?” “Rick. “No. Rick took a sip of hot coffee and then said.” “In this day and age. you probably know me better than anyone—well. this sounds like a good thing. but. And he seemed so familiar to me. and. oddly enough. the attraction was so intense—almost as if I couldn’t help myself. the waitress brought their coffee and sandwiches. forever to find out who the owner was.” “Well.” Rick told her.” “No—you mean the old mansion at the top of the hill?” “That’s the one.” he said as he studied her face intently. And I think he felt the same way. It seems he’s extremely wealthy. He always seems to have a representative handling things for him. well. You know it usually takes me a while to really get to know someone. Addie. that’s the way I am. has his hands in a number of different things. “Then he’s the former owner of your cottage? Geez. “All right. and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. he lives at the big house. Very few people actually dealt with him at their meetings. except Kate. Do you know him?” she asked hopefully. A few people in town have had business dealings with him. but.” Rick looked confused. from the moment I laid eyes on him. Addie—so what’s wrong? Come on. “… we did. Rick. Addie. explain yourself. and those who did could only see him in the evening. Thomas isn’t the owner but …” she hesitated before she continued. He even asked me at one point if we’d ever met before. I’ve never met him. but. meet the real owner—only I didn’t realize it until Thomas told me who he was. I have a tendency to be overcautious and not to give in to my feelings until I feel I really know someone and can trust them. I did.” Addie said. “Exactly. and you both just happen to meet him at that club?” “Not so fast. actually. that’s a good thing.” “Well.The Vampire’s Lady “His name is Thomas Thibideau. “Just like the sale of the cottage. “And does ‘this guy’ have a name?” “Of course he does. but I have heard his name mentioned once or twice.” she said. even though I know I’ve never met him before Saturday night. all perfectly legitimate.” she began. Does that bother you. Rick. Kate and I were dancing. you’ve been trying for. “But this Julian—he’s different?” “I don’t know what it is. which made Addie laugh. well. from what I could gather. I’m sure a shrink would have a field day with me. he’s supposed to be something of a recluse. but before she could go on.

Addie. Twice now I’ve gone up to or called at the mansion in the morning. I care about you and Kate. he said. and they left. All I’m asking is that you be careful and think things through before you act. Please. His protective side always seemed to come out when Addie was upset about something. some business deal gone bad. but I wish. I don’t know. It’s just that everything about him is so. It’s getting late. As a matter of fact. Marteeny honey. I was told to try again in the evening. as she said. I know you. He could see the stubborn set to her face. But I don’t trust anyone affiliated with that place. “You know I can never stay mad at you. “I’m not sure. shape. This killer has already struck too close to home. “Oh. either. I also found out he’s part owner of the club. Maybe something like. You didn’t see the bodies. What is it that bothers you about the guy?” Rick asked. so I understand that he keeps late hours. I really do have to go. for your sake. Rick grabbed it and was rising to go. he said. “I’d better get going. and I have a meeting to get to. oh.” Rick said. with the eyes of every patron in the shop 146 . and I don’t want to see either of you get hurt. that you’d listen to me and not judge me because you think I’m being overprotective. Father Rick. I couldn’t stand that. well. “Rick. quickly brought their check. all he and his people did that night was try to keep everyone safe when the trouble started. right?” she asked. or form—and I don’t think you and Kate should. He was right. Addie. don’t leave mad. but come on. is the reason the club is being targeted. Now. “He’s part owner of Nightlife—the place that seems to be the center of all the trouble lately? You know. trying to control the anger in her voice. Come on. I’ll walk you to your car.” Rick paid the bill.” The waitress. Just because he owns the club doesn’t mean he’s mixed up in something he shouldn’t be.J. I was ready to like this guy. please—I’m sorry. Adrianna. Looking down at his watch.” she said as she stared up at him. “You’re being overprotective again.” she said. for their raised voices were beginning to draw unwanted attention. but I did!” He took a deep breath and tried to compose himself. and he couldn’t be reached. and I can tell when something just doesn’t sit right with you. With a deep sigh. mysterious. eyeing them warily. for lack of a better word. for once in your life. her brown eyes moist with unshed tears. when Addie grabbed him by the arm. You said yourself no one seems to have any direct contact with him unless it’s at night. knowing he was going to be in trouble the minute he brought up the club. Tell that to Nick—or any of the other victims of the massacre that night. There have to be some days when you’d like to go out and enjoy a beautiful day.D. they kept everyone safe all right. in any way. because you seemed to.

“I think we’re going to be the subject of many a conversation this afternoon. so I know you made it home all right. Was he right? Did she have something to worry about where Julian was concerned? She’d never know that unless she got the chance to spend some time with him.The Vampire’s Lady following them out the door.” she told him. “Yes. Go. 147 . okay? I really couldn’t deal with it if someone else I care about got hurt. Rick’s an old friend of mine. “… I really didn’t mean to spoil your afternoon. that’s all. What was wrong with her? She was having trouble putting a coherent sentence together. barely able to keep the surprise out of her voice. pamper yourself. its Julian.” Addie pointed out. go to your meeting. It’s just—well.” she barely whispered into the phone. You thought I was someone named Rick. looking down at her.” “Julian … yes. She knew Kate would probably not be home until very late. as she stepped into the kitchen. “These people really need to get a life instead of spreading gossip about their neighbors for their own amusement. he has a tendency to be a little … overprotective. I could call back at another time if you’re waiting—” “No! No.” “What? Oh. “Where are you off to now?” “Well. “Is everything all right? You seem … a little distracted.” “Okay. She decided she’d do what she had come into town to do. the decision was made for her. Just be careful. so she waved to one of Brian’s men who was patrolling near the woods’ edge. that’s not necessary. “Busybodies!” Rick said with disgust. hello. well. “I gathered that much. “Yes. But. I wasn’t expecting you to call. he asked. She found herself wondering if she should call Julian again. I was going to get a manicure and a haircut. she was traveling back to the cottage newly coiffed and manicured. four hours later. and. I had lunch with him today and. I’m just surprised.” she said.” She watched as his tall form disappeared down the street. as she unlocked the front door. Despite all of Rick’s warnings.” Then. I made it home safe—” “Adrianna?” came a deep voice that sent a thrill of excitement through her body. but I’m really not in the mood anymore.” she said—and then she gently slapped her forehead with her hand. I’ll call you later.” she promised as she kissed his cheek. “I really do need to lower that ringer. no … everything’s fine. “Now. “Addie …” he said and gave her a hug. Rick. as the phone rang loudly.” she thought as she reached for the receiver. that’s all I ask—and call and leave me a message. she found herself hoping she would get that chance. You deserve it. “Adrianna.

she threw on a pair of black jeans and a lightweight cream-colored sweater with lace cuffs at the end of the long sleeves. and. I was told you called this morning. so I’m afraid I overslept this morning. “That’s great. She found she’d been holding her breath as she listened to that deep. “Just as well.” And she heard the phone click as he hung up the receiver.D.J. I just thought I’d invite you to join me for a drive into town if you had some free time.” she replied. slamming down the receiver. barely able to contain her excitement. then. She really didn’t have the time for a long conversation. She left a short message letting him know she was home safely. trying desperately not to fall as she went to answer the door. so I just went myself. “There you are!” she said as she scooped them up and.” she explained. and I just wanted to tell you how sorry I was that I missed your call again. I thought we could have coffee or something. I can be at your place in. My meeting last night ran later than it should have. sensual voice. Marteeny and I was supposed to call him when I got home. but I want to. That’s when I ran into my friend. I’ll see you then. then. “Oh. I won’t keep you long.” There was silence on the other end of the line as she waited for his response. that’s all right. “Well. and then. so everything turned out well. as usual. ran down the steps. After what seemed like an eternity. Since I have yet to do that. Sometime later. stepping quickly into them. Are you free tonight?” “Tonight? Well. She was searching for her shoes when she heard a knock at the front door. Why don’t you let me make it up to you?” he asked. “I was told you were … unavailable. Adrianna. she really needed to get a grip on herself! “Good. she saw the tip of a black shoe protruding out from under her bed. Is that good?” he asked. still irritated with herself for sounding so nervous. Well. I thought that was him being impatient.” she thought. an hour or so. I truly am sorry that I missed your call.” he told her. say. it was nothing important. as she slowly released it—before she passed out—she whispered into the phone. almost as if he had to think about his reply. Taking 148 . “Shit! I’d better get cleaned up—after I call Rick!” She dialed Rick’s number. “Well. he was coming over here—to her house. yes. that’s really not necessary. after applying fresh makeup and running a brush through her newly styled hair.” she babbled on. You don’t have to—” “I know I don’t have to. where did I put those shoes? she thought as she searched frantically for the pair she wanted to wear. but the answering machine picked up.” she said. she flew up the stairs and into the bathroom. God. Damn. “All right. “Oh.

After he’d called her. What had he been thinking? He should have invited her to his house. He’d been under the impression that Thomas was taking Adrianna with him and Kate to New York. his mind had been a whirlwind of activity as he prepared for their little visit. and he was most definitely out of practice. a lot of memory erasing. He quickly did a mental check to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything important. and the relationship was over.The Vampire’s Lady a second to compose herself. There’d been plenty of one-night stands during the long years of his existence. and he found himself feeling the same attraction to Adrianna that he had had to his first love—that same intense passion. that she was something special. she was different. He must be crazy! He hadn’t allowed himself to be alone with a woman he actually cared about since Varga. he’d never met another woman who could spark his interest. A little sex. a little bloodletting. but it seemed those plans had never come to fruition. the desire. the need to possess her body and soul. He was actually going to go down to the cottage and be with her. She was slightly out of breath from her dash down the stairs. The moment Seth had told him about Adrianna’s phone call that morning. he knew his first priority was to feed—and thoroughly—if 149 . where there were plenty of other distractions coming and going at all hours of the day or night. He’d have to have a little talk with his human friend when Thomas returned from the big city. he’d begun to make plans. and there was no going back even if he wanted to—which he didn’t. his mind drifted back to the first time he’d seen her that night at the club. who could make him feel the things that she had—until now. Standing there now in front of her. he watched the play of emotions crossing Adrianna’s face. But this … this was … no. Her resemblance to Varga was uncanny. ***** Julian stood staring at her with those beautiful blue-gray eyes. alone—for—he wasn’t sure how long. He hadn’t had to practice control of the hunger—for sex. As he waited for her to invite him inside. At least then both women would’ve been far away from the area of danger while Julian slept. He only hoped the precautions he’d taken before he left the mansion would be enough to keep him in control of the situation. as well as blood—in a romantic situation for quite some time now. and there he was—all six feet four inches of him. Well. He really didn’t believe he was actually going to go through with this. for now. In all those long years since he’d lost Varga. he told himself. he was here now. He’d known then that she was different. And this is where it gets dangerous. but. she opened it wide. perfectly composed and trying hard not to give her any indication of the turmoil that was going on inside of him. It wasn’t that he hadn’t had the opportunity.

He also remembered the stab of jealousy he’d felt when she thought he was someone else. he’d picked up the phone and called her. the scent of a rich bouquet in his own glass would help to mask her scent—which had a tendency to bring the hunger forth in him with a vengeance. Climbing slowly out of the car. Something in the back of his mind warned him. He only hoped his theory was right. No transformation this time. that Adrianna had a preference for a good red.D. like a jolt of electricity that had shot through him. he’d thought as he prepared to leave. She’d come into his life for a reason.” But he stubbornly ignored the warning. Tonight he had to play the role of human. in actuality.” he thought as he hesitated. his hunger surging forth as he stared into those beautiful brown eyes. ready and waiting for him. just to be safe. He figured if he’d had a taste of fresh human blood he wouldn’t crave Adrianna’s. and. He’d even drunk a little from one of the human donors that were always at the mansion. He could literally feel the strength of the emotions rising within her as she stood there staring back at him. hesitating for just a moment before he knocked on the door. His memory lingered for a second on the twinge of doubt he’d felt. as he quickly dressed in black slacks and a deep-rust-colored shirt. “And it seems she’s fighting the same battle” he thought as his mind came back to the present. He’d arrived at the cottage within minutes. even though he rarely drank himself. When he felt he had the situation well enough under control. So he’d gone out immediately to hunt. God. He’d noticed. He deserved the chance to at least try one more time. and he’d hunted well. “Don’t let her in. after the quick visit he and Thomas had made to the cottage the night before. He had a right to be happy. It seemed like an eternity but.J. right or wrong. I hope this works. the plans had been made. and he was going to the cottage. it can only end in disaster. was only a minute or two before the door swung open and she was there in front of him. He recalled the excitement. at the mere sound of her voice. he’d done it. fighting hard for control of all of the emotions wreaking havoc inside of him. 150 . “I hope you know what you’re doing. Seth had left the bottle of wine and his car keys lying side by side on a small table in the entryway near the front door. He made a mental note to find out more about this Rick person who seemed to occupy a special place in Adrianna’s life. Well. Marteeny he were going to spend any time alone with Adrianna. “So much for feeding well. Don’t get too close to her. he was going to find out what that reason was and enjoy himself in the process—he hoped.” he’d warned himself as he started the car and drove slowly down the gravel rode the short distance to the cottage. He’d instructed Seth to bring him a bottle of their best wine to take along. he’d walked up the front steps. and. so the black Lincoln was parked out front.

Adrianna.” he said. “Perfect. I’m afraid I’ve neglected it for some time now.” she said with a smile. “Hello. ruby-colored liquid.” he said as he stood up and took the bottle away from her. he thought as he waited for her to close the door. Neither of them moved or spoke a word as the seconds slipped away.” he thought as he went immediately over to claim the chair. a rich.” That’s not likely to happen.” he said “Go on into the living room. Julian.” “Oh. he broke their trancelike state. red Italian wine. why don’t you let me do that. Here. and.” he explained as he handed her a bottle of Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino. to herself— “Shit! Where is that corkscrew?” as she searched through the drawers for something to open the bottle with. Aren’t you going to invite me in?” “Oh. “and nothing says ‘I’m sorry I missed your call this morning’ like this particular vintage. I noticed last night that you enjoyed red wine.” “Of course I did. “Sometimes the corks in these older bottles are a little difficult to remove. Finally. she really is beautiful. because it looks great. while I get some glasses. Adrianna. but you really didn’t have to do that.” she told him.The Vampire’s Lady God. “This is for you. well. so I’m glad you and Kate were persistent in wanting to buy the place. “Thank you. he thought as their eyes met … and held. “You didn’t seem to have any trouble getting it out. What it obviously needed was a woman’s touch. It’s really a lovely little place.” he said—as he proceeded to pull it out with no effort at all. He wandered slowly around the spacious room while she made her way into the kitchen with the wine. Please come inside and make yourself comfortable. he said. It’s almost as if I were meant to be here.” she smiled as she took the bottle from him. “You’ve really done a lot to the place. It just needed some tender loving care. it did need some tending to. I’m so sorry. when he cleared his throat to say. you’re right. “Thank you. he moved to stand beside 151 . After handing hers back to her. “Yes. thus avoiding the problem of having to be too close to her if she asked him to sit next to her on the couch.” he complimented as his eyes went from the antique couch to the matching chair positioned opposite from it. and I really felt drawn to it somehow the first time I saw it. It’s very welcoming. I have a little more muscle to put behind it than you do. Not wanting her to suspect he might have overheard her. He took the glasses out of her hand and filled them both with the rich.” she told him as she walked back into the living room still holding the unopened bottle of wine. “Does that sound silly?” “Silly? No. He chuckled softly to himself when his amplified hearing picked up her voice saying—she thought. of course not.

Kate did ask me to go. When she returned she seated herself across from him on the couch. memorizing every detail. “No. Marteeny the chair once again. “Allow me. fishing for information about the other man in her life.” Moving out of her line of sight. Addie took a final sip from her own glass. Lord! she thought. head bowed. “I thought you and I might be able to spend the morning together as well. our mutual friend.D. and then—there was the very real chance that she would get 152 . but he stayed where he was. don’t worry. He watched her closely. with them having just met and all. he was going to lose control. girl! she told herself as she took another rather large sip of wine. He laughed softly at her comment. no.” he said with that devastating smile again. It was a … strange night. Why is that?” “Well. I wouldn’t believe you if you did. Adrianna. while she took the bottle back into the kitchen. was driving him crazy and stirring up feelings long dead inside of him. “Don’t tell me you’ve never had a woman call you before.” he said as he leaned forward to set his glass on the mahogany coffee table between them. She saw his raised eyebrow as he said. I’m fine. We really didn’t have much time to talk at the club the other night.” she said. looking directly at him. You were saying you were surprised that I’d called. we didn’t. Thomas. he said. Looking at Adrianna. This evening was not going anything like he’d thought it would. or was there a change in plans? Did your friend Rick call and you decided not to go with them?” he said.” she told him. “No.” he said as he reached for her glass. He noticed that she looked a little disappointed that he didn’t make a move to join her there.J. but I thought. as he lowered his tall frame into the waiting chair. why?” she asked. The wine was beginning to have an effect. “Oh. rising to go to the kitchen for a refill. Get a grip on yourself. “I’ll only be a moment. I could just sit and stare at him all night. even from across the room. and I apologize for that as well. every expression on the face that had been constantly in his thoughts since that night at the club. And I also thought. “I’d go a little easy on that wine.” she explained. taking much too large a gulp of wine from her glass. taking another sip from her glass. If he wasn’t careful. “I was pleasantly surprised by your phone call this morning. he leaned against the countertop. Did I just misunderstand him. It can be pretty potent. it was nothing like that. and she felt her inhibitions slipping away. inhaling deeply. it would be more fun for them without a third wheel along. Her scent. to say the least. which seemed to clear his head a little after standing so close to her.” “Really. led me to believe that you were going to New York with him and Kate. He took a small sip of wine and inhaled the rich scent deeply. A jolt raced through his body as his fingers brushed against hers.

so she decided to try to get some information out of him. 153 . I didn’t mean to upset you.” she said. sit down for a little while longer. Then she realized an opportunity had just been dropped in her lap.” she said. reaching out to grab his hand. Kate and I both.” he told her as he set her half-full glass next to his on the coffee table. He refilled her glass and walked back into the living room. you ask me something—and it can be as stupid as you like. but something drew us both back here afterward. have you lived in Winwood all of your life?” he asked. Why all the secrecy?” “Adrianna. hiccupping softly as she took yet another sip of wine. “Julian. “Well.” she said. Adrianna. and two: that you were also part owner of Nightlife. “I’ll be fine. taking her hand in his to stop her from tracing tiny. I’m sorry!” he said in alarm. cozy conversation. living here … Yes. “And that would be the dress shop where your friend was killed—oh. feather-light circles on the top of his thigh. a little longer. handing her the glass. but you can barely keep your eyes open. “All right. when he saw the look on her face at the mention of Kim. Julian. Maybe I should go … let you get some rest. We went away to college. which was making his blood boil. He was helpless to resist those brown eyes staring up at him. It would be so much easier with someone else around. He hesitated a moment before turning back to her. Adrianna. sliding a little closer to him. Come on.The Vampire’s Lady hurt. “So. he’d just have to keep her talking for a while longer and then make his excuses to leave.” she explained. does that sound fair?” She couldn’t help but laugh at his attempt to make her feel better. “I was very surprised to find out that.” he said. why don’t you sit here. one: you were the mysterious owner of the cottage that we were never able to reach when we were trying to buy it. I do believe you’re a little drunk. unaware of the battle raging within him when her leg brushed up against his. Adrianna. I’ve lived here all my life. he agreed to stay. yes. I have so many questions to ask you.” “What quest—? Oh. pulling him toward the couch. Come on. so. Well. okay? And you didn’t answer my question. Adrianna.” she said. Reaching for her glass. he said. “I wasn’t thinking. “Why. so no more wine. next to me on the couch?” she suggested as she took another sip of wine. “That chair is much too far away for a nice. against all reason. He had to leave. and it’s still early. I warned you that wine was strong. “No. and soon—but what excuse could he use that wouldn’t hurt her feelings or arouse her suspicions? And where the hell is Thomas? he wondered. and that’s when we decided to start a business together. as he turned back toward the chair.

” His words were beginning to make her extremely nervous. have no concept of. feeling a little dizzy. “Who told you the attacks were connected to the club?” he asked. I saw it myself earlier in the evening. but. She’d better remember not to drink so much when she was around him. if you know Nick. I’ve had many … trials in my life. He was there that night. which is strange in itself. “You’re talking about the attacks. They don’t have any clear recollection of what happened. he thought.” Adrianna’s last bit of information really caught Julian’s attention. He was hoping to capture some cold. “You said your friend was there with his camera?” “Uh-huh. no reason in particular.” She realized that she’d said too much when she saw the look of surprise on his face. She didn’t want to lie. quiet life in a small New England town. a man named Nick Anderson. most of the information we have is just hearsay. Marteeny “The one thing you must know about me is that I’m a very private person. and she didn’t want secrets between them. as he remembered the victim he’d been too late to save—and the camera he’d found lying under the body. Why?” she asked. I wonder why 154 . There are certain dangers. if the camera was found. I need to know that I can trust them completely and … that I can keep them safe. I try to be very cautious about the people I let into my inner circle. With a sigh. What do you think you need to protect them from?” “Adrianna. surrounding us on a daily basis that you can only imagine in your worst nightmares.D. there are things in this world that you. just looking for an opportunity to hurt him and those connected to him. your club. hard evidence that he could turn in to the police. That’s why so many people think these attacks are connected to your club. “Oh. trying to control the alarm in his voice. And we thought we’ d been successful in covering everything up. “I don’t quite understand. You already know that two of my friends were victims.” he said as he looked into her eyes. so she said. A man in my position develops a lot of enemies over the years. Julian. It was his theory that the murders involving the young couple a few nights ago actually happened at. but he was positive something went down at Nightlife. That’s why he went back there Saturday night with his camera. “No one knows anything for sure. living a nice. as well as another friend of his.J. she realized she had to tell him the truth. She shook her head slightly. One of them. or were connected in some way to. Just how much did she really know about the murders? he wondered. aren’t you? You think they’re somehow meant to target you. or someone close to you. She wondered if he might actually know something about Nick’s murder. is—or was—a reporter.

“The police did find the camera. “Umm. “It wasn’t your fault. the attacks had already happened. but he was wrong. So they told us both at dinner Saturday night before we went to the club.” Julian said. never published any pictures.” she said.The Vampire’s Lady the police. Your friends were concerned about you and did what they thought was best for your safety. The thought that she would hear information concerning himself before he had a chance to explain things to her was really beginning to alarm him. trying to make her feel a little better. That is. He wanted nothing more than to confide in her and tell her everything—but she would never understand about the creatures they were dealing with. so he lied to her when he said. Rick was worried about us going to Nightlife and thought his information would scare us off. but the film was missing.” he said. Did you see anything— anything at all—that might help the police catch the monster responsible for this nightmare?” She didn’t know how right her words were when she’d said “monster.” she explained. By the time my men and I got to the park. So Nick said he was going too and would keep an eye on us. Julian. and whoever had committed them was gone.” Julian agreed. She felt somehow to blame for what had happened to Nick. “We didn’t see anything except the bodies. It seems our killer knows how to cover his tracks. No one could have foreseen what would happen. and I won’t upset you further by going into detail on that subject. Adrianna. For reasons she couldn’t explain.” he thought. it would seem so. A lot of good that did him. she avoided direct eye contact with Julian. and they both decided it would be to our benefit to fill Kate and me in on their theories. no. Adrianna—how did you get this information? None of this was made public. Father Rick Ferrante. And he wasn’t ready yet to see the look on her face when she found out he was the same kind of monster as those committing the murders. the pastor of St. “But tell me. Mary’s Church—the friend I had lunch with today. appearing to be thinking out loud. or our ever-present press. “Nick shared his ideas with Rick a day or two ago. “You and your men were out there. Is it possible you have a contact at the police station as well as with the press?” he asked. and the camera itself had been smashed to bits. not exactly. as far as I know.” she told him. She looked a little guilty when she replied.” “But we heard fighting—and you were covered in blood and some sort of ash—and something happened to one of your men right in your own parking 155 . Nick was actually a close friend of Rick’s. Adrianna. “Yes.

“I only meant—” “Shhh. Nothing was found. and the situation took on a whole new atmosphere as he stared down at her. “I’m sorry. “Shhh. She had no idea what she was doing to him. usually late at night. but I’m sure it was just a large dog or possibly even a wolf. watching her closely. helped the police with their removal. again.” “That’s very thoughtful. “… and I love it that you’re worried for my … our … safety. He froze at her touch.” he said as he took her in his arms and held her close against him. If Thomas and I aren’t around.” she finished as she leaned forward and brushed her own lips gently across his. “Adrianna. it’s all right. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help. so he could look into her eyes. “Look at me. They wander in from the nearby mountains in search of food. Marteeny lot—and what in God’s name was that awful howling?” she said. Better yet. so. I saw nothing that could be of any use to the police. placing her fingertip against his lips to stop the words. You might have noticed the girl with Charleze when you left the club. She blinked a few times and then turned to stare at him. “A wolf!” “Yes. unfortunately. down along his jaw line. stop—listen to me.” he said as he slowly stroked her hair. as he felt her lips travel from his mouth. I was covered in blood and dirt from the bodies of the victims. he’d just broken up a lover’s spat that. “And it’s very thoughtful of you …” she whispered.” he said. became violent. And as for my man in the parking lot. but. “I wish I could tell you more. He felt her relax against him. be careful if you’re out for the evening. running the tip of her finger along the soft contours of his mouth.J. But it has nothing to do with the club.” he said. stopping just short of pleading with her.” she said. you’re welcome to call the mansion any time you might need someone to accompany you somewhere. Julian. I seem to have lost my train of thought. What was I saying?” “You were asking about the howling. down across his chin.D. her voice beginning to rise as she relived everything that had happened that evening. especially now that I know you lost friends that night. please. That’s all I can tell you. you and Kate should probably avoid going anywhere alone at night. and listen closely to what I’m saying. 156 .” she informed him. Adrianna—do you understand?” he asked as he stared deeply into her eyes. calm down. later. to the smooth column of his throat. Only when she nodded her head did he finally break eye contact. there’ve been a few reports of a wolf or two straying too close to town. He placed a finger under her chin and tilted her head slightly. Adrianna. but I don’t need my own personal escort service. Julian. Kate and I can take care of ourselves. Yes. We’d done our own examination of them and. I know what you meant. “Adrianna—” He had to move—put some distance between them. I was out there.

too?” Kate asked. He raised his hand to silence her then. no. he thought to himself.” he said with a smile. Things were just getting … interesting. his lips devouring hers in a kiss that was smothering. he said “I heard something. some sound. Did you two have fun? What. “I 157 . We met for lunch. Hands clenching tightly into fists.” He straightened up as he pushed the curtains aside. He was still breathing heavily. it’s nothing. “Can I have a rain check on this evening? It’s getting late. He pulled away from her with a jerk.” “Why—what is it? Is something out there? “No. his hunger. no shopping bags?” “No shopping bags. near the breaking point when something. “Julian.” “Another date—who?” Kate asked. hell!” he said as he pulled her close. almost flying off the couch. “They’re back already?” She watched as the couple leaned against Thomas’s car for a good-night kiss. “And we probably should give them a little privacy. thoroughly flustered. “Well. by his abrupt departure.” And dangerous. her fingers entangled in his mass of auburn hair. “Not quite. He fought desperately for control.” Julian replied as he let the curtain fall back into place. after a few strained seconds. “I’m sorry. “Don’t get all excited. intrigued. look who’s here. He cupped her cheek with his hand. broke through his fevered mind. since I was unavailable. I only joined her a few hours ago. as he moved toward the front window. when Thomas finally brings Kate in. before he said.” he said as he leaned his forehead against the cool glass of the window pane. “It’s Thomas and Kate. “It would seem so. he stood there for a moment. Neither of the women seemed to notice the look that passed between Julian and Thomas before Julian replied.” Addie told her. it was just Rick.The Vampire’s Lady “Adri—aw.” she whispered just as the front door opened wide and Thomas and Kate came inside. “I’ll fill you in later. “It’s just … it seems we’re about to have company. what is it?” she asked. kissing her gently as she leaned into him.” “Sure. He knew he was losing control. you say! What do you call … these?” Thomas said as he leaned to the side to retrieve about a half dozen extremely large bags. His tongue entwined with hers as she wrapped her arms around his neck. for her body as well as her blood. and I should probably go. Adrianna had another date this afternoon. Have you two been together all day. and frustrated. fighting to get his emotions under control. jumping from the couch to join him at the window. Adrianna.” “No—” she said.

” He leaned forward and kissed Adrianna on the cheek.” “Deal—now help me get this stuff upstairs. “I’ll be in touch.” he said as he opened the front door. with a quick look at Thomas. it’s not that bad. catching Thomas’s eye. I’ll help you.J. as everyone helped to get the packages inside. What was in that wine? Anyway. Julian. laughing as she heard Addie groan. As the cars disappeared up the gravel road.” Kate said. we’re both tired. he continued. Marteeny had to make a couple of trips from the car. Good night Adrianna. talk!” “Not tonight. please. When they were finished. I need assistance to get the booty inside. “Okay. Kate.” Thomas kissed Kate and quickly followed Julian out the door to their waiting cars. Julian and Addie just laughed. and. It’s the least we can do if they’re watching out for us. “and I think I might be a little drunk. please let your men know if they need anything from us they’re welcome to come in and help themselves to whatever we have. “We really should be going. said. Kate shut the door and turned to Addie.” Turning back to Addie.” “Good night.” he said.” “I’ll be sure and let all my men know they’re welcome in the cottage. I have a few loose ends to tie up from last night’s meeting. and Julian. there are two bodyguards out front and two more near the entrance to the woods. There will be a shift change just before dawn. little man. we can fill each other in tomorrow morning. laughing when Kate punched him in the arm. Come on. “but.” he said. looking directly at Thomas.” Julian replied. 158 .” she said. don’t hesitate to call if you need anything. rubbing her temples with her fingertips.” Kate teased. “Remember. “Okay. Kate.D. “Oh.

and that’s all I need. and follow me!” he ordered as his body floated up the front steps to leave him hovering at the window. remained hidden. Enoch stood very still for a moment. “Who could that be at this hour?” she said aloud as she peeked through a crack in the curtains to look outside. “Keep your mouths shut. Lifting his hands. With a wave of his hand. Kate quickly dropped the bags to the floor. the hideous mouth spread into something resembling a smile. I thought he’ d gone. Enoch thought to himself. up against me. dark and sinister. he knocked gently. also. Eyeing the cottage. “Not as handsome as I’d have liked. kicking aside the pile of ash at his feet. but the redhead seems captivated enough by this human form. He watched as Kate reentered the living room. He signaled for two of his fellow vampires to join him. a wicked smile crossing the now-handsome face. Hanokh. as the two cars pulled away from the tiny house. The lone figure of Enoch. 159 . transforming into the figure of a man with wavy brown hair and green eyes. Hearing the soft tapping. as the decaying flesh began to mold and bend itself. into human form. Moving to the door. allowing the creature a few moments to study the men inside. he studied this new form he had assumed. Julian should have known better than to send a newborn. When the cars were finally out of sight. as the vehicles drove past its hiding spot. What the hell? she thought. he transformed them. He knew his brother. until the transformation was complete. was nearby and had similarly disposed of the other two guards. or two.Chapter 13 Hidden in the murky darkness that engulfed the woods around the cottage. as he thought. a pair of red eyes watched.” As he started to move forward. picking up the last of the bags from her shopping spree. Enoch slowly approached the front porch. he cast the green eyes downward.

the scent of him driving all rational thought from her mind. and she really didn’t remember exactly what he’d said. where she stopped to stare at the image in the mirror. “I just wanted to introduce you to the two men who’ll be taking care of things in my absence. don’t just stand there. indicating the two figures standing behind him. “Couldn’t stay away.D. He invaded her thoughts constantly. “That’s my kinda guy!” she said with a smile as she opened the front door to the three waiting men. “Thomas! I thought you’d gone—miss me already?” she asked. Kate thought his voice sounded strange. like steel bands. 160 . but she attributed it to them both being tired. that body!) hadn’t caught her attention before. as she jumped from the bed. trying to decide if what she’d just heard had been real or just a momentary daydream in her confused mind. She really needed to watch her wine intake the next time. Where the hell did he get such potent stuff ? she wondered. she stopped for a moment to mull over her conversation with Julian. “So he must have said something to ease my mind. “Well. as if he belonged there—like a piece of a puzzle that had been missing until he’d walked into her life. right?” she asked of no one in particular. but nothing—nothing—like this. with plenty of other guys. There’d been plenty of other times.” he replied. remembering the feel of his body as he held her against him.J. It wasn’t as if a handsome face or a great body (oh.” ***** Meanwhile. eyes closed. she touched lips that were still a little swollen from the passion of Julian’s kiss. suddenly. she thought that’s what he’d done. Shrugging off the questions. the quiet of the peaceful evening was shattered by an ear-piercing scream! Addie’s eyes flew open in confusion. The night was deathly still—not a breeze was blowing or a cricket chirping. in a bedroom upstairs.” he told her. Then. Marteeny He must have given Julian the slip and come back. but she did remember feeling relieved. So lost in thought was she that she failed to hear the first shriek. She listened intently. heart pounding violently. she walked past the vanity. She lost herself in the memory of strong arms. holding her close. as Addie slipped into cotton briefs and a tank top before climbing into bed. What was it about him that made her forget all her inhibitions and totally lose herself in his arms? She barely knew him. She sank down on the bed. but there’d been such a strong connection from the first moment she’d laid eyes on him walking across that crowded dance floor. Reaching up. Julian was something completely different. It was as if she were compelled to think about him. Her mind was still a little confused on the subject. She was glad that he’d explained to her his side of what had happened Saturday night at the club—at least. Come on in.

It was then she noticed the two small puncture wounds on the side of her friend’s neck. She screamed again and charged toward the creature. a slender stream of blood flowing freely from each one. All her senses were alert for some sound. from the creature’s face to Kate’s pale. Its red eyes blazed with anger at the sight of Adrianna standing there. “Kate!” she whispered. the thin lips curled back from a mouth filled with black. but. Something out of a nightmare hovered over her. It slammed against the wall. it had sustained no real damage. she quietly peered outside. ran back out the doorway toward the stairs. eyes closed as if she’d fallen asleep. some hint of impending danger. Opening the door slowly to prevent the telltale squeeeeak that always accompanied this particular door. Horror and shock rooted Addie to the spot. if that were possible—and there was no question who it was coming from. Spinning around. nearly lifeless. Anger. Addie didn’t even realize the sound was coming from her until her mouth closed with a snap. its hideous face buried in Kate’s neck. She almost collided with the wall in her hurry to reach Kate. Spotting an old baseball bat. rotting teeth. and it hissed at her in fury.The Vampire’s Lady as she moved toward the bedroom door. she was hit from the side with such force that the wind was knocked out of her. fell to the floor. as if in slow motion. crushing 161 . filled Addie. Her eyes moved. and rolled out of sight. She stood staring back at the monstrosity. so intense it felt as if her blood were on fire. Kate lay motionless on the couch before her. when. hard wood and. the jolt of the impact jarred her so badly she lost her grip. coming to a complete standstill as she stared in shock at the sight before her. other than looking completely pissed off. except for two large fangs which were now dripping with blood—Kate’s blood! Another piercing scream cut through the night. wondering what she should do next. and then—another ear-splitting scream. Panic galvanized her into action. body. a horrible sucking sound coming from its mouth. away from Kate and off the couch. Sensing someone else was near. A heavy weight bore down upon her. the thing slowly raised its skull-like head. The hall seemed to be empty. Running forward. weapon in hand. she grasped the bat with both hands and swung with all the strength she could summon. she flew down the staircase. When the weapon found its mark. and the bat was propelled all the way across the room. she wrapped her hands around the smooth. Hesitating only a moment. even louder this time. hatred giving her added momentum. as she stared into those lifeless eyes. The blow had caused it to pitch forward. and she flew from the room! She was halfway down the hallway when she stopped and turned to run back into her room. out of nowhere. Addie turned to see the creature picking itself up off the floor. She searched the closet for something—anything—that would serve as a weapon.

Vaguely she remembered the beautiful waitress from the club. It took all of Addie’s concentration to force those legs to move. trying to gain access into the cottage. but the man reacted before she could utter a sound. as she watched the gruesome scene before her. They’re just like that thing that attacked Kate. as they were destroyed one by one by Julian’s men? They looked just like the other three creatures that had entered the house. it seemed the wolves were entering from everywhere. As she took in what was happening. “Were those … wolves? And what in God’s name were those things flying onto the front porch. He drove a pointed wooden stake directly into the heart of the winged form charging him. dark man that had been with Julian at the club walking toward the front door. and yet.J. Just as he crossed the threshold. Was she dreaming again. Adrianna. smashing through the windows and fighting their way through the open doorways. blond hair. as she fought to stay conscious. and a few others being attacked from all directions by—No. Marteeny the air out of her lungs. Her eyes scanned the room slowly. heading straight for him. as the girl knelt beside her to help her get up. inside as well as out. swinging his arm upward so quickly it was all a blur to her. black wings flew through the darkness. to stand on legs that felt like rubber. It all seemed surreal. Thomas. a creature with huge. front and back—how had this happened? Who had opened the entryways? She was mesmerized. as she followed the young woman toward the open door.D. “Come on. Addie tried to scream a warning. Through blurred vision she saw two sharp fangs descending toward her. she realized that Julian and his men were making short 162 . She saw the tall. Addie thought as she watched the destruction going on all around her. He crouched low to the ground. her numbed mind figured out—but where had they come from? She knew they’d locked the entire cottage up tight as a drum before they’d gone to bed. I must be going insane. causing it to erupt into a ball of fire. “Don’t mark that one. as the hideous fangs were replaced by a pair of ruby-red lips in a lovely face surrounded by long. as her gaze traveled the length of the room. you fool!” But before the voice could finish its sentence. and the attacker was thrown against the far wall with such force that the plaster splintered out in all directions. Everything was a flurry of movement with almost no sound. the weight was lifted off her. She thought she saw Julian. We have to go—now!” Charleze’s voice said firmly. as if everything she was watching were moving in slow motion. she kicked and clawed in a futile attempt to shake off her attacker. and she realized it would only be a matter of seconds before she would end up just like Kate. that’s impossible! she thought. or did she hear an urgent voice whispering orders to her. Instinctively. Addie was pulled upward. For a moment she thought she was dreaming. stopping for one brief moment to glance behind her.

She could swear she saw the scream of terror still on its hideous lips. Thomas. as the man smashed the head against the floor in a fit of rage before it could burst into flames. Realizing she was close to death.The Vampire’s Lady work of their attackers. echoing Addie’s thoughts as he lifted her into his arms. leaving only ash behind. a plea for help in his eyes as he stared at the blood flowing from the wounds on her neck. as he viewed the scene before him. shimmering knives hacked into limbs. Now come away!” she said firmly. even though they were outnumbered. Julian! She’s going to be all right.” “No—don’t patronize me. and heads were ripped from the shoulders with bare hands. trying to offer what comfort he could. “We need him alive. his own emotions began to change from anger to fear. she saw a tall.” “Thomas will take care of her. Trembling with anger. “Take him to the house. we have to leave. blond man holding the head of the creature who had attacked her friend. Adrianna. she thought she could detect the sorrow in Charleze’s voice. Thomas knelt next to the couch. she felt her body being pulled toward the front door. Julian looked down at Kate’s deathly white face. Glancing back toward the couch.” Addie screamed. “… and she’s so pale. its body burned to ash on the floor at his feet. but understanding the despair his friend 163 . to answer some questions. as Addie turned to face Charleze. Julian spoke softly. “She’s so pale—and barely breathing. As Adrianna followed her. for now. he searched for Julian. we really have to go!” But. “Adrianna. stubbornly refusing to give up. “She’s not moving …” she whispered to herself. holding Kate in his arms. only to find him out on the front porch talking to two of his men who were roughly holding an injured vampire between them.” Julian told them.” the woman next to her shouted. Moving closer to the couple. “I’m sorry. fighting to free herself from the girl’s amazingly strong grip. Tearing her eyes from the sight of the tall blond. They must not get to you. too. Simon glanced around to see the remainder of the attacking creatures fleeing through every possible exit. Painful memories flooded his mind. as body parts burst into flames! What in God’s name was happening? What were those things? And just who were Julian and his men? This had to be a nightmare—this couldn’t be real. and he knew the choice they were facing. Suddenly. You have to help her! I won’t let her die!” the young man said as he held Kate close. “Come on. As Thomas knelt beside Kate.” he said. Julian turned slowly. she saw Thomas bent over Kate. Desperately. something nagged at her mind—something important! “Kate! We have to help Kate.” Sensing he was needed. They were amazing! Wooden stakes pierced broken bodies. her green eyes staring and unfocused. Placing his hand on the anguished man’s shoulder.

or something. not even that hellcat can protect the girl alone. Julian hesitated only a moment before saying. with one more glance at the injured woman and sorrow in his voice. Thomas. if my instincts are right. help Thomas get Kate back to the house. Make sure there’s no trace of what went on here tonight when you’re through. but something troubles me about the attack tonight. and. We have no time to spare. but we have to get her to the house as quickly as possible. vampires as well as werewolves. Why would they ignore my warning. “And what have your instincts been telling you. Julian—I don’t care. When Dragone finds out his evil spawn have failed to secure what they were sent for. “Simon. why send weaklings—why not send his strongest warriors? He knows the importance of his quarry—but does he 164 . now?” “Think. Charleze has already left. without visible signs of all that has happened. aren’t powerful enough to cloud anyone’s mind.” Christoff approached as Julian finished giving the orders.” Julian said. he will come back with a vengeance.” “Our dark friend is right. as he stared at open doors and shattered windows.” As Christoff watched Thomas gently lifting Kate into his arms. We must not have two tragedies tonight.” he instructed. We’ll work on her there. mere slaves. Julian realized Thomas had fallen in love with Kate. He said. “All right.D. but you’d better hurry. Thomas—but you do understand what that may involve?” “Whatever. if they return. my friend. We’ll do all we can to save her. We were outnumbered. unless …” “Someone. Studying the room intently.” Michael said.” Simon answered for him. Prepare what we’ll need. Julian. That is why she was attacked. “and we’ll do what’s necessary there. and yet we defeated them easily. If he were truly after Adrianna. was playing mind tricks. Julian. Looking closely at the couple. It’ll be traumatic enough for them to return. coming to stand beside them.” Turning to Andrew.J. even the wolves that can shape-shift. They are weak and unskilled. Marteeny was feeling. it’s obvious how you feel about her and. “The other one was dispensable. he shouted more orders: “Keep a few men here with you to clean up this mess. he motioned to Simon. “They entered through the front doors. he knows! You know as well as I do that she was the real target here tonight. “These creatures. but why would she let them in? We’d just left here.” Thomas whispered. almost to himself. These were not the strongest of his army. “I will see that all is taken care of. and I thought I made it perfectly clear to both of them the necessity for caution. I’ve just found her! I won’t lose her now. but—someone else could have been outside—someone powerful. he continued. if we know. and a chill ran through him. Simon.

why. But leave the questioning of the captive for me—I will get the answers you need. “This was a test!” Julian stated as comprehension dawned. The others were supposed to take care of everything else. The night hid terrors the mind could only imagine. he said. raising the flailing figure high into the air as if it weighed next to nothing. “Julian!” He spat out the name. The only thing remaining where the vampire had once stood was a faint mist. Spinning around.” Julian told him.The Vampire’s Lady actually know who the quarry is at this time?” Michael questioned. but before Julian could leave. why—better them than us!” Hanokh roared into the face of the helpless creature beside him. we learned what we came here to find out. watching the scene inside the cottage.” Julian replied. Hanokh. “Let’s go. “And what gives you the right to question me or my brother? Enoch did exactly what he said he’d do. it continued.” “And we gave him exactly the information he needed. as the weak voice hissed. he yelled. leave? Why—” “Why. Christoff merely shrugged and then went about his task. he ordered. barely able to contain his hatred. We must be at full strength tonight. staring intently at Julian. we’ll find the answers we’re looking for. “The house—quickly! Christoff. tossing the helpless figure to the ground. 165 . We have a captive now.” And. The rustling of the bushes disturbed his train of thought.” “He’s all yours. “I will organize things here and then return to you. There’ll be no more mistakes—no more playing right into his hands. and then join us at the mansion. not really expecting an answer from the vampire beside him. The beastly face could not hide the intelligence—and evil—behind the black eyes. “Does he have to do that?” Michael asked. nearly as tall as the tree it hid behind. and then he literally disappeared. My father will be pleased with our report. They’re being slaughtered!” Then. “I believe so—to assure himself of the correct target and to test the strengths and weaknesses of your men.” Christoff nodded. Christoff. He got them access to the house. We now know the extent of Julian’s forces—and the woman he’s attached to. as a spark of bravery shot through the wretched creature. anger building to a fever pitch inside of him. finish here as soon as you can. “Why did you not help them? Why did your brother. Enoch. stood some distance away. as a dark shadow. Black fur fell away from rippling muscles to reveal the man beneath—a man who struck as much terror into the cowering figure beside him as the beast he became. “Besides. and one way or another.” the dark figure replied coldly. His huge hands grabbed it by the neck.

” he said. Marteeny “Come on. smiling cruelly. Turning with the speed of light. he headed into the black forest behind them. as he turned and disappeared into the night. I told you before: It—is—not—your—place to question anything. striking the piteous creature with such force it slammed into a nearby tree. Disobey them and—well. and it’ll be the last thing you do. the man-wolf swung out. you fool.D. bones cracking as it cried out in pain. Your sole purpose is to follow the orders you’ve been given—by us—and you may live to see another day. the choice is yours. grabbing for the long arm of the man in front of him in a useless effort to stop Hanokh from leaving. “Touch me again. 166 . let’s go before the Warrior sees us!” Turning.J. “You mean this massacre was planned?” the creature screamed at the retreating figure.

because of his negligence. Could he really face her with his reality? There was no question. He should have realized who she was and what she meant to him. but the alternative he offered 167 . He had no choice. but they had to try. How could he tell her Kate would most likely die? Oh. She’d never believe such things really existed in her safe little world—but that wasn’t what he feared the most. That face still haunted his dreams. Adrianna and her friends were in grave danger. “How many more people will that son of bitch murder before I can get my hands on him?” Julian asked himself. Julian anguished over the fact that he’d failed to protect an innocent life yet again. there was a way that he could save her.” He should have known Adrianna was in danger. After all. Disturbing thoughts were racing through his mind. it was their fault that she was trapped in this nightmare. He didn’t hold much hope that they’d be able to save the girl. Now. How was he ever going to explain to Adrianna what had happened to her friend? She’d never understand what it was that had attacked Kate. yet I can’t even seem to keep one small woman safe. She had to be told the truth—and the task was his and his alone. His enemy had! But he’d refused to trust his instincts—to hope that another woman existed whose blood carried the gene that would change his life forever. that should have told him everything. He approached the door to the den. “I’ve lived for centuries. And when he finally saw her face at the club—well. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stand the look in her eyes—the horror and shock plainly visible on her face—when she realized that he and his men were the same kind of creature. fought and won countless battles. as he watched Thomas bolt up the stairs with Kate in his arms.Chapter 14 Arriving back at the mansion. Julian entered the foyer. He’d sensed there was something special about her that first night he’d felt her at the cottage. knowing she was inside waiting to hear news of her friend’s fate.

made larger still by the terror she’d witnessed. he approached the wet bar to pour two glasses of brandy. You do need to explain a few things to her. He’ll see that she’s … well cared for. until she saw Julian walk into the room. her beautiful brown eyes. Julian. The vampire leaned toward him. At least she was beginning to. probably more. prolonging the inevitable. the fire had been lit. her lacquered nails stroking his arm gently. Only we know how to treat the injuries she’s sustained. It seems he was right. as Adrianna became visibly calmer with each word. calming her again instantly. Sonya. Marteeny was worse than death itself.” he replied cautiously. to hear and accept what he had to say. As he entered the room.D. That thing bit—” Her voice broke as she fought for control. “Please. and we’re 168 . but. “What were those things that attacked us!” Julian hesitated for a moment. a pleading look in her eyes. for Adrianna was in shock and shaking violently. Adrianna moved to stand in front of him. Sonya placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder. he looked down at the woman before him and covered her hands gently with his own in a weak attempt to protect her from the shock she was about to receive. He began speaking in a soft voice.J. As she rose from the chair. Although it was early spring. As Julian’s eyes followed the lovely vampire. the vampire’s soothing voice working its magic. He knew Sonya was right. who’d been waiting for their return. The time had come for him to talk—really talk—to Adrianna. Coming to a decision. “Where is she—where’s Kate?” Addie asked. he held out the crystal goblet. he searched for her and found her seated quietly in front of the fireplace. glancing at Sonya.” she whispered.” Sonya explained. as the female vampire looked intently at Julian. He needed all the help he could get for this conversation. as he wondered just what he should say to Adrianna. Would Adrianna agree to their only option? What human in her right mind would? With a deep sigh. He could read the question waiting there as he watched her closely. he turned the knob and pushed the door open. Placing her hands upon his chest. was seated beside her. “He asked me to be here for your return. First of all: a conventional doctor can’t help Kate. Turning back to her. please. “Thomas thought I might be needed. reading the question in her eyes as she took it from him. Adrianna. Just … use caution. but. putting into words the question he’d seen in her eyes. stared into his. Then she walked gracefully from the room. “Thomas is with her upstairs. he sighed deeply. Julian! She’s hurt—badly! We have to call a doctor. hear me out completely before you make any snap judgments. “I’ll try to explain everything to you. He seemed to sense that this might be … an awkward conversation. she said. And she would need just as much help.

her fists pounding uselessly at his back. which is our resting time …” His voice trailed off. his blue-gray eyes boring into hers.” he explained as he braced himself for her reply. the look in her eyes hurt him more than her fists ever could. “They guard the rest of us through the daylight hours.” he continued. “You must be mistaken!” He turned back to her. “But then. weren’t they? But—but. as if its heat could dispel the coldness he felt inside. keeping our secret amongst ourselves and not harming anyone. The pain was more emotional than physical. for the worst was yet to come. reflected there. Adrianna. aren’t they?” She stared at his face and saw the truth. he turned to walk toward the fireplace. “Real vampires. those were vampires that attacked you and Kate. “Oh God— no. they couldn’t be—it’s just impossible. “We’ve been waging a battle for centuries against those of our kind who care nothing for human life. “Not by any choice of mine!” he shouted back as he turned and grabbed her hands. not you!” Her voice rose in pitch. trying to ignore the tiny gasp that escaped her. backing away from him.” Hesitating only briefly. as she fought to pull away from him. Julian. “You didn’t answer my question. she repeated her question. as well as pain. Adrianna. “Not all of us are like those monsters that attacked you tonight. “Thomas and a few others are as human as you and Kate. for that’s exactly what they were. he went on. thankful his back was to her as he continued. “Julian! There—is—no—such—thing!” “He turned his face away. “They guard the rest of you—no!” it came out in a whisper. Lowering her hands slowly. as he waited for what he had just said to register with her. and there was no mistaking what she read in them. They’re vicious monsters who only wish to 169 . but not all of my men can be counted among them.” Julian watched her closely—as comprehension dawned and she finally understood. “You’re partially correct. “I am what I am. as he said. not wanting to see the look in her eyes. not you—please. Julian—the things out of horror movies? But your men killed them so easily. as she ran at him. We discovered a long time ago there was no need to feed from humans—unless they were willing. that would mean—your men … Thomas … they’re vampires too. Adrianna—please listen to me!” he pleaded. trying to control his anger and frustration. because there’s no such thing. Julian. As I’ve said. right?” When Julian didn’t reply immediately. Most of us have tried for centuries to live a quiet existence.” “No!” she said.The Vampire’s Lady doing everything in our power to help her. “I’m afraid there is. hysteria beginning to rise in her voice.” he told her. What were those things! They acted just like—they were vampires.

“What happened tonight was something we could not have foreseen. We’d found most of the hordes causing problems in this country and destroyed them. sometimes it’s you humans who are more monstrous than any vampire could ever be—but that’s not the point here. And Julian. They weren’t real. Marteeny satisfy the bloodlust any way they can. “There are … precautions that I made sure to take before I let myself be alone with you. “Would you have attacked me? Would I have ended up like Kate?” “God. as she watched him. The pain and anguish were clearly visible on that handsome face as her words cut him like a knife. We send people to investigate any act of violence in the areas known to have a vampire population. I—we—are not as bad as you may think. We were unprepared. and we’ve paid a heavy price because of it.” She stood staring at the man before her. we were wrong. One that’s more evil than you could ever imagine. Adrianna. My men and I. “Please. We thought we had more time to come up with a plan to keep you and your friends safe. Turning away. Images of the attack flashed through her mind—those vile creatures. How was she supposed to believe the impossible things he was saying? How could they be true? They—he—were things of legend—makebelieve. I—” “Precautions? What precautions? You don’t mean … you drank blood before you came to my house? Oh my God!” Her emotions were in turmoil. He tried to ignore what he saw there. Blue-gray eyes looked intently into brown.” he said as he released his hold on her. We thought we had things pretty well under control—until now. It had actually happened. as well as a few others scattered around the country. I’m afraid we’ve let our guard down and become careless. I wanted you. were they? But she knew in her heart everything she’d seen and heard tonight had not been her imagination. staring at him intently. the man she’d thought she cared about. try to understand. feeling no remorse for the countless lives they destroy. 170 . We need to make sure it isn’t one of ‘our kind’ that committed the act. she tried desperately to think. try to keep things in balance. There was no going back. obviously. Adrianna. no waking up from a bad dream. wasn’t even human! How was that possible—and what was she to do now? “I was alone with you tonight. Adrianna! I would die before I’d hurt you!” But he knew how tenuous his control over the hunger was when he was with her. I’ve tried to …” but he stopped trying to explain himself when he realized he wasn’t getting through to her. Suddenly he was so very tired of it all. trying hard to grasp what he was telling her. Things have been quiet for some time now. no. She couldn’t deny what he was—nor could she deny the feelings she had for him.J. You know. battling between passion and fear.D.” she said. but. as she backed away from him in horror. but it seems a new force has risen.

she cared for him—deeply. he was. Adrianna. as he prepared his answer. There was such sadness in his eyes. God forgive her. There was good in this man. She couldn’t let that happen. He was at the center of all of this. When we do. She was enveloped in strong arms and carried the short distance back to her chair. It’s obvious he’s not the mastermind behind this attack. and that realization both shocked her and filled her with the strength she needed to pull herself together. In that moment. We’ve captured one of them and brought him here to question. she must find the courage to accept the truth. no matter how hard she tried to fight against it. her heart went out to him. she turned to face him. She was starting to sway. we’ll end this nightmare once and for all. how he’d become … what he was. In that moment she realized something. But. as well as others—then evil would have won. she made up her mind to help him in his fight or die trying—which was a good possibility—but she would damn 171 . But then. and. she couldn’t forget the valiant stand Julian and his men had taken to rescue them.” Suddenly. when she felt herself being lifted up. His kind are mere slaves. Contrary to everything she was feeling. or what. We have to find the one controlling them. It didn’t matter who. As she waited for his reply. Her mind just couldn’t convince her that he was a monster. after he’d saved her life? The battle raged on in her mind. Taking a deep breath. How she wished he could take her away somewhere and make it all go away—but she knew there was no chance of that ever happening now. even though she feared the answer he would give her. pawns easily disposed of. thinking better of it. “What will happen to Kate?” He knelt before her. I promise you I will do all in my power to find those responsible for tonight—and they will pay for the pain they’ve caused you. only doing their master’s bidding. she felt safe in his arms. Addie found the room stifling. She also knew she had to ask him the one question still burning in her mind. We’ve been fighting a battle for our lost humanity for a long time. she watched him closely. of that she was certain. he dropped his hand to his lap. On this I give you my word. She felt dizzy and lightheaded. Taking a deep breath she asked. Was that regret she saw in his eyes? “I’m so sorry.The Vampire’s Lady the blood and destruction. she did. his hand reaching forward to brush a stray wisp of hair from her cheek. She had to know everything—what had happened to him. If she gave in to fear now—let those creatures terrorize her. along with the horror.” How could she fault him. She had to listen to him and try to accept and understand. that you’ve both been drawn into … what I thought was my own private hell. as she laid her head against his chest. turn her back on him. Somehow. What had he said? “Not all of us are evil.

She’s lost a lot of blood—” Suddenly the door burst open. “If we do nothing. as she realized what Thomas was trying to tell her. so they will not rise.J.” he said. We’re hoping this will be enough to replace the blood she’s lost. Now. “I realize now that you were trying to warn us all along.” he said softly. “I know it sounds crazy. She realized then that Thomas would do what was best for Kate. “I don’t know about you. Addie.” Addie tried to console him. since I failed to prevent this from happening.” she finished.” “Thomas. I’m trying really hard to understand all that you’re telling me—but it’s difficult.” Thomas said. unable to continue. “How can you even ask me that? It’s the least I can do for her. if we’re to have any hope of saving her. come on!” he said. looking at her intently and willing her to understand. her voice barely a whisper as she caught the look between man and vampire. Adrianna’s eyes grew wide. his eyes reflecting the fear consuming him. and an anxious Thomas ran into the room. “I’m sure I already know the answer.D. watching her closely.” Addie glanced from Julian back to Thomas. and then she reached up and gently wiped a stray tear that was rolling down the tormented man’s cheek. my friend?” Julian moved toward the younger man. I need time to—” 172 . unless …” He looked sorrowfully into her eyes. By giving her a transfusion of human blood. obviously agitated as he saw the vampire hesitate to leave Addie. Marteeny well make sure she took a few of them with her! Courage replaced fear. I’ll be the donor. his voice shaking with emotion. but … she means a lot to me. She waited for him to answer.” Julian said. I just hope it’ll be enough.” Thomas said as he tried to explain what Julian had begun to tell her. they drain them dry. “We have to hurry. I get that. knowing the strain that he was under. “We’re ready for the transfusion. but you couldn’t actually tell us what we were really dealing with. none of this was your fault. we have a slim chance of saving her. anyway. but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep her here with me. Julian. The creature did his work well. Julian said. and anger replaced grief. what’re you talking about—what transfusion?” “Kate’s lost a lot of blood. “She needs a transfusion. Adrianna. “You’ll have to make her … like Julian. “If we do nothing … Kate will die. Rising. If it’s not … the contamination will spread and … she’ll die. When they want someone to die. but—are you sure you want to do this. she’ll die within the hour. if our first course of action fails. “But you may consider that better than the alternative. as her newfound strength gave her the control she needed. Thomas—not to me. You were trying to protect us and your friends. “It doesn’t sound crazy at all.

I have to know. “Somehow. As Julian turned to leave. forgetting everything in the comfort only he could give. Gently. We’ll keep her with us and help her adjust to our ways. as he stepped back. from vampire to human.” she told them. “I wish I could give you that. and she found herself wishing she knew exactly what his story was. 173 . she made up her mind. her voice breaking as her control began to slip.” he said bitterly. She felt as though she were drowning in their blue depths. If the transfusion fails … then Simon will do what needs to be done and he’ll leave her in Thomas’s care. She nodded in agreement. God. Lord! All she wanted to do was rub her face along their warmth and softness as she leaned into them. before we do this. “If it does come to that. and it will take some time. she’d never forgive herself! Her eyes darted from one to the other. Can you do that. for she was determined not to break down in front of him again. “He cares very much for her. he tilted her chin upward. He won’t let any harm come to her until you can see her again. you can use me. she grabbed him by the arm.” Julian tried to explain. then you’ll have to trust her to our care for a while before you can see her again. we’ll take care of her. Holding back tears. We have to make a decision now!” Looking at them both. But she wouldn’t—she couldn’t—give in to the urge. Adrianna. I promise you. and back to vampire again. and more—but I can’t. his eyes capturing and holding hers. The way we were in life usually transfers with the change. “And. she was the closest thing to family that Kate had—but what if she made the wrong decision? What if she let them do what needed to be done to keep Kate here—and Kate turned into some monster? Kate would never forgive her—hell. “Do what you have to—both of you. If the transfusion fails and we have to go with the other … alternative … what’s to prevent her from becoming like those things that attacked us tonight? I’d rather see her dead than have her turn into one of those monsters!” she said. “Good girl. Leaning down. but it takes proper guidance. She interrupted.” Gently he released her. “But first. she nodded her agreement. looking directly at Thomas.The Vampire’s Lady “Time is a luxury we don’t have. Finally.” she muttered as she tried to imagine what Kate would endure. Julian cupped her face in his large hands. I knew you’d feel that way—” he started to say. “If you need more blood than Thomas can give you. we’ll do all that we can before we have to follow that path. too. She knew she had to make the decision. Julian. Just keep her with us.” she whispered. Adrianna.” Julian looked at the man next to him. she felt trapped. We try not to purposely condemn anyone to this life. Adrianna?” “Oh. If we have to do this. Adrianna.

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“We’ll do all we can,” Julian replied. Nodding to Thomas, he said simply, “Ready?” and started for the door, but, as Thomas moved to follow him, Julian stopped suddenly, and, with his back still to Adrianna, he said, “I don’t think it would be smart to go back to the cottage for a while. It’s too dangerous.” He glanced sideways to make sure he had her attention, and then he continued, “You will stay here tonight. Thomas can take you back in the morning to get whatever you both need for an extended visit. You’re welcome to stay here for as long as it takes us to find out who’s behind—” “No, Julian,” Adrianna said firmly, stopping him mid-sentence. “What?” he quietly questioned, pain slashing through him as he waited for her to continue. “I said no,” she repeated, a little more calmly, but no less firmly. “We won’t stay in this house any longer than it takes for you to help Kate. I’m sorry, Julian. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. You must believe that I do trust you and Thomas both, but I don’t know your ‘people.’ I’m sure you’ll vouch for all of them, but how do I know—come to think of it, how do you know there isn’t a traitor among them? Think about it, Julian. How did those things know where to find us?” “Adrianna,” Thomas whispered in shock—and fear. He knew his friend, and if Julian couldn’t control the anger he must be feeling right now, he, Thomas, wouldn’t be able to protect Addie. “How can I trust those I don’t know, Thomas?” she continued on, not taking her eyes off Julian. “I appreciate everything you’re doing for Kate, Julian, I really do, but how do I know there’s not someone in this house who’s still a threat to her—or me? Thomas,” she said, grabbing his hand tightly, “If you care anything at all for her, and the transfusion is a success, you have to help me get her to a hospital. Somewhere that I know we’ll be safe. The doctors can help me take care of her there once we know the danger is past. Thomas, please!” she cried and then she caught the look on his face as he stared at Julian. Those beautiful blue-gray eyes smoldered with such fury that, if looks could kill, she had not a doubt in the world she would definitely be dead! “I will say this one more time only,” Julian spat out, barely managing to hold in his anger. “My people will not harm any human being! Many of them will die trying to protect you and your kind before this is all over, because they realize, even if you don’t, that we’re your only hope. We didn’t choose to become what we are. The choice was taken from us long ago, and now we fight for the humanity that’s lost to us forever. You can trust them, because I trust them—with my life as well as yours!” Taking a breath to calm himself, he continued, “But, if you think you’ll be safer elsewhere, then, by all means, go—and soon—and leave me in peace! Thomas, assist her any way you can

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when we’ve finished with our … task,” and, with a piercing glance that held her rooted to the floor, he stormed out of the room. “Addie,” Thomas said quietly, as she stood shaking. What had she done? He was so angry. Thomas took her gently by the arm and led her back to the chair. Going over to the bar, he poured her another glass of brandy. At this rate she’d be drunk soon—and she really didn’t care. Maybe then I’ ll be able to forget this nightmare, she thought as she sat there shaking with anger and frustration. “He only wants to help you,” Thomas continued. “You can’t even begin to imagine all that he’s been through.” “You’re right, Thomas. I don’t have any idea. I know very little about him—or any of you, for that matter. I’m really sorry, but how can he expect me to act any other way? This is so—unreal. I didn’t even know such things existed until a few minutes ago. Vampires are supposed to be creatures of legend, something horror writers put into novels. They’re not supposed to actually exist! I don’t know who can be trusted—even you. I need to think,” she said, and, rising, she began to pace back and forth. “I have a friend who’s a priest. If all goes well with Kate and the transfusion, I’m sure we could stay with him. After all, he lives behind a church, and …” She looked questioningly at Thomas. “Vampires can’t go onto holy ground, can they?” “That part of the legend is true. For the most part, they couldn’t harm you there, but then, we—Julian—couldn’t help you, either. There’s no distinguishing between good and evil vampires there, Addie. Holy ground affects them both the same. Listen,” Thomas continued, “Julian is your best chance. He won’t let any harm come to you while he is alive.” “He wasn’t much help to Kate tonight, now was he,” she said, trying not to sound bitter. “That’s not fair, Addie. He wasn’t there, and, once he was, your attackers fled. That’s why he wants you to stay in the mansion, where he can control things. It’s true that even here there’s no guarantee of safety, but I’d bet my life that those bastards will think twice before attacking Julian in his own home,” Thomas said, his frustration growing as he tried to reason with her. “If you stay with your friend, you’ll only put him in danger, too. But—” as a thought suddenly occurred to him, he said, “he may be able to do something for Kate, now, though, if you can get him here in time. Do you think he’d come?” “If I can reach him, I have no doubt he’ll want to help, but what can he do?” she questioned. She was glad for any reason to get Rick to the house, for she was determined to take Kate to the church with his help. She felt sure they’d be safer there. “If he can bring some holy water and the Communion Host, we may be


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able to stop the poison from spreading before it’s too late to save Kate. Can he be here by the time we’re done with the transfusion?” he asked hopefully. “If I can reach him now, it’s about a thirty-minute drive from the church. Will that be enough time?” “Yes, that’s perfect!” “Great! Where’s the phone?” she asked, glancing frantically around the room. “You can’t be serious, Thomas!” Sonya, who had just reentered the room, had overheard the last of their conversation and was absolutely livid as she stared at the man before her. The receiver of the phone dangled from her lacquered fingertips. “There will be no holy man coming to this house—now or anytime soon!” she raged. “Sonya, I really do think he can help Kate. And if the transfusion fails … Please, you have to let us try this,” Thomas begged. “We have to try everything before we … before …” “… we make her one of us?” Sonya finished for him. “Would that be so awful, Thomas? You’ve lived with us long enough to know that we’re not all monsters,” she said as she stared directly at Adrianna. “Sonya, please,” he whispered. She looked at the desperate man walking toward her, his hands outstretched as he reached for the phone. Shrugging slightly, she dropped the receiver into his waiting hand. “All right—if your humanity is that precious to you, then bring the priest here. Just make sure he knows the difference between us and the enemy. The objects he carries can maim us for life!” “He won’t hurt you, Sonya. You’re trying to help us,” Addie tried to reassure her. “He’s a priest, girl, to him evil is evil. You can bet when he finds out what we are he’ll put all of us in that category.” “I’ll make him understand. Please, Sonya, we need him. Thomas, make her see we need him here,” Addie pleaded. “I’ll watch him, Sonya; he’ll be my responsibility. I’ll see he makes no mistakes of any kind.” “It’s your neck, Thomas,” she warned as she turned to walk out the door. Stopping as she entered the hallway, she said without looking back, “Make that call quickly. Julian is ready.” “Thanks, Sonya; we’ll do it now,” Thomas told her as he gave Addie the phone. After dialing the number to the church rectory, Addie waited impatiently for Father Rick to answer. “Come on, come on—pick up the phone, Rick,” she muttered to herself. “Hello, Saint—” As soon as she heard his voice, what little control Addie might have had

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crumbled, and she screamed hysterically into the phone, “Rick! Oh, Rick, we need you. Please—you have to come. They’ve attacked Kate!” she cried as tears streamed down her face. “Addie? Is that you? Calm down. Tell me what happened and where you are—slowly now,” he said trying not to upset her further. Addie took a deep breath and willed herself to relax. She told him, between the tears, what had happened. “Oh my God, no! Wait, Addie you’re not making any sense; what you’re saying is impossible. I—” “Don’t you think I know how crazy this all sounds, Rick? But you have to believe me! The vampires—they’re real—and they attacked Kate. Please, Rick, when have I ever lied to you?” “Never. All right, honey, I believe you—I’m leaving as we speak. I’ll be there as soon as humanly possible. It’ll be all right, Addie, I promise.” “Okay—please hurry, Rick.” “I will; I’ll see you soon.” And she heard the click as he replaced the receiver. Turning back to Thomas, she said, “He’s on his way. What should we do now?” “You must be exhausted. You’ve been through a lot tonight. I’ll take you to a room upstairs where you can get some rest—” Thomas started to say, but Addie was anxious to be with her friend. “No! I want to be with Kate during the transfusion—” she began. But Thomas interrupted. “You’ll be more help to Kate if you take care of yourself. That way, if we do need you after they’re through with me, you’ll be rested enough to do what needs to be done. Do you agree with the logic in that?” he asked, gently guiding her out the door. “Yes, that makes sense,” she agreed. “You’ll be close by. Your room is across the hall from Kate. Julian was sure you’d want to be near her tonight. It has a comfortable bed, with its own private bath, well supplied with anything you should need for a night’s stay,” he told her, placing his arm around her shoulders and offering what comfort he could. Suddenly she realized just how tired she really was. The trauma from the events of the evening was finally taking its toll on her, so Addie went willingly with him. Then she noticed Sonya waiting at the base of the grand staircase. “Hurry, Thomas; they need you.” The urgency in her voice caused him to move quickly up the stairs. Stopping for a moment, he turned to look at the lovely vampire, a silent message passing between them, as he said, “Take Addie to her room, Sonya. Make sure she stays there until someone comes for her.”

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“I’ll take care of it, Thomas; now go,” and, turning to Addie, she said, “Come.” Motioning for Addie to follow, she climbed the staircase and walked down the long hallway lined with at least a dozen rooms. They stopped in front of the third door on the left, but Addie’s attention was focused on the room across the hall. It was so quiet. Deathly quiet, she thought. Were they all in there, and what were they doing? “They’re doing all that is needed for your friend,” Sonya said as if reading her thoughts. “You need to take care of yourself, if you’re going to be of any use to them. They don’t need another one to worry about—and he is worried about you, Adrianna. Give him some credit for having a little human emotion.” The last was uttered almost under her breath; Addie barely caught the words. Adrianna knew that Sonya, for some reason, resented her. The vampire was only helping her because Julian had ordered it. Just how close were they? she wondered. She knew they were business partners, but were they, or had they ever been, anything more? There was so much she didn’t know about him, and she wondered, now, if she ever would. Sonya turned the crystal doorknob, leading Addie into the most beautiful room she’d ever seen. Under different circumstances, she would have been excited to stay in such a room, but, things being what they were, she felt only a cold numbness as she stared around her. The walls were a pale blue-gray color, like eyes—his eyes—with a soft cream-colored trim flowing throughout. Cream lace curtains adorned two very tall windows, which took up much of the far wall. To the right sat a large queen-size bed, its matching blue and cream satin bedspread smothered in pillows of the same material and topped by a cream lace canopy. It called to her invitingly. Along the opposite wall stood a dainty cherry vanity, very feminine, its top covered in ivory-handled combs and brushes ready for use. A door to the right of the vanity led to a large bathroom filled with all the modern conveniences, including a huge marble tub with whirlpool jets, which she stared at longingly. As she took in her surroundings, one thought ran through her mind: The nightclub business must be doing very well. “Is there anything else you need?” she heard Sonya ask as she snapped back to reality. “No, thank you; this is fine,” she said as she fought to stifle a yawn. “I think I just need to get a little sleep. But, please, wake me if you need me,” and, as the vampire nodded, Adrianna added, “And can you call me when Rick arrives?” “Of course,” Sonya replied, not trying to hide her dislike of the whole idea of a priest being in the house. As she prepared to close the door, Sonya said, “Lock the door behind me and stay inside until you’re called, Adrianna.

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Don’t be foolish enough to wander around alone. Those who attacked you tonight would be crazy to try anything here, but we must be cautious. Good night,” she said, and, closing the door firmly, she waited until she heard the key turn in the lock before continuing down the hallway to the large double doors at the very end.


Chapter 15

While, across the hall, Thomas and a few others worked feverishly to save a dying woman, in a room deep beneath the foundations of the ancient mansion, saving lives was the last thing on the minds of those who worked in the darkness. Christoff hadn’t earned the name of Dark Vampire for his looks alone. The skills he possessed as a soldier in his past life had been most useful to Julian over the centuries and were the main reason they’d both survived so long in the violent world they’d found themselves transformed into. His loyalty to Julian unquestionable, any threat to either of them or the life they’d fought so hard to build became Christoff ’s responsibility. Now, standing motionless against the wall, the darkness making him almost seem invisible, he watched intently, as a hunter instinctively watches his prey, as the figure before him slowly awakened. The small eyes, no more than slits in a skull-like face, darted from side to side. Its animal instinct sought a way to free itself from the heavy chains holding it prisoner against the thick, wooden pole protruding from the ground in the center of the small room. Darkness surrounded the battered figure, as it waited for eyes, swollen shut from the beating it had sustained, to focus. Suddenly it stiffened, as it sensed a presence, a threat to its miserable existence. “Who’s there—I know someone’s there!” it hissed, “Show yourself. You may as well kill me now—you won’t get anything out of me. Do you hear me—nothing! Anything you could do to me would be a pleasure compared to what he will do if I tell you anything about him!” “That’s your first mistake, my friend,” Christoff whispered softly as he glided forward and came to a halt behind the creature. Dagger-like claws sliced across the bare back before him, causing the unfortunate prisoner to scream so loudly the two vampires standing guard outside the room stared

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at each other in fear. “You see, you’re assuming you have something I need, when, quite frankly, all I want to do is indulge my … passion … for inflicting pain,” Christoff continued slowly, as fear gripped the pitiful mess before him. “Believe me, you have nothing that will deter me from my fun. But, I am intrigued. Do you fear him that much? He must be a man after my own heart,” Christoff went on as he seemed to float across the floor, coming to stop before the trembling figure. “Who could such an interesting person be? Ah yes, I’d forgotten, we’re not talking. Well, if we’re not taking the time for a little small talk, then let’s get down to business, shall we?” the Dark Vampire said as he raised his hand, seemingly fascinated with the long claws extended before him. With lightning-like speed, he lashed out at the creature’s neck before it knew what was happening, the deep slashes welling up with blood. At the same time, his other hand drove a wooden stake deep into the shattered shoulder, as the figure in chains screamed in agony. Blood flowed freely from the wounds covering the broken body. The sight of so much blood—and the obvious pleasure he took in this particular job—was causing the bloodlust to rise uncontrollably in the Dark Vampire. He had fed at some point tonight, but the events of the evening had begun to take their toll on him. He was not usually this careless. He knew he should have waited for this interrogation—should have taken the time to replenish himself after the battle at the cottage, but time was short. He had to get the information Julian needed—and soon. “I can bleed you all night, my foul-smelling friend, but I’ve suddenly remembered another engagement, so I’m afraid we’re going to have to end this quickly,” he said, and, reaching inside the pocket of his long coat, he withdrew a small glass vial. Roughly grabbing the boney face before him, Christoff held the vial up high and asked the now-whimpering figure, “Do you know what this is, you spawn from hell!” He received a look of pure panic for an answer, so he continued. “Silver nitrate,” he explained, looking with interest at the vial, “—deadly to our kind.” As Christoff squeezed the face tighter, the fragile bones actually cracking under the pressure, the creature fought to break free of the vampire’s hold, terror in the red eyes, as he realized what his tormentor had planned for him. “It causes great pain when ingested, tearing at you like a thousand shards of glass—ripping and tearing from the inside out,” Christoff said in a slow, even tone. “Death will take a little while, I’m afraid, and … it will be quite painful. You will beg for me to kill you—unless you can think of a reason I’d want to keep you alive—no?—nothing?” he asked as the trembling form shook his head from side to side. “Ah well, so be it. Good-bye my friend—it’s been fun.”

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As he slowly brought the vial closer to the mouth of the now-blubbering figure, it screamed out in fear, “no, wait! Please, I’ll talk—please, just take it away!” Moments later, the door to the hallway slowly opened. Christoff appeared before the two standing watch and said in a low voice, “I think he’s ready to tell us what we want to know.” They turned to follow him back inside the darkened room.

On the floor above, Sonya entered the private library, a cavernous room with shelves of books lining three of the four walls. She saw Julian and Michael deep in conversation behind a large, ornate desk that was the focal point of the room. Electric lamps (which Julian had installed on all of the main floors for the convenience of the others) protruded outward between each shelf and cast a dim light off the antique wood, giving the room an eerie feeling. Looking up as Sonya entered, Julian watched the beautiful vampire walk seductively across the room. “Well, what was her decision?” he asked, a trace of anger still in his voice. “She’s staying—for now,” Sonya replied “I’ve put her in the Blue Room— but there’s something you should know. She’s called a friend, a priest. He’s on his way here as we speak,” she said, barely able to hide the disgust in her voice. “I don’t approve of this, Julian. We don’t need his kind here. Thomas seems to feel his objects of faith will help the injured woman, but they’re a danger to us, as well. He knows that!” “A priest—coming here—that must be her friend Rick,” Julian said, and Sonya could tell by the tone of his voice that he didn’t like the idea any better than she did. What she didn’t know was that it was for an entirely different reason. But Julian’s voice was calm when he said, “Fine, if that’s what she wants.” Seeing the surprised look on Sonya’s face, Julian explained. “Look, Sonya, right now, this isn’t about us. These women were drawn into this whole mess because of their connection to me, so I’ll do whatever’s necessary to help them.” “There’s no need for anger—or fear—from either of you,” Michael said, looking from one vampire to the other. “Please, just think of what she’s—what they’ve both—been through tonight. Really, how did you expect her to react when she’s just found out that the creatures from her nightmares are actually real, and one of them may have killed her best friend? She has a lot to adjust to, because, let’s face it, after tonight her world will never be the same again. She needs the priest with her, for more than one reason, and,” seeing the angry look in Julian’s eyes, he quickly added, “yes, he might actually be of

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some help. The transfusion will give the injured girl the blood she needs to replace what she lost—but we all know that won’t be enough. Thomas was right. The items the priest brings might stop, or even reverse, the infection in her system. You can’t do that for her, Julian. You must not let your own fears and superstitions get in the way of her salvation. She deserves that chance,” Michael told them. Julian, trying to control the bitterness he felt, replied, “It seems the decision’s already been made without my consent, so who am I to put a crimp in their plans? I only hope your magic works, crusader, for the woman’s sake—but I stopped believing in miracles a long time ago!” Rising from his chair, he turned toward the back of the room. “Now, shall we go and see what our captive friend has to say?” Walking toward the bookshelf lining the back wall, Julian reached upward, gently pulling toward him a beautiful leather-bound copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, smiling bitterly to himself at the irony. No sooner had he touched the book then a snap was heard, as a section of the shelf, about the size and width of a normal door, swung inward to reveal a hidden passage of solid stone descending downward into the inky blackness. Here, as in his private chambers, time stood still, as more candles, mounted in sconces, lined the rock walls. Reaching deep inside a large hole carved into the face of the wall near the entryway, Julian withdrew a long, tapered matchstick. Before continuing on, he turned back to Sonya. “You’d better return to the den to await the priest. And Sonya,” he replied fi rmly, as he saw the look of distaste on her face, “it would be best to have one of the humans with you when you meet the man. Fear stemming from ignorance can be a dangerous thing, and we don’t want any would-be crusaders causing accidents to one of our own,” he stated, glancing meaningfully at Michael, who simply returned his glare with a calm smile. “Take him directly to the injured girl—nowhere else.” As Sonya nodded in agreement, the two men descended the stairs. Julian, striking the matchstick hard against the aged stone, lit the sconces. The tiny candle flames sparkled like diamonds, casting dancing shadows along the walls, as they lit the way to the landing below. Continuing on down a long, narrow hallway, the two men approached three doors, one on the left and two more on the right. Stopping before the door to his left, Julian knocked twice and waited impatiently for it to open. The door swung back slowly to reveal Christoff. Midnight eyes locking with blue, a silent message passed between them. But Julian’s main focus was the figure chained in the center of the room. Blood glistened black in the dim candlelight, flowing from several deep wounds that pierced the emaciated body. The two vampires flanking the figure stepped back into the shadows at Julian’s approach. “I see

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you’ve been busy, my dark friend,” Julian said. He reached forward, lifting the skull-like head slightly, only to drop it carelessly when he realized the creature was only half conscious. Christoff merely shrugged indifferently as Julian continued, “Did you learn anything worthwhile, or was this,” he asked, gesturing toward the body, “for amusement only?” Pushing his tall body away from the wall he was leaning against, Christoff stared at Julian, but, before he could answer, Michael asked, in a voice filled with disgust, “Was all of this—” he motioned with his hand toward the figure hanging before him, pointing to the blood and open wounds, “really necessary, warrior?” “Who are you to question my methods, stranger? You’re only here— alive—because of the grace of Julian! Had it been left up to me—” “But it wasn’t, Christoff,” Julian reminded him. “Our ways are not like yours, Avenger, and since you are a guest here, we owe you no explanations,” Julian said pointedly to Michael before turning back to Christoff. “Now get back to the point at hand. Do we know anything yet?” Glaring at Michael, the Dark Vampire tore his gaze away from that perfect face and looked back toward Julian. “It’s as we feared. He’s back, Julian—Dragone—and he knows about the girl!” Mixed emotions battled for control as Julian absorbed what Christoff had just told him. Surprise, then anger, flashed across his face, as he slammed a clenched fist into the pole in front of him, causing the half-dead being chained there to scream once again. “You knew this already, vampire—in here,” he heard Michael say as he placed a hand over Julian’s heart. Coldness filled the vampire, numbing him to everything, until a slight sound began to penetrate the barrier, becoming louder as Julian fought to control the urges rising within him. As he strained to listen, he was finally able to hear it distinctly—muffled laughter—yes, laughter—coming from somewhere beside him—and words, barely a whisper, but he heard them clearly, “He will destroy you all!” An uncontrollable rage took hold of Julian, and he sprang forward, grabbing the chin of the creature before him in a viselike grip, nails digging deeply into what flesh was left on that tortured face, and blood trickling along his fingers as his eyes bore into the slits staring back at him. “That may well be, you son of a bitch, but you won’t survive to enjoy his success!” Julian’s hand snapped quickly, splintering bone, and the creature’s head fell limply forward. “Who’s the monster now, Julian?” Michael asked, anger blazing in his clear blue eyes. “Must violence always be the answer with your kind? He would have been dead shortly, anyway.” “Not by my hand!” Julian replied, matching Michael’s gaze stare for stare.

She gave herself up to the luxury of crying for a short time only. They’ll need to be taken to a safe house while we’re gone. she told herself she had to get a 185 . woman. They’ve had enough excitement—and danger—for one night. Adrianna slid deeper into the tub. Dragone. We’re going to get that bastard. or vampire. He never thought he’d see the day when he’d fight alongside their kind. You need to call everyone together as quickly as possible.” Michael followed. he stormed from the room. Have them meet us in the den. They’d be locked in her mind forever. if it’s the last thing we do! Leave a few of the strongest here with Thomas and the women. It made no difference to him. Taking a deep breath. as jets of pulsating water flowed over tense limbs. soothing. would give him the answer he sought. She wished she could wash away completely the memories of the horrors she’d seen tonight. he saw. mingling with the churning water covering her body.” she thought as tears rolled down her face.” And. Kate. he said. Would he be able to contain the threat without it. or die trying. ***** Oblivious to the plans being made concerning her. “Maybe the priest will come in handy after all. he said with a bitter smile. She needed to release the emotions she’d held pent up inside for too long. looking back at Michael. He watched them in close conversation. The vampire would do what was needed to protect those he loved—man. Julian’s motives for his actions of late were pure and simple—love. “Oh. to protect Julian and the woman. “Come with me. relaxing. but good and evil come in many forms. if it would keep those that put their faith and trust in him safe. destroy it once and for all. We have plans to make. as the two vampires headed back along the narrow hallway and up the darkened steps to the library above.The Vampire’s Lady Turning back to the others. saying to Christoff as he walked past his tall form. making their plans for the battle to come. but she knew that would never happen. Early on he’d looked into their hearts and. and helping her to forget. although Christoff ’s was still questionable. The vampire didn’t have what was needed to see the fight through to its conclusion—the one weapon only Michael could wield to finish the monster they would all face soon. Julian couldn’t win this battle without the Avenger himself. but what about the woman? Would she be a help or a hindrance? Only time—and circumstances. while they took the time needed to find the weapon that could end this nightmare forever? He knew he could count on Julian. even with the strength and loyalty of the men who followed him. “Burn every trace of that foul-smelling thing. But Michael knew that. He would fight this threat that had followed him through the centuries.” And. and there was nothing she could do about it. turning swiftly.

D. if she were going to be of any use to her friend at all. Sonya had left a glass of brandy on the nightstand near the bed. for Kate’s sake. she lay back. Marteeny grip on things. It obviously belonged to a man. as she glanced at the old clock resting on the nearby vanity. yet it felt like she’d been sleeping for hours. Tonight she needed her wits about her. She didn’t need her brain hampered by alcohol. Looking at it now. she was just about to swallow the entire contents. Opening her eyes. or anything else they might have put in the drink “to help her rest. for it was at least three sizes too big for someone Addie’s size. Does it belong to Julian? As the soothing water worked its magic.J. when she stopped herself. The vision was so real she actually reached up with her hand to touch the body standing invitingly before her. After tossing and turning for some time. they came to rest on a long. which was obviously meant to help her sleep. trying to get her bearings. as he reached for the robe. draped across an old-style Queen Anne chair positioned in front of the mirror. the firelight from the bedroom outlining every inch of his muscular form. Replacing the glass untouched onto the nightstand. velvet dressing gown someone had left for her use. As she did so. Adrianna awoke with a start. Turning off the jets of the whirlpool. she stared at the image looking back at her from the mirror. You can’t let this happen—he’s not even human!” she told herself angrily as she turned and walked quickly into the bedroom. she wondered. But. But the only thing her waiting fingertips could caress was the cold air of the room around her. looking around the dark room in confusion. her body sinking into the folds of the soft mattress. Throwing off the covers. Grabbing it quickly. as her mind began to drift. Within seconds. All too quickly the memories came flooding back. she dropped the towel to the floor and crawled under the covers. she’d drifted off to sleep. “I need to see Kate!” she said aloud and looked around the room for her discarded clothes. “What’s happening? What are they all doing?” she wondered out loud. closing her eyes. she let them travel around the room. slipping slowly into the luxurious folds. They were nowhere to be found.” She just needed to close her eyes for a few minutes. she rose slowly to step from the tub and reach for a towel to dry herself off. Well. but she was grateful for the thought. What time was it? Why hadn’t anyone come for her? Surely Rick must have arrived by now. which was just enough to snap her out of her daydream. Someone really didn’t want her to leave that room. “Where am I?” she asked herself. Such a short time. they didn’t know her very well if they 186 . she saw that a mere half an hour had passed. “What are you doing? You’re obsessing over him. she began to pace restlessly. Remembering Sonya’s warning to stay inside the room. but peaceful slumber was not to be hers. she sat on the side of the bed. She imagined him standing there in the doorway.

not sounding at all like she meant it. but using a little more caution. a tiny spot of light coming from beneath the double doors that stood slightly ajar. “I guess that’s a reasonable request. “I realize you’ve been through quite an ordeal tonight. Her small figure was enveloped in a black robe— his robe—which was entirely too large for her. Walking quickly to the door across the hall. Shadows flickered eerily.” he said quietly. for he was the last person she wanted to see right now. Walking quickly into the bathroom. she opened it as quietly as possible and poked her head outside to look around. or they wouldn’t have left her unattended. placing an ear next to the cool wood as she listened for some sign of life. making her feel very uncomfortable as she moved along the hallway toward the open doors. turning in his chair to face her. Unlocking it. Looking around. She was finding it hard to concentrate. Adrianna stepped out into the hallway. cast by tiny lights mounted along the walls. except for the welcoming light coming from the fireplace along the far wall.” she said. but I’m afraid I don’t have much to tell you yet. alive or dead. she noticed a room at the end of the hall. Trying the handle. she found the door locked. Fear held her rooted to the spot. Her emotions were spiraling out of control. she leaned against it. Adrianna. dropping the whole pretense of being polite. As he continued to stare. She received no response when she tapped lightly. please—step into the lion’s den!” Julian said. Adrianna! What’s wrong with you?” she asked herself as she dropped her arm and ran toward the door.” she blurted out. burying her face in the soft folds of material. but it was quickly replaced by anger. Whose room was this? Should she knock. It was all so … deathly quiet. something inside of him changed. I want to know what’s happening with Kate. as she caught the scent—his scent—assailing her senses. The room was dark. flaming 187 . she slowly pushed the door open just enough to slip inside. Assuming all was well. she hesitated. Not a soul. “I didn’t mean to intrude—I couldn’t sleep and—well.The Vampire’s Lady thought a little thing like the lack of clothing was going to keep her there. having no windows. so she didn’t notice the figure behind the desk until he spoke. Walking back across the room. Reaching them. not servants. momentarily unsure. was around—not guards. “Since you didn’t heed Sonya’s advice to stay inside your room tonight. “Get a grip. A spark of desire deep within him. his tone unmistakable. or just barge in? Opting for the second choice. Slowly she lifted her arm. her eyes were drawn to that ice blue stare. not anyone. shoving her arms into the oversized sleeves. her body growing hot with the emotions wreaking havoc inside of her. she stopped for a moment. But there was none … only silence. “I’m sorry.” he said slowly as he leaned back in his chair and studied the woman glaring at him. she snatched the black robe from the chair.

Turning her back on him. Get a hold of yourself. Slowly they began to travel downward … caressing … soothing. closing her eyes in an attempt to wipe his image from her mind. he’s so beautiful. and she realized with a shock that he was standing right behind her! When had he moved—and how had he done it so quickly? “All I can tell you right now is that Kate is resting. his hands resting on her shoulders. He could feel the sharp points of his fangs fighting to burst through as his lips brushed against her cheek. as the memory of what he was flashed through her mind. she thought. “They’ve finished the transfusion. His face—that body—made it so easy to forget exactly what she was dealing with.” he said. eyes open again. My God. She was drawn to him by a force beyond her control. how I want her! he thought. brown waves fell across one eye and down along his shoulder. and he wanted nothing more than to hold her in his arms like this forever. she forced shaky legs to move toward the door. as both roared to life inside of him.” he whispered against her ear. Adrianna? You really haven’t given me a chance to answer your question. the gaping folds of cloth exposing a generous amount of perfectly shaped breast ready to spill forth through the opening. and he tried to control the beast within. as. He held her tightly against him. only Kate. traveling down to the pulse in her throat—a pulse beating wildly out of control. lost in the powerful emotions boiling up inside of him.” he continued. Her fingers ached to reach forward and brush the tangled mass back from that perfect face. as she watched the blue-gray hue darken into something—more. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry to have bothered—” “What’s your hurry. his breath flowing softly across the back of her neck. the heat of her gaze filled with an intensity that matched his own. The anger and frustration that had been so strong a moment ago changed into something decidedly different. threatening to blaze out of control as his eyes traveled down the petite form standing defiantly in front of him. No! It can’t be like this.D. fighting against her rising desire. The look on his face made her unable to breath. Soft. but at that moment he could no longer distinguish between his passion for her body and 188 .J. mixed with passion. as if he’d run his long fingers through it in frustration. threatened to consume him. Addie—think of Kate. she took a step in his direction. as the hunger. God. as she listened to what he was saying. But that was impossible. Marteeny to life the longer he watched her. “I can see this conversation’s going nowhere—again. Desire fought against the hunger. Addie fought against the tears threatening to spill down her face. His hair was tousled. Addie” he said softly. She closed her eyes tightly. He felt her lean back against him. Something in his eyes triggered a similar response in Adrianna. He couldn’t help but notice how the belt around her waist had loosened. she thought. but she has yet to wake up. the scent of her pushing his control to a dangerous level.

189 . God. she staggered away from him. I do have one important question. You just happened to be the one I stumbled upon. I guess. “But since you asked. so—for both our sakes—I suggest you go. “You already know. she thought she saw intense sadness cross his face. and she replied hotly. “You have no idea the danger you’re putting yourself in by coming here!” Julian’s voice sounded strained—deeper—it was almost a growl.” And. the fear apparent in her eyes. if Kate was the only reason you came looking for me. before he turned his back on her. it could have been her imagination—or wishful thinking. But even in her fear she couldn’t take her eyes off him. “You bastard! I wasn’t looking for you—for any reason. lifting his head. and her hand stung from the impact as she had run toward him. My bad luck. as he took a step toward her. Adrianna? Now. he thought desperately. or sense the danger to herself. She was consumed by the anger rising inside of her. “Still want to run to your priest. the answer to that question. and. don’t you. for just a moment. Adrianna? Where is he?” Julian asked. Her words were like the point of a blade plunging into his heart. back toward the door. “He doesn’t seem to be in any real hurry to come to your rescue. again. but he wouldn’t let her see how much she affected him. She had to leave soon—his control was almost at an end. the silver blue orbs shimmering for a moment … darkening … until the blue was completely gone. he looked directly at her. I believe I’ve told you all I know—unless there’s something else you came for?” he said. His head was bowed. “My self-control is not what it used to be. trying desperately to sound sarcastic. only too well. as he watched her back away. as he fought to gain control of his chaotic emotions. She stared back at those red glowing eyes. because I want us both as far away from here as we can get—and as soon as possible! I’m sure there are other places we can stay that are just as safe. he—” The slap resounded loudly throughout the room. devoured by the color of blood! With a gasp. “What kind of … being … are you. so loving and passionate one minute … and something entirely different the next?” she asked in frustration. if you’ll stop holding us prisoner and just let us go!” she screamed at him as the tears she’d been fighting so hard to contain began to roll down her cheeks. I can smell the blood—her blood. anger causing him to taunt her. now.The Vampire’s Lady the raging hunger that craved her blood! He had to stop this now—before she finally saw the beast that raged within him—if she survived! Suddenly he shoved her roughly away from him and watched her nearly stumble and fall as she attempted to regain her balance. But she didn’t seem to notice his inner turmoil. Shock gripped her as she watched his eyes—those beautiful eyes—change in front of her.” she said bitterly. Find out if Kate is strong enough to leave. Then. probably safer.

shoving her slightly.” she told herself bitterly. which. But why? Where was she going—and to whom? Then. Tomorrow. branches from nearby trees slashing at her face as she stumbled along. when she should hate him with every fiber of her being. welcoming the oblivion it could bring. seems to include me. at least. He grabbed her arms as if to shake some sense into her. he continued. “I’m your best chance—your only chance. suddenly.D. in the daylight. and wanted nothing more than to go back to that room—to him—to give whatever comfort she could. None of the legends and myths will even come close to saving you from the evil that’s out there hunting us—hunting you! You have no idea what you’re dealing with. Entering the bedroom. the answer was right there in front of her. “That son of a bitch!” she shouted to no one in particular. but not this time. “Then.J. in your mind. beyond a shadow of a doubt. “Under any other circumstances you might be right. Do you actually believe the myths that ‘holy ground’ will protect you?” He could barely keep his voice from shouting the rage and frustration he was feeling. “But he doesn’t want me. Marteeny “He’ll be here! He. that if she didn’t find him she would surely die! 190 . “What the hell is wrong with me. turning the key angrily before falling onto the bed. he pushed her out the open door. she remembered the sadness in his eyes. and all the holy water and crucifixes in the Vatican will not keep you safe from him!” he said as he stood in front of her. Then maybe I can find some peace!” and. Run to his church. winged creatures chasing her as she ran aimlessly into the night. “And where is Rick?” she wondered. There was safety at the end of her journey—someone who would protect her and keep her safe from the horror that hunted her. if she could only reach him in time! For she knew. she slammed the door closed behind her. Closing her eyes. she prayed for sleep to come. whether you like it or not—and I don’t know if even I can promise you safety. He had made that perfectly clear. if you can. that I let him affect me the way he does?” Even now. has never let me down.” she shouted. the longing there as he stared at her. you can go. All she wanted was for Rick to take her and Kate away from this awful place. by all means. So go—run back to your room. she finally fell into a troubled sleep filled with disturbing images of black. and lock the door! Try to keep the evil out. tears blinding her. But she kept running—she had to. Addie fled through the doorway and stumbled down the hallway. if you still want to leave. run to him. Taking a step forward. causing her to move closer to the door. After staring at the ceiling for what seemed like hours. the tears streaming down her face. but she wasn’t that lucky.

” he thought. no matter what the cost. He was a priest. rooting him to the spot and preventing him from doing what he’d come here to do. he had to be there for her! “She’s up there. to the waiting mansion at the top of the small incline. why not vampires? There were all sorts of evils in this world that he knew for certain existed. He stared. he thought. So. But he. he reached back into the vehicle to grab the black nylon duffle bag lying across the front seat.Chapter 16 The car came to a stop a short way beyond the tiny cottage. Holding 191 . he opened the door and slowly climbed out. knew that unbelievable things happened all the time. Vampires. “going through God knows what. That’s just impossible—there’s no such thing. as if in a trance. He came to a stop in front of the old house. Weren’t they just a myth. if they were real. Rummaging deep within the bag. again. Then. the tip of which was filed to a sharp point. he removed a wooden stake about eight inches long and two inches thick. a legend for some would-be writer to sink his or her teeth into?—no pun intended. eyes searching the darkness for any sign of the unknown terrors that might be hiding there. His friends needed him—Addie needed him—and. Father Rick Ferrante’s eyes traveled upward. Addie must be mistaken. just before the entrance to the bridge that would take him to his destination. paralyzing fear rose up inside of him. what other ungodly horrors might roam the earth that the human race was blissfully unaware of? Once again. making it a deadly weapon. as he tried to control the fear building inside of him. all over the world. of all people. Turning slightly. Didn’t he ask people every day at mass to believe the impossible? But vampires? That was just too much. Turning off the car. after all. He threw the late-model Grand Am into gear and proceeded slowly across the bridge and up the incline.” and suddenly the fear for his friends consumed his own fear.

Rick pulled back in anticipation of what he thought was to come. the young man explained. he exhaled slowly before proceeding up the steps to the front porch. eyeing the young man suspiciously. gripped the cross between two fingers while looking directly at the priest. the young man 192 . placing the stake inside the bag. Marteeny the stake firmly in his right hand and the bag in his left. Her stunning beauty left him speechless.” Rick glanced quickly at the woman. It doesn’t bother us humans. My name is Seth. who continued to glare at him. he adjusted the large gold crucifix that hung around his neck so it was in plain sight. but he decided to trust the young man. but nothing at all happened. human and nonhuman alike.J. if you please. thorny vine was tattooed all the way down his left arm. as well as the large gold cross in plain sight around his neck. crossing himself quickly. a slight smile on his thin lips. before knocking loudly and waiting to see who—or what—would greet him from the other side.” he said as he took in the black pants and shirt. “You must be the priest.” Seth said. which was obvious from the skin-tight T-shirt he wore. Apprehension filled Rick until the young man spoke. and if we’re going to help your friend we have to hurry. he indicated he was ready to follow. were evident in her expression. with the slash of white cloth at the neck. turning. He unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and tucked the cross deep inside. Her dark eyes flashed to the man beside Rick. but it will cause severe pain to the others. and I was sent to take you to the injured woman.” Something in the boy’s tone seemed to convince Rick.” Rick stepped cautiously inside. Rick gasped—he couldn’t help himself. A long. and then she noticed the stake in Rick’s hand. She began to climb backward a few steps. Seeing the look of surprise on his face. and. No one here will hurt you—unless you strike first. and both men’s eyes traveled to a woman standing alone on the staircase. sending a silent message—anger. As the door closed. a slight sound caught Rick’s attention. Father. where it was no longer visible. the young man came to a decision and. As Rick hesitated. plus a hint of fear. “Thank you. the door opened to reveal a tall young man with a shock of spiky red hair sticking straight up on the top of his head. He was well muscled. After a few minutes. Father. time’s running short. “The cross. “I’m as human as you are. so. walking up to him.” the young man said firmly.D. He stood before the heavy oak door. “Please come in—there’s nothing for you to be afraid of here. Taking a deep breath. They’re waiting for you upstairs.” he continued as he noticed Rick looking at the woman on the stairs. “All we’re trying to do is help—all of us. as she stared back at him. “Your weapons won’t be necessary inside this house. No one in this house is your enemy.

His heart sank. Julian.” Michael said.” Rick replied. Turning to Thomas. in his mind. you’ve done all you can. dreading the answer. “She was … bitten … by a vampire. who. began mounting the stairs to the room where Kate slept. who nodded slightly. help me get us all out alive! he thought to himself as Julian turned and walked to one of the bedroom doors. I see our savior has arrived. his anger beginning to rise.” Thomas said in an exhausted voice as Rick walked slowly into the room. “How is she?” Rick questioned. Thomas glanced uncomfortably at Julian.” Thomas explained. looking directly at Rick. seemed to be the only one who cared about the woman lying half-dead in the bed. He noticed a tall man beside the bed. his long. opening the door wide for them to enter. “It’s nice to know someone wants me here. dreading what he would find there. directing 193 . blond hair almost white in the candlelight. the sarcasm not lost on Julian as the priest stared at him. “to bring her back the rest of the way. God. But his attention was drawn to the tiny figure lying motionless among the bedcovers.” he said. as he. Whether you believe or not. he asked. How did we all come to be in this unbelievable situation—and. and—” Fear and jealousy clouded Julian’s judgment. Rick stared at him silently. as he noticed the slight smile Sonya flashed at the tall man who greeted them.” Michael said as he stepped between the two men staring intently at each other. Moments later.” Julian bowed toward Rick irreverently as he met them at the top of the staircase. we’re trying to save her. priest! We’re the only ones who can. realizing how impossible it must sound to a priest.The Vampire’s Lady motioned for him to follow. with Sonya in the lead. while two others retreated to the far recesses of the room at his approach. Father. What we need now is someone with faith—a strong faith. All that was physically possible has been done for her. and he charged at Rick. “And I’m supposed to trust her care to them?” “For your information. “A vampire—like the ones in this room?” Rick asked. He heard himself gasp as he caught sight of Kate’s lovely face. He forced himself to walk closer to the large canopy bed in the center of the room. please. where he tapped lightly. “Thank God you’re here. but she has yet to awaken. “What happened! Who—or what—did this to her?” His anger made him forget the fear he had felt a moment ago. “That will be quite enough—from both of you. for he thought she must surely be dead. as pale and lifeless as the white blankets surrounding it. “Ah. a tired Thomas answered. and there was no mistaking the anger and bitterness in his voice. “The skills you both possess will be needed tonight if we’re to pull this woman through this unscathed.

he withdrew a small wooden box.” he prayed as he reached for the box on his lap.” was standing 194 . looking at Kate. but it doesn’t seem to be enough. The poison is spreading. Kate. “It’s your turn now. Rick’s head whipped around to meet that ice blue stare for a long.” he said. “Where’s Addie?” “We didn’t want to upset—” Thomas began to explain. came forward. Marteeny his comment toward Julian and Sonya. Just as he was about to open it. but there was no mistaking the grief in those green eyes. Let’s see if your magic works. Very gently. her fury almost as black as her ebony eyes as she stared at the Avenger.” “Who are you to dictate to us. intense moment. It had to be. just stared her down with eyes like blue ice. the one she went to New York with? he wondered. he asked. You’d better hurry—before the only course left to us is the one she’ll have the most problem accepting. Thomas. Then. but he was interrupted. Spreading the zippered opening wide. realizing things were quickly getting out of hand. “Can everyone just stop for a minute? We need to help her. until the vampire lowered her gaze and retreated to the far corner of the room. please.” Rick stepped up alongside the bed. let me be able to help her. Sonya. for he barely knew Kate. “this man. Leaning forward. the words catching in his throat. swallowing her anger. priest. looking hard at Rick from shadows. the priest noticed that the other man. trying to update Rick on what had already been done for Kate. not even trying to disguise the disdain for all he represented. stranger?” Sonya said to Michael.” he nodded toward Rick. “She wasn’t needed. the one the woman had called “stranger. red hair from her pale face. and he may be the only one who can save her now. bending over to place the duffle bag on the floor. he sat down alongside Kate’s still form and placed the tiny box on his lap for easy access. Rick wondered at this stranger’s sadness. He spoke not a word.” came Julian’s voice from the far corner of the room.” came the curt reply. “Oh. “does. “She’s lost a lot of blood. and he was glad someone else seemed to care about what happened to his friends. “They transfused her with mine. If we don’t do something soon—” But the young man was unable to continue. bringing the focus back to Kate. Looking around the room. he brushed a lock of damp.J. Could this be the young man Addie had said Kate met at the club. “God. She’s … resting. Her breathing is shallow. Father. “She’ll be called when we know what the situation actually is—when we’ve exhausted all our options.” he said. but she took a hesitant step backward. said. as he forced himself to break eye contact. he remembered something. when Michael spun around to face her. and she has yet to regain consciousness.D.” he whispered as he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.

Julian saw Charleze standing near the doorway. “and this is where she belongs—with Kate—no matter what happens. “You have a quick mind. but Rick couldn’t worry about that right now.” she said tiredly. Still … as he continued to fume in silence. I made a promise to Adrianna that I’d keep her alive any way possible. deep in the throes of a nightmare.The Vampire’s Lady off in the shadows. and she can handle a lot more than you seem to give her credit for. I know her better than anyone in this room. Sitting up abruptly. Glancing around. he had to admit. all the while aware of Michael watching him closely. staring intently at Julian. She’s strong. So. There was something different about the tall man with hair like the sun. Adrianna!” the pounding came again. although reluctantly. watching in silence all that was going on. Who was this man to tell him anything about Adrianna! He and he alone knew what was best for her in this situation.” Julian replied bitterly. “Are you all right—why didn’t you answer?” the vampire demanded. when a loud pounding startled her awake. Julian continued to watch from a distance. why wouldn’t I be?” “Why wouldn’t you—Adrianna! You were screaming!” “I was what? Oh… I’m sorry. I mean exactly that. no matter what the outcome.” Rick stated firmly before turning his full attention back to Kate. running her hand through her hair. Looking around the room once more. “All right—but Addie should be here. yes. Flinging the door wide open. “Open the door. and she stumbled from the bed to run across the room. With a nod of her head. Charleze seemed to accept 195 . all the while fighting hard to control the anger boiling inside of him. I … it was just a nightmare. she saw Charleze standing there. I don’t care what your reasoning is. he captured her attention. pushing Adrianna aside as she charged into the room. she tried to focus. concern on her face. his fear of the vampire all but forgotten in his concern for Addie. Adrianna should be with her friend. “I’m fine. Sending a silent message. “You don’t mean you would …” Rick started to ask the question but couldn’t finish. you’d better hurry before you’re forced to condemn her to a fate worse than death. and he turned his full attention back to the man who seemed to be in charge. she acknowledged his instructions and silently left the room. tossing restlessly. priest. And. ***** Addie lay across the bed. that the priest was probably right. she was still locked in the stranglehold of fear the images in her mind had produced. He really didn’t want to know the answer.” he said.

as Addie struggled to break free. really. pulling her to a grinding halt. freshly washed and pressed. Ready?” An attack of nerves held Addie motionless for a few seconds. it contained items used for anointing the sick and dying during last rites. 196 . Hearing their approach. realizing the vampire was right. “Adrianna. I’ll take you to him.” she stated. Rick was seated on the bed. Oh. You can’t just go barging in on them. Charleze held onto her tightly. Who had brought them to her room? she wondered. “Thank God!” Addie said. if you’ll just calm down. for she had incredible strength. you can follow me. and she stopped struggling. He would make everything all right.” the vampire warned in a patient voice. Taking a deep breath. Julian sent me to get you. effortlessly. she was off like a shotgun blast through the doorway and across the hall.” the young vampire said. “Good! Let’s go. folded on the chair near the vanity. his troubled eyes locking with Adrianna’s for a brief moment. A wooden box lay next to him on the bed. “I am.” she said. staring at Addie. “No—thank Julian. when a hand gripped her arm in midflight. for her friend’s sake—and Rick would be there. before he turned his attention back to the woman lying so still in the bed. she indicated to the waiting vampire that she was ready. Moving further inside. That was Kate in there. If you will change quickly. What was she going to find on the other side of that door—and would she be able to handle it? She had no choice. tears of relief threatening to spill forth as she searched the room for her clothes. a bit sarcastically. examining Kate. Kate’s breathing was shallow. She had to be strong. who cares? she thought as she dressed quickly. “Now. her desire to see Rick all-consuming. She found her clothing. Addie took in the scene before her.” Charleze said as if she were explaining something to a small child. Your friend.D. the young woman nodded in agreement. has arrived. Adrianna—do you understand?” she asked. Buttoning the last button on her blouse. you must stop.” “Good. “Ouch! What’re you doing? Let me go!” Addie shouted at her captor as she whipped around to see what had preventing her from going any further. “They’re working on your friend. Adrianna could barley control the fear surging through her. the priest. he turned. and they entered the room. looking at Addie curiously. and we’ll enter the room quietly. until. “As long as you’re all right.” That seemed to catch Addie’s attention. Marteeny Addie’s explanation.J. She was so pale she looked like death. Charleze turned the knob to open the door. but Addie barely heard her. “Find a spot and stay out of the way until they’re finished.

the wounds began to sizzle. Pour a small amount on her neck. The reaction was immediate. He still seemed angry with her. as he stepped up alongside of Julian. “What! Look at her—the slightest drop causes her so much pain. ready to assist Rick.” “You have your blessed water?” Julian asked. directly where she was bitten. “Thomas and I will hold her. As a matter of fact.” looking intently at Rick. he showed it to Julian.The Vampire’s Lady “Is she still alive?” she asked in an almost inaudible whisper. “Now. who took a step backward. Lifting it high. but there’s no other way.” as he moved to the side of the bed opposite Thomas. The longer we wait. a look of grave concern on his face. staring intently at Rick. “Once your objects touch her. the hissing sound mingling with Kate’s scream of pain. “I will hold her. My proximity to your objects is painful enough.” Glancing a little apprehensively at Thomas. Each man placed a hand on one of Kate’s shoulders. and 197 . who’d positioned himself opposite Michael on Kate’s right. standing beside the bed.” Michael spoke.” Michael was on the opposite side of the bed. he moved forward. “Yes. had been near comatose tossed violently from side to side. The objects will not affect me as they do you. “All right. trying to break free from the two men holding her down. but we have to hurry. After watching Rick’s preparations for several minutes. Julian. He was staring at her intently. saying to the priest. I only hope we’re not too late to help her and. but after a few seconds he turned away. and Adrianna caught sight of Julian standing alone in the far corner of the room. once again glancing at Addie. but neither of them cared to argue with him.” he said. Thomas. “I’m sorry. Upon contact. as the woman who. I rather enjoy being near them. almost as if he were trying to read her mind. as well as Rick. The vampire. Rick removed the cork stopper and very slowly poured a few drops onto the two swollen puncture wounds at the side of Kate’s throat. answered her. as well as the other vampires. the reaction will be violent. he continued. Addie noticed Sonya. only a moment ago. So. The priest withdrew a large crystal bottle of what Addie assumed was holy water. Seeing her worried expression. tell me what to do. Rick hesitated a moment longer before asking.” he said. some of the legends must be true. “Good.” Julian ordered. Looking around the room. looked at him strangely for a moment. the more the poison spreads. backing as far away from Rick as possible. make her drink as much as you can. returning his focus to the small group around the bed. as he stared at the bottle. “Please try not to touch me in the process.

“I hope to God you know what you’re doing!” Rick said through clenched teeth. her body bucked wildly in an attempt to escape her captors. Julian held Kate tightly. the exhausted woman collapsed weakly against the body behind her. We must attend to your wounds. but he could not control her alone. as Rick held her close. “I think the worst is over now.J. Julian gently brushed the hair back from the sweat-stained face and listened as the labored breathing began to slow to a more normal pace. or so it seemed to Julian. Rick poured the bottle’s contents down her throat. but. Ignoring his own pain. “You’ve done well. as she continued to scream. Her reaction was instantaneous. actually. Placing his hand gently behind Kate’s head. forcing her to swallow before she could spit the precious liquid back into his face. What will happen to her?” Rick questioned. Marteeny you expect her to drink it! This can’t be good. priest.D.” Julian replied. Michael. all her energy spent. she was no match for the vampire. but he also noticed that Julian seemed weak. The sound was so mournful that tears began streaming down Adrianna’s cheeks. Rick was thrown backward. as he followed the strange instructions. it was no more than twenty minutes. do what you’re told!” Julian demanded as Michael and Thomas held the struggling figure tighter. but it gave the others the room they needed to work with the halfcrazed woman. Drops of blood stained the sheets crimson. whose strength matched that of any vampire. who said. his strong arms pulling the tortured body against him. As Julian stood. held her tightly. Kate tried to break Julian’s hold. He moved to sit along the edge. The eyes of the vampire locked with Addie’s for a brief second. as Thomas charged forward to grab her. before he focused all his concentration on the woman in his arms. until. Come. in an effort to calm her. The battle raged on for what seemed like hours. “The pain she’ll endure is nothing compared to what she’ll have to face for an eternity if we fail to kill the infection. He whispered soothingly. and Michael noticed the numerous scratches were already beginning to heal. fear and uncertainty filling him. The vampire bite had given her unknown strength. my friend. 198 . climbing quickly onto the bed. “Let me have her!” Julian commanded. tired and ill as she was.” “They’re nothing. He was tossed aside like a rag doll and landed hard on the floor beside the bed. as Thomas ran to the now-sleeping form. but. A shriek of pain echoed through the room. he came face to face with Michael. Kicking and thrashing. making Thomas no match for her. as she clawed at the arms wrapped tightly around her. settling himself behind her. and he massaged the side of her neck. Now. and Michael passed the thrashing figure into his lap.” he said as he laid her gently onto the bed. he continued his vigil.

He needed to get away from this room. As if coming to an important decision. When she’s strong enough. Julian felt how the strain of the evening had taken its toll on him. Rick placed the sacred Host along the side of her neck. He opened it and withdrew the small white Communion wafer. “Despite what you know of his kind. not wanting to have this conversation right now. he continued. but refusing to look at her. too tired to argue. he is different.” “It would seem so. a question in his eyes. although even he may not realize it. used to cure your friend has caused Julian intense pain.The Vampire’s Lady Indeed. “This is Julian.” He watched the conflict in the eyes of the priest as he tried to grasp all that had happened. I’m staying with her. “At this moment I don’t have the will or the inclination to argue with you. golden box from the duffle bag. Keep her calm if she awakens. as he walked directly in front of her without so much as a glance.” he said. Julian said. were slowly disappearing—until no trace of them could be seen! Michael stared at Julian. turned 199 . while Julian turned his head away. and again a soft hissing sound was heard. Rick saw that the wounds that had at first looked red and raw. “Julian. “I don’t think either one of you realize what it cost Julian to help your friend.” Michael said. Rick. Stopping for a second. Rick.” she whispered quietly as she watched him move past her. “Take the wafer and place it against the wounds on her neck—let’s see what happens. the man you were telling me about the other day?” Addie just nodded. he approached them. Rick looked down at Addie. for your sake.” Rick stepped forward to retrieve a small. Quickly removing the wafer.” he replied. Already color was returning to her face. Turning to find Adrianna still in Rick’s arms.” He then walked quickly from the room. a sharp edge to his voice. Do you have any idea the physical pain he’s had to endure for the past hour?—and I’m not just talking about the wounds he’s received from Kate herself. “I think it worked. “She needs rest. a strange look on his face. There’s good in him. if you still want to leave. I would not be here if that weren’t true. “Thomas. before everyone’s amazed eyes. Michael studied the two people standing before him. Dawn’s approaching—I have to leave.” Addie noticed he looked tired and drawn. a slight smile on his face. to escape them all. He was tired … he wanted peace. looking at the sleeping woman. stay with her. Sitting down once more alongside Kate.” Julian replied. Just being in such close proximity to the items you. and keep me informed of her progress. you can go with the priest. realizing this. although he tried not to show it. Adrianna. and he needed to feed to get his strength back. too. his proximity to the blessed object actually causing him physical pain. “As you wish.

Everything that I’ve witnessed is unbelievable. But the one thing I question the most is. but believe me when I say there’s a battle coming. if there is to be any chance of survival. that’s the story. he said.” After checking to see that Kate was sleeping peacefully. The reason the humans are with Julian and the others is because.D. Let me stay with her. so she’s not alone. but all right—and thank you. there will be no returning to the light.J. an expression of disbelief on her face. Addie. despite what he is. why are there so many humans here with them? Aren’t they afraid of these creatures.” Thomas told her. but you really need to get the explanation from Julian himself. Any more details must come from him. because of something in his past—but it will destroy us all.” “Me!” she said. “Addie. “It’s a long.” he said a little sheepishly.” “Thanks. so you can get a little sleep. had some connection to you. despair so hopeless. That’s all I can say at this point. “… especially now. he walked from the room. “is to talk to him—because it appears this whole unbelievable situation might also have something to do with you. “I’m trying to understand what’s going on. My advice to you.” Michael continued. Why don’t you both try to get some rest? It’s been a long. the world as we know it will plunge into darkness so black. he has earned their trust—and he’s the only one with any chance of fighting the evil descending upon us. looking intently at Adrianna. It seeks him out. Adrianna asked. Thomas is right. stunned. I’ll rest my eyes for a little while. “What did he mean? What would any of this horror have to do with me? I was blissfully unaware of any of this—of any of you—until recently. a long time ago. we should rest until we see how Kate is 200 . I’m sure no one will care if you use it. “I think there’s an empty room right next door to the one Addie’s in. Talk to Julian. you’re exhausted. Thomas came to stand beside them. If she wakes up. Marteeny his attention back to Michael. I want to be here when she wakes up. I only know bits and pieces. I want her to see a friendly face. “But. I wish I could tell you …” as his eyes darted back to the woman lying in the bed. But one thing I do know: Julian was in love once. At least I’ve had some rest. Thomas. looking at Rick. If he fails against this enemy. and I don’t think I could sleep if I wanted to.” “Well. good priest. Looking back at Thomas. but now you’ll have to wait till tonight. from what I’m told. It will fall on all of us to pull together our resources and do what we can to help Julian. I really hadn’t planned on us staying that long. leaving them staring after him in stunned silence. hard night for everyone. of what they can do?” Michael studied him long and hard before answering. Then. ugly tale that I don’t have time to go into just now. “Yeah. Father. Addie. I’ll stay with Kate. and the woman.” Turning. but no.

Addie. Call me if you need me.” he said. Sitting down on the bed. Almost falling from the bed in a tangle of blankets. She was being chased again by a huge. “I’m right next door. leaving her drained and exhausted. winged creature. she climbed from the shower. he gently led her to the bedroom across the hall. Tripping on a large root rising up out of the ground. “I need to talk to him. falling into a restless sleep troubled by more strange dreams. she thought better of it. After running a brush through her hair and applying a little makeup. taking her arm. Rising from the bed. as the last remnants of the nightmare were washed away. “ no!” she screamed again.” And. As she passed the mirror. and. laughing at her ironic choice of words. Without undressing. she went in search of her host.” He watched her give a weak nod as she opened her bedroom door. and terror filled her.The Vampire’s Lady after this ordeal. she began to relax a little. Everyone was probably still sleeping after last night. “Lord. dried off quickly. a scream stuck in her throat. The events of the evening suddenly hit her full force. before he turned to walk into the adjoining room. “no!” she screamed. she walked toward the bathroom. landing at the feet of a living nightmare! As she slowly lifted her eyes. As the water enveloped her in its warmth. she fell forward. really it will. 201 . giving her a smile of encouragement. and a thick silence hung throughout the house. Looking around her. Try to have a little faith. she lay across the pillows. “What’s happening to me?” she asked herself. holding her head in her hands. she caught a glimpse of herself. Addie noticed dawn’s hazy approach through the bedroom window.” she told herself as she turned to walk down the hall. “Everything will be all right. I’m sure he’ll let us know when she can see us. I’ll walk you to your room. and. It was about mid-afternoon. pulling until the sleeve of her dress tore completely away from the bodice. Come on. “I need to talk to Julian alone. as her fist was poised to tap on his door. turning off the water.” she said aloud. watching the shadows. but there had to be human guards somewhere on the grounds keeping watch. She struggled to free herself. twisting and turning. she saw the sun shining brightly in the afternoon sky and realized she’d been asleep for hours. She kept looking behind her. as the hideous face descended toward her. I look like the living dead!” she said out loud. but. her thoughts once again returned to Julian. as she ran through a forest black as night. Immediately she clapped her hands over her mouth. unaware of the dark form directly in front of her until it was too late. hoping a hot shower would warm the chill that was seeping through her entire body. and got dressed. These awful dreams— what do they mean? she wondered. She wondered if she should wake Rick. Addie awoke dazed and confused.

She would have known without anyone having to tell her that this was Julian’s. but then she noticed someone was sitting in the large chair facing yet another fireplace. he didn’t seem particularly happy to see our good Father. he turned toward her. Michael. As he opened it. as she moved closer. according to most of you. so I thought it better to be awake. eyes closed as if he were sleeping. How did he know it was me? Addie was wondering. those shining blue eyes so clear they were almost transparent. The room was deathly still. he rose from the chair and took her by the arm.” Michael said. she saw nothing but another staircase leading upward. It also contains the passage to his underground chamber. The oddest thought crossed her mind as she returned his gaze: It’s like he’s looking right into my soul.D. and he led her from the room. Even if she did find him.” he said.” A slight smile appeared on his face at her comment. elegant—those were the words that came to mind as her 202 . It weakens him. Old world. suddenly giving her a smile that took her breath away. and he must stay in darkness. hoping to find someone who could tell her where Julian’s room was. that he’s the only one who can give them to me. We’ll need him at full strength for what’s ahead. as he stared at her intently. She followed his elegant form back up the staircase to one of the many doors lining the long hallway. in his private chambers. “Where are we going?” “This leads to Julian’s bedroom at the top of one of the four towers. “Come with me.” Then. but I couldn’t stop the nightmares.J. when he opened his eyes. and it seems. “Hopefully he is resting. Adrianna. she entered the den. He sat with his head back. Obviously it was a question she’d never thought she’d be asking herself. It’s one of the rooms he uses for sleeping. I also thought—is it possible to talk to Julian at this hour of the day? I need to get some answers. so he stays below. but it is possible to talk to him. “Yes. aware of my deepest secrets. of course. but not for long. “I’m glad to see you were able to get some rest. That is. we may have to twist his arm a bit to get him to be civil. if he’ll even talk to me. coming to a decision. I wonder why that is? Well. becoming more serious. but I think we can persuade him to give you a few minutes of his time. she didn’t know if she’d be able to talk to him. Marteeny Descending the stairs. very masculine room.” he explained as they entered a large.” Michael sat there thinking for a moment. he continued. and. and then. “I slept a little. Are vampires able to wake during the day or are they literally “ dead to the world” until nighttime? she wondered. His features were flawless. It didn’t seem that anyone was around. He can go without sleep during the day. She shook her head slightly to clear her senses.

it is Michael. “What’s wrong! Has something happened?” Suddenly. waking him. as if he’d just awoke from a restless sleep. antique furniture and beautiful. and. He just smiled in response to her observation. which he used to light small candles as they descended downward. causing a hidden door to open inward with a grating sound. tapered match. seeing nothing but darkness in front of her. “Whether you like it or not. she realized that. of all people. He was wearing nothing but a pair of tight-fitting black jeans. “Are you sure this is a good idea.” Michael led the way forward into the darkness. and she found herself unable to take her eyes off him. as blue eyes caught brown. he was there.” Michael said simply as he walked to the far wall. you need—” Michael started to explain. which ended before a solid wooden door. Are you awake?” The cold silence was unnerving as Addie waited breathlessly for a reply. she couldn’t deny her attraction to him—she couldn’t fight the desire. She wanted him more than anyone she’d ever known. I know now is not the ideal time. “Secrecy is the key to his surviving as long as he has. she saw the spark of desire reflected back at her. “What is she doing down here?” the words struck like ice water pouring over her. “It’s not Michael’s fault. “He may not have a problem with you. Reaching beneath the sconce hanging there. “Julian. “This place is full of secrets. I asked him to bring me. rich colors. just like its owner. They traveled from the hollow in his throat down to the patch of dark hair running thickly across his muscular chest. She felt a flame erupting deep inside of her. intruding on his private quarters?” “We aren’t giving him a choice. With a shock.” she stated as she peered over his shoulder. I’m sorry to 203 . but the opportunity presented itself so—” “So you thought you’d bring her here to the only sanctuary available to me in this hell I live in!” “Julian. which thinned narrowly all the way down to the waistband of the jeans wrapped tightly around his narrow hips. standing in front of her. Michael?” A case of nerves was getting the better of her. but do you really think he wants me. stopping for a moment to retrieve a large. Knocking three times. with its large. going deeper and deeper into the bowels of the old house. he touched a switch. Adrianna. Michael called out. no matter what he was.The Vampire’s Lady eyes traveled around the room. Julian. or his own people. you two need to talk. Julian. They continued on. his long mane of hair tangled around his face. until they reached the bottom of the stone staircase. She jumped at least three feet in the air as the door suddenly swung open.

and don’t stay too long. Adrianna. As she walked past Michael. Julian looked from Adrianna to Michael and then backed away from the door so she could enter the room. watching him as he turned and climbed back up the long staircase. Marteeny intrude on your … private time. but I need some answers. and I couldn’t wait until tonight. 204 .” She nodded in agreement. he gently touched her arm.” Hesitating a moment longer. I … I won’t be here then. With a deep sigh. not knowing what to expect—and praying she was open-minded enough to accept what he was about to tell her.J. He needs to rest.D. “Keep an open mind. she turned to face Julian.

Thomas said the attack might have something to do with me. You don’t know how many times I’ve waited to greet the morning sun.” “Please. looking troubled and almost defeated. Taking a deep breath.” he said. Adrianna—my own story—and I hope you’ll try to understand. Sighing deeply. and. “I became … what I am … a long time ago—four and a half centuries. “I’ll tell you all I know. for the room was cold and somewhat damp.” he said. looking at her intently before continuing. This warmth was necessary. I didn’t mean to intrude on your private time. She could see the plea in his eyes.Chapter 17 Julian watched her for a moment before moving forward to light two candles on the mantle above the stone fireplace. deep in thought. Julian. Grabbing a discarded shirt from a nearby chair. but he didn’t say a word. being so far underground. to be exact. I was every bit the monster my kind is made out to be. he slowly turned to face her. he began. “Your pity will only make things worse. so I need you to explain what he meant. After my ‘rebirth. the hearth burst into flames. I deserved no one’s sympathy in those early days. believe me when I tell you.’ I was despondent—to the point of self-destruction. don’t. Turning his back to her. but he left the front unbuttoned.” he said. as she realized what he’d just done. she felt something in her soften a little. making it hard for her to concentrate. The bloodlust was all-consuming—and 205 . Watching him standing there. Julian. holding his hand up as if to physically stop her. “I’m sorry. else. he pulled it onto his body. but I need to know what’s happening—and how I’m involved in all of this. With a wave of his hand. He caught the stunned surprise on her face.” she pleaded. or something. “in the hopes of bringing about my own destruction—only to be thwarted in my attempts by someone. he stood staring at the flames. Adrianna.” “Oh.

There was a small cut across his thumb. hoping their warmth would dispel the chill rising inside of him. she kept the secret of what she was from him. But. trying to read her face and her thoughts. When the rumor reached my ears.D. when he awoke as she was feeding on a poor servant girl. I was … content. Though he was weak afterward. on the floor. didn’t stop her from taking his blood. His arms and hands were covered in it.J. he reached for the knife he always kept tucked discreetly beneath his pillow. Awan was her name. wiping his hands against his robes in an attempt to clean them. while he slept. but what did he expect? Turning back toward the flames. but only in small amounts. a story involving a noble family and his bloodline. She was vampire. As the centuries passed. and all over him. defied him at every turn. Marteeny my maker reveled in the terror and destruction we caused. where he’d grasped the blade of the knife. He stared in horror at the small wound. I dared to hope for a normal existence once again—only to have that hope shattered before my very eyes! The story told of a wealthy and powerful man. despite what she was. like so many men of power. and who were loyal to me alone. this mistress loved him in her own way. He had a beautiful wife. In a moment of fear and panic. Climbing from the bed. in what is known today as Iraq. or worse. He knew the 206 . But. and. Neither was the emotion he wanted to see there. That’s when he realized he was injured. a small group of soldiers that I trained. and. We made it our mission to destroy those monsters that took the lives of the innocent to satisfy their own demented cravings. after their lovemaking. There were other ways to survive—to find the sustenance that I required. as time went on. unknown to him. He read sadness … and. pity on her face. The evil hordes diminished—their leader disappeared—or so it seemed. he tried desperately to rid himself of the red stain. as he watched her blood mingle with his own—and he knew his fate was sealed. he continued. he also had a mistress. Then something happened. Her love. A rumor surfaced. yes. We.” “Filled with horror when he realized her true nature. It was everywhere—on the bed.” He looked again at Adrianna. he never knew the reason why nor suspected what she really was—until one fateful night. Our ‘lord’ was furious! He wouldn’t rest until I was brought back into his fold—and he would stop at nothing to bring that about. So I adapted—and taught others to do the same. she was more than just a beautiful woman—much more. I learned that I didn’t have to take an innocent life to save my own. “Things were quiet for a while. to gauge in some way how she was taking in all that he was telling her. fearful that he would leave her. whom he loved deeply. but. a leader of many. I was able to live with what I’d become and at least give the appearance of a human existence. though. he plunged the silver blade directly into her heart! There was so much blood flowing from the wound.

born a pure-blooded vampire. another discovery was made quite by accident. for she never knew the horror she’d given birth to. But a discovery.” Julian turned to see Adrianna staring at him in horror. he went to the cliff behind the house and. “Oh.’ Then. Adrianna. As time went on. It was thought the human offspring had. One child was completely normal. a recessive gene was discovered—a vampire gene. awaiting her reaction to this information. for he’d yet to reveal the most important part of the story. proved them wrong. but some misguided soul sought to be merciful and escaped with the creature. He also knew what he must do to end his curse. In her weakened condition. His wife was gravely ill for a long time afterward. He was found days later and buried. he continued. craving blood directly from the womb!” “The thing was ordered destroyed.” was all she could manage to say as she stared at him. but. the nobleman’s firstborn had been human.” he said. When she’d fallen back to sleep. which lay dormant in the first twin’s bloodline. for there were two distinct lines—one human and one pure vampire. when he turned me—for Awan was his daughter. “This is the bloodline I inherited. and vampires of the line were captured and tested. they’re either turned or die during the process. as she listened to his tale. the bloodline passed to me by my sire. which was a blessing. He knew he must continue. escaped the family curse. but he wished to see his wife one last time. fell to the water below. from what everyone thought was grief. mercifully.” “She was asleep when he arrived at their home. No one realized until years later just how important this recessive gene would become.” she whispered. but she awoke as he kissed her gently. and more humans were born to carry on our ‘heritage. an anomaly appeared in the line of this twin’s descendants—a human giving birth to a pure-blooded vampire!” “No. He was taken away to be raised by the family. A vampire attempted to ‘convert’ a human—and failed.” “Is that possible?” she asked quietly. Watching her closely. driving the silver blade deep into his own heart. years later. “Yes. Thus the Awanian bloodline began—or should I say bloodlines. They found that a select few carried a dormant human gene. The other child was an abomination. more vampires were created. 207 . After some research. years later. When a vampire sets out to turn a human. as the generations passed. They made love one final time. a strong son to carry on the line. she died in childbirth. For all intents and purposes. Someone decided further study was needed. I’m afraid it’s true. “I’ve never witnessed it. Dragone. Later it was found that she was pregnant—with twins.The Vampire’s Lady monster he would become.

” “Yes. “She was so beautiful. is cured of the virus and becomes human once more.” Addie could almost feel the pain inside of him.” He seemed to catch himself. she loved me despite what I was. She was my sanity in the nightmare that I was living. Julian. as he bowed his head.J. If I’m understanding this right. on the other hand. It means there’s hope—for you. you’re of the bloodline. after a few minutes. but there’s more to the story. She was killed in front of me. He still had speed. “But it was not to be. All you need to do is find a human of the bloodline who has the gene. after some time. the bloodlust was gone—completely. but he continued on. with barely controlled fury. “Human—completely human?” “Yes. “and though I nearly died trying. not daring to breathe. but I’m getting off the track.” “But how can that be?” “Another anomaly—a freak accident of nature—who knows? But it happened. he went on. as he awaited her reaction. Adrianna.” Clenching his hands into fists. and most of his strength. but he was not the same. he began to notice a change—in himself. as he continued. After ingesting a large quantity of her blood. he said. For all intents and purposes—he was human again!” Julian stopped. With the knowledge that he couldn’t turn the one he loved. I mean. the vampire in question was in for an even bigger surprise.” “But that’s wonderful. for she was taken from me.D. so deeply brown. His power was somehow diminished. but. he leaned heavily against the mantle. and her eyes—you could drown in those eyes. “Technically. because of this Dragone. Adrianna. by the one who made me—the monster we hunt today—dragone!—as 208 . skin like porcelain. “Hair like ebony. Marteeny “It’s not a process most of us take lightly. that’s right. The vampire. I revealed to her my true nature. I’ve told you before I was once in love. To my surprise and joy. If the vampire bites the human. and then. Is that right?” Julian was staring at her so intently she couldn’t think clearly. said human is immune to the vampire virus. how to control the monster within me—and I began to actually believe I might have some sort of happiness again in my life. Although it appears there’s a certain formula to this miracle cure: a human of the bloodline with the recessive vampire gene plus a vampire of the bloodline with the recessive human gene. I’ve witnessed it myself—twice. at great risk to herself. soft and flowing. tearing his gaze away. A great sorrow seemed to overcome him.” he said almost to himself. But more importantly. I couldn’t save her.” he heard her soft reply. And I loved her more than life itself. Adrianna. “Anyway. She taught me.

and she rose from the chair and started toward him. deciding the direct approach would be the best way. I’ve had Thomas research your family—” “What! Why would—” “Adrianna. You’re the threat he feels he must destroy.” Turning away from her. because. apparently in hiding. “I vowed then that if I survived. “No! Let me finish. She was almost certain she could predict what he was about to tell her. as she watched him struggle to come up with an answer for her. “You are the mirror image of her.” he said as he raised a hand to stop her approach. he continued in a low voice. “I saw it the moment I laid eyes on you at the club. After accomplishing what he’d set out to do. he simply said. Adrianna.” “Me! But that’s crazy. disappeared. How am I going to tell her something I know she’s not going to want to hear? he wondered. seemed to clutch at her heart. He also knew the story of the bloodline and knew that the key to the cure. but he went on. Julian! How can I possibly be of any threat to a creature like him? I don’t understand. looking intently at Addie. He took away my last chance at humanity—and enjoyed doing it!” The anguish in his voice was more than she could bear. for centuries—or so I thought. “… because that monster thinks something has happened that’s important enough to bring him out of hiding—and into my path again. Then. until I had a conversation with Michael. “I don’t know if you realize the importance of what I’m going to tell you. and I’m afraid I just wasn’t curious enough. “You have happened.” “What has happened?” she asked in a voice barely above a whisper. so far. Adrianna?” “No. Running his fingers through his hair. as she stared at the rigid outline of his back. and something else. Adrianna.” Julian turned slightly to look at her. he continued. He stared at her for a long moment. that bastard. ran through my veins as well as hers. but please hear me out. what he’s found is astounding.The Vampire’s Lady my punishment for turning against him and thwarting his plans for power.” Tearing his eyes from her face. please hear me out. and what he said seemed to freeze the blood in her veins. He thinks that son of a bitch is back …” and. Fear. Dragone. Why—is it important?” she asked with a sense of foreboding. he seemed unsure how to continue. “Have you ever traced your family’s ancestry. I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for Christoff and a few others who managed to get to me in time. the gene needed to make me human again. I would not rest until she was avenged and I’d completely destroyed him. and she heard—felt—the longing in his voice. he walked to the bed and gripped the bedpost for support. “What we’ve 209 .” he continued. there was never any reason to.” “Michael! What does he know about all this?” “Apparently more than any of us knew.

I only inherited the bloodline after Dragone turned me. Then he saw the panicked look in her eyes. since I was human first. as a vampire.D.” she said in a quiet voice. “And you. she could almost feel his pain.” “There must be some mistake. “What you’re telling me is that I have an ancestor that was a—vampire!” “An ancient ancestor—yes. “Dragone must have found this out somehow and believes it to be true. to be sure of anything—but I could sense you as soon as you entered the club that night. He can’t take the chance that you carry the gene that can make me human again. watching the play of emotion cross her face as she absorbed what he’d just told her. Adrianna. he decided to continue. This can’t be happening.J. traveling seductively to the 210 . When she made no response. It was all there for her to see in those burning blue eyes.” He watched her closely and saw her shake her head from side to side in denial. and. the anguish he’d suffered. no matter how many generations I was cursed to live. What is she thinking? he wondered as he studied her face. Adrianna. since his blood now runs through my veins. but you can’t imagine my shock when your face came into view on that dance floor. while a range of other emotions ran rampant inside of her: fear—denial—disbelief. shaking with emotion. “There would have to be tests done.” “What?” Only his sensitive hearing could make out that single word from her lips. He fears my reaching you before he does. He seemed to stop breathing. not wanting to upset her further. The desire to comfort him was overwhelming. Her feet seemed to move of their own volition. as she went to him. I thought I’d never see that beautiful face again. but it might have surprised him to find out there was only one thought playing over and over again in Addie’s mind: He could be human again! It was the one thing her mind seemed to grasp onto out of everything he’d revealed to her today.” As he looked at her. before he continued on. He’d give anything to know. Marteeny found so far indicates you are of the bloodline—her bloodline. and. “It seems Avani is just one of the variations on the name Awan. another human of the line that carries the desired gene buried deep in their physical makeup can change me back again—if I also carry the recessive gene. Then she stood before him and raised her hand to gently stroke his cheek. as her fingers followed the contours of his face.” he replied softly. But. are of the bloodline also? That makes us—related in some way?” “No. I knew then that someone of the bloodline was present.” he said. through Dragone—mine.

Thrusting her hands into his hair. while I still have some semblance of control. and then. slowly brushing soft lips across his throat to the hollow at the center. Suddenly. gently kissing first one side of his mouth and then the other. feeling his lips pressed against the vein in her neck—the vein pounding furiously with her life’s blood. His hair fell forward in a glorious mound. he followed. gently pulled it back from his shoulders. She kissed the side of his neck. molding her to the contours of his own body. with a cry of anguish. like a silken veil. he pulled her tightly against him.” she whispered as she leaned into him. you’re stronger than that. as she stroked her thumb across them. bracing himself with strong arms on either side of her. Her body felt as though it were on fire. sensuous lips. she cupped his head and brought his face down to her waiting lips. “Adrianna—you don’t know what you’re doing! Please stop now. and let it flutter to the ground. as he kissed her so deeply she could barely breathe. kissing him hungrily. as she felt the hardness of him pressing against her. thrusting his tongue deep into her mouth. “Adrianna. 211 . God. Her hands found their way inside the open shirt. She buried her face in the waves of long. stumbling awkwardly to the bottom of the bed. he kissed her hungrily. she didn’t think she could ever get enough of him. pinning her hands behind her back. Didn’t our encounter in the library teach you anything?” “You won’t hurt me. She couldn’t take her eyes off those lips. She couldn’t seem to get enough of him. as blue eyes gazed into brown. freeing her hands to travel over the coarse dark hair covering his chest. he encircled her waist. She could feel his heart beating furiously.The Vampire’s Lady strong jaw-line and over the soft. and.” came the strained command in a voice filled with such pain she could feel his anguish. “Shhh …” she replied softly. They seemed suspended in time. soft curls falling across his shoulders. please. She heard him moan softly and felt herself lifted in his arms. Laying her gently onto the bed. With a sharp intake of breath. Julian. as she reached up to brush a loose strand away from his face. he pulled away from her. with a deep moan. Releasing her hands. Her breath was coming in ragged gasps as she held him tightly.” he said in a tight voice as he grabbed her wrists with both hands. as her hands continued to travel upward until her arms encircled his neck. you have to go. “Adrianna—” he spoke in whispered torment as he grabbed her hands again. but it’s been too long that I’ve deprived myself of the touch of a woman. and believe me when I say you don’t want to test my restraint tonight. “I told you she taught me control. his body suspended above her. he turned to place a soft kiss along her wrist.

Did he hurt you?” Michael asked. How soon can we leave?” she demanded. came to her. What had she done to him? She’d driven him past his limit. He’d hidden himself in the shadows near the foot of the bed. He didn’t hurt me—but he can’t promise that he won’t.” “But I am willing!” she screamed at him in frustration. as his eyes examined every inch of her.” the deep voice. Reaching the door. shouting this time. you must go—now!” The voice that only moments ago had whispered softly to her now came out as a growl. “Adrianna. hearing her cries. Marteeny She reached over to gently stroke his bare shoulder. or anyone.D. but she could feel his eyes upon her. “I said go. turning one last time to look at him. are you all right?” “No. I’m not!” she said as a sob escaped her. “You have no idea at all what you’re saying! Do you think I can stop myself at a little lovemaking? God. can say that will convince me that we’re safer here than with Rick at the church—not now. How could she have been so stupid! She tripped as her feet touched the floor in her haste to climb from the bed. so I can’t stop when I need to. she asked. A few kisses will not satisfy me. he pulled away. please let me try to help you. and. “Why do you and the others stay? Aren’t 212 . You said yourself—” But. Adrianna. We can do it—” “You are the last person to help me now. You did it before.J. You need to leave— quickly. Adrianna—please. “Take my word for it. if you don’t leave soon. “Julian let me help you. I wish it were that simple! I told you—the monster within me will not be denied. “I want to leave here with Kate as soon as it can be arranged. before he could continue. Adrianna! What I’m feeling now is long past any control! It takes time to—” He stopped. so I think it’s best that we leave here tonight. Michael.” Looking into his handsome face. pulled it open. There’s nothing you. “Adrianna. you’ll be the unfortunate witness to the truth of this! I will not take from you what is not offered willingly. before that very lack of control makes the decision for us—hurry!” As fear gripped her. I could kill you with my lack of control—do you understand? Now. “I told you I don’t have the control I once had. let me look at you. as he felt her fingers burn against his skin. sending shivers of fear down her spine. she hesitated. the fear in his eyes matching her own. go. inhaling deeply. You can control it—you’ve done it before. Michael. as she tried to get through to him one more time. until Michael. “Julian. I need blood! And yours drives me to distraction. she ran out the door and up the stone steps to pound on the massive door at the top. strained beyond endurance. reaching for her and smoothing the hair back from her neck. “It’s not what you think.

” Julian told him and. he saw Julian. even the heat of the fire failed to warm him as he leaned into it. as he stepped inside. it would be a blessing. you. with sadness weighing on his heart. “Come to destroy the monster. “Did you ever think that if I were dead there would be no need for a fight? The whole reason 213 . as she took the weapon. my dear. he looked at her and said.” he said and. whether you like it or not. Michael watched him intently. I will have them send some people to watch over things until Julian and the others find this evil and destroy it.” she said. Looking at it. “Thank you. because of it—I need you to win this fight. barely breathing. Slowly Julian raised his head. If Kate is strong enough. leaning against the bedpost. and then fetch the priest. “I’m sorry. “Fetch your spear and end my torment now. we can move her to the church today. turning to look at Michael through a mass of tangled hair. Michael. I should say. making him. he continued. He watched. had already began to bleed back to a soft gray-blue. He saw the look of resolve and determination in her eyes. Go. blood red a moment ago. and the best place for you right now is with the priest. Now I think you should take this one.” Looking over his shoulder. indeed.” He felt chilled to the bone. he brought out the other small dagger he carried. If what I suspect is true. then he’s in love with you. as she slowly left the room. I won’t fight you. Julian stared at the other man. vampire?” Michael asked. Turning quickly. weighing his options and finally coming to a decision. “But you … well. check on your friend. and that requires a special kind of control that he hasn’t had to master for a very long time. are different. Despite what you are—or. Maybe you’re right. walking toward the fireplace. “Believe me. reaching inside his cloak.” Gently grasping her shoulders. head down. Julian. he turned his back to the other man. as are the others. “What happened.” as he extended the beautiful marble handle toward her. Avenger?” came the deep growl. His eyes. he ran through the open door and down the steps until he came to Julian’s room. Julian and his kind are no threat to us.The Vampire’s Lady you afraid? He could kill you—they all could!” she stated as she strained to hold back the tears. The anger Michael felt began to melt away as he stared at the man-creature in front of him. but I can’t do as you ask. “I am in control of what happens to me. and. seem more like a wild animal than a man. So I’m afraid I must let you continue to live. barely controlling his own anger. The door was still open wide from the force of Addie’s exit. “I gave its twin to Julian. but the torment in them hadn’t changed at all.

Get some rest now.” “Will they?” Michael replied. and. she descended the narrow staircase and opened the door that led to the main hallway on the second floor.J. I need your help to end this. he proceeded to explain. trying to compose herself.D. turning. “You’ve got to calm down. “She loves you. and sleep wouldn’t come. Michael. for he was absorbed in his own thoughts. it won’t change her feelings toward me. but you have to pull yourself together.” she said aloud. “Or will it just prolong the inevitable? It’s no longer just about you. my friend. You wouldn’t have harmed her. Something is about to happen.” and Michael could hear the hopelessness in his voice. and it’ll be soon. he’ll leave her alone and go into hiding again.” Julian said in an anguished whisper. not after tonight. “Let’s hope not. my friend.” Julian cast him a look full of doubt and pain.” When Michael saw the confused look on Julian’s face. Julian. I see it her eyes whenever she’s around you. If you’re ever to become human again. she went directly to the room where Kate slept. after staring at the ceiling for some time. As long as she loves you there’s a chance. will be safe. He and I go back a long way—even farther than you and he. vampire. She opened the door without knocking and stepped inside.” But the vampire didn’t seem to hear him. But he kept seeing Adrianna’s shocked face. I won’t pretend to understand what you’re going through. He will not stop until everyone is destroyed. closing his eyes in a useless attempt to get some rest. is so she won’t reach me. “I can’t lose her—not again. which proves you have more control than you might think. the reason he’s looking for Adrianna. at least that’s what I’m hoping. it will take a lot from her to do her part and do it willingly. Returning to the bed. he walked from the room. The girl’s all right. Something tells me we’re going to need your strength before too long. Julian. His ranks are weakened now. I can feel it. If I’m gone. Yes. In time she’ll understand everything. It’ll take more than a little scare to change the intensity of her feelings. “But you stopped yourself. Marteeny Dragone’s here. so he’s vulnerable. he finally let the day take him. After checking to make sure no one was around. it’s true. he lay down. and everyone else.” After a few minutes. ***** Adrianna stood for a moment outside the door of the tower bedroom.” he said and. Julian followed Michael to the door and closed it quietly after him. 214 . He now knows I’m here. despite what you might have done. “Will she? And even if she does.” he whispered. “You can’t let Kate see you like this. Julian—you’re stronger than you realize. She. “I could have killed her.

searching her arms for any sign of bruising. I’m sure Julian was going to send someone back with you when he felt the time was right for you to leave. rubbing her arm gingerly. and he continued.” He began walking toward the door. Thomas was asleep in a chair by her bedside. trying to avoid Thomas’s piercing stare. have it your way. and. he continued. Please. “I didn’t think I was—sneaking. Please don’t worry. I don’t know. and we don’t need his permission to leave. did I?” he asked.” The sleeping man jumped up with a start. wake up. Maybe the worst is over. I’m going to go and get Rick.The Vampire’s Lady where her friend lay peacefully. nothing. Addie.” she said. 215 . Their raised voices had disturbed Kate. he knows we’re going. take my word for it. but her color was returning. he said. “Addie. who was struggling to sit up under the mountain of covers. “What—today? Right now?” Addie nodded her head in silence. I’ve already talked to Julian. Touching his shoulder. locking her arm behind her. “That’s why I think we should leave now. as Thomas walked over to sit on the bed beside the sleeping woman. but why the hurry?” Looking at her curiously. that is. “All right. She’s fine.” Addie heard a soft moan. and so was her strength. “My God. and I just think we’d be better off at the church. “Thomas. She still looked tired. but she’s still pretty weak. calm down. we could move her. but the three of you aren’t going alone. turning to face him. I’m fine. Then. if we have to. You’re—we’re all—exhausted. I suppose. he’d grabbed her by the wrist and spun her around in front of him. before she knew what was happening. As a matter of fact. shaking his head. that’s why I’m here.” She turned her head away. and. I’m sorry! I didn’t realize—but you can’t sneak up on a guy like that! I didn’t hurt you. he doesn’t care. “Let’s go ask him who he wants to send with—” “no! Umm. turning away from him so she didn’t have to look into his questioning eyes. You were just doing your job—protecting Kate. “Has something else happened?” “No. it’s me—Adrianna!” Releasing her almost immediately. She’s doing much better. If he’s ready. do you think we could get some help getting Kate to the car?” Thomas watched her for a moment. is that you?” she asked.” she said. she shook him gently. Do you think we can move her to the church today?” she asked. Addie. and she moved toward the bed. “Anyway. “Thomas. “Geez. a strange look on his face.” “It’s all right Thomas. he began to apologize profusely. her voice barely a whisper. “Doing my job—I fell asleep! What kind of protection is that? Anything could have happened to her.

We’ll get you something to eat when we leave here. I’ll be back as soon as I can. “No more questions for now.” “Take your time. “One glass of ice water coming up. “I still think I’d better check with Julian or at least let him know your plans. Wait for Charleze before you try to stand on your own. where am I and … what happened to me? Pushing the hair gently from the tired girl’s eyes. at Kate’s next words. I’ve just left him. if there is any. “I think we can arrange something for you. Addie. Thomas will step outside so you can dress while I go hunt for our favorite priest. 216 .” she said to Thomas. too—I feel so stiff. and he’ll be glad to see you up and around.” she told Kate. You might be a little dizzy. “Yes he is. he turned back to look at the woman in the bed.” she told Kate as Thomas passed the glass to her. “It’s a long story. okay?” “Okay. glancing at Thomas. we don’t want you to overexert yourself. they relaxed a little. Rising from the bed. How do you feel?” Addie asked.” she said as Thomas poured a fresh glass of water from the pitcher on the nightstand. You’ve been lying—well. refreshing drink.” As she and Thomas walked to the door. but. I’ll take full responsibility for Julian’s anger.” A look of alarm passed between Addie and Thomas. Thomas—he’s aware of our plans.J. You know he’ll literally have my neck if anything happens to any of you—and I’m really worried about Kate leaving so soon. a while. “Do you think I could get a big glass of ice-cold water—and maybe a hamburger or two?” Addie couldn’t help but laugh. and I’m so tired—and thirsty. “I think we can manage to get you up and dressed. “First things first. honey. Marteeny “Yes.D. he said. “I have a whopper of a headache.” Addie said. looking at her friend with concern. I wasn’t lying. “I’ll be right outside if you need anything. “That would be great. Addie replied. Do you think I could get out of this bed? I feel like I’ve fought a war or something. “Do you feel up to taking a little ride with Rick and me?” “Rick’s here?” asked Kate.” “I’ve already told you. “Me.” Addie said as she watched Kate take a long. I’ll send Charleze to help you. But.” “Or something …”Addie whispered under her breath as she shot a worried glance toward Thomas. “She’s definitely on the mend if her appetite’s returning. it’s me. she said. so we’ll wait until you’re a little stronger before we bore you with the details.” she finished. Okay? “Okay” Following Addie out into the hallway.

smiling up at him.” “Human is good. and he walked away shaking his head in frustration. “My mind is made up. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. but he said firmly. He knew she was wrong in wanting to leave so soon—but what could he do about it? “I’ll just go get Charleze. There are only a few to spare right now.” she replied. it wasn’t anyone’s—” “We were unprepared. “I know you believe that. I want you to know—I wish I could’ve done more. Thomas. if we leave now.” he said. You were there when Kate needed you the most. Within seconds it swung open.” “Right. “Whether you believe it or not. and Kate paid the price. That won’t happen again. she tapped on Rick’s door. “All right. Thomas.” “Thomas.” He gave her a curious look and wondered if he should pursue the subject.” “Okay. Last night should never have happened. as Michael said. hoping he was already awake and they could finally leave. His dark hair was mussed. Addie. not wanting to hear what she knew he was going to say. for a number of reasons. “But I really do believe it’ll be better.The Vampire’s Lady and I’ll take care of Kate. The words were on the tip of her tongue ready to dispute his claim. the vampires are your best hope for coming out of this situation intact. if Julian has anything to do with it—which is why I wish you’d both stay here where he can control—” but she cut him off. Now. you know. but she stopped herself. there’ll be more tonight. Addie. but I’m sending some of our people with you. She’ll be better off at the church. deciding an argument at this time would only delay their chances of getting out of there. but she was determined to get them all to the church—today. Adrianna knew he wasn’t happy with her decision.” was the simple reply. but that’s the truth. and Michael said you’ll all join us there tonight.” he said when he saw the look on her face.” She leaned forward to gently brush a kiss across his cheek. and I thank you for all you’ve done for her. Rick and I both will. she said. We’ll join you as soon as we can. to keep you both safe. And. humans from our ‘specials’ squad. I’m sorry. Still hesitant. and you may be right—but I think it’s time we made some of our own decisions. but he decided on a simple warning instead of a long lecture. the young man finally agreed. Walking across the hall. So. Thomas. but Addie. I think I’ve had my fill of vampires for the moment. but they’re highly skilled and well trained. you’d better go find Charleze before our invalid gets tired of waiting and decides to take things into her own hands. his eyes a little 217 . but he couldn’t hide the concern on his face.

Kate.” he told Thomas. he finished. “Despite her wishes. did she suddenly feel such a strong sense of foreboding? 218 . No. and.” he said. But only briefly. not really. They will all make good weapons. with silver ammo.” “Amen to that.” “Smart thinking. Thomas motioned for Julian’s men to head out. holy water.D. After he’d helped Kate into Rick’s car. I’ve been sleeping with one eye open ever since I left you.” Rick replied. Don’t hesitate to use them. anything silver. they were walking out the front door.” Thomas said with a smile. Let’s get Kate and get moving. Were you able to get some rest?” “No. I’m so glad you’re up. then. and I’m assuming you still have the stakes you came armed with?” Rick nodded toward the duffle bag on the seat between him and Addie. although he knew Addie could probably hear what he was saying. Don’t let them out of your sight—especially Adrianna. avoiding his eyes. he whispered. “there’s no returning to anything you might consider normal—not after last night. indicating Addie. as the memory of Julian in his underground chamber came flooding back to her.” she answered. “I just want to get out of here and back to a little normalcy. she.” With a wave of his hand. she had doubts about her decision.J. she’d made the right choice. Don’t let anyone in until the rest of us get there tonight. Kate is awake and seems strong enough to come with us. for a brief moment. This is probably a stupid question to be asking a priest.” Thirty minutes later. but I couldn’t convince her to stay. Thomas approached the priest. “Oh. do you have any type of weapons at that church?” “No. Umm—we can leave now. and. and everyone would agree when they’d had time to get used to the three of them being gone. although she was pretty sure that had just happened recently. “I didn’t want it too far from my sight. but he was up. but. Leaning inside the window. Marteeny bloodshot. “Good. We’ll see you in a little while. there may be hope for you yet.” Stepping back from the car. You have to watch over them. They’ll give you a quick lesson on how to use them. She really shouldn’t be leaving here. They will be looking for her. “I’ve sent plenty of guns. “Take care—and stay alert. “But I intend to rectify that once we get home. It reminded Adrianna of a police escort. Are you ready to go?” “I thought you’d never ask. and Rick were driving back down the hill with seven armed guards. along with the guards who will accompany you. or anything else you can think of. an hour after Addie had formed the plan. Father. three in front of them and four behind. Rick. She really did believe this—so why.

“I have to do this. when I think about what could’ve happened—it terrifies me!” “I know. noticing her hesitation. looking at him with a determined look in her eyes. You’re both safe. Are you sure you want to do this? I can get the things for you. You can stay out here with Kate. and I’ll get everything. he said to her. she forced herself to climb from the car. Rick had decided to make a quick visit so the girls could get fresh clothing and a few other things they would need for an extended stay at the church. After all that I’ve witnessed in the past few hours. If I let my fears take hold then they’ll have 219 . getting the “all clear” sign from one of the guards. but I’m fine. Just tell me what you want and where to find it. Lord. She moved slowly down the flower-lined walkway toward the front porch. Rick. It’s just—” “You don’t have to explain anything to me.” “No—thank you. staring at the place she’d hoped would become her peaceful refuge but which had instead become something entirely different. so let’s just leave it at that and move on. came up quietly behind her.” Addie said. Two men from the first car stepped out for a quick sweep of the house. But I definitely don’t think Kate should go into the house again until she’s stronger. Addie.” “Thanks. Addie. If Julian and the others hadn’t arrived when they did—” But she couldn’t continue. Addie. Rick. Placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. when. “You don’t have to do this. “We all have to try not to think about it. I can only imagine what you both must have gone through last night. Addie sat in the car. Rick. Rick put his arm around her shoulder and hugged her tightly. Will we ever feel safe here again? she wondered. I can understand why you don’t want to go back inside.Chapter 18 The small caravan of cars traveled down the hillside and pulled to a stop in front of the tiny cottage.

A myriad of colors splashed across the well-manicured lawn. No blood. Had it really been just a few short hours ago? It seemed like a lifetime had passed since she’d last been here. “Is this where it happened.” she said. The hair on the back of her neck prickled as she remembered the attack. Addie?” Rick asked.” After grabbing a suitcase from the hall closet. following closely. no ash.” he said. Julian.” she headed out the front door. They’d want to clear away anything that might lead people to believe that vampires really exist. When she had everything she thought they might need. he chose not to go to the rectory but opted to stay as close to the actual church itself. “I’m right behind you. the quiet actually began to calm her a little. The apartment was rarely used by anyone. “It was the same thing that night at the club. with renewed purpose. gathering what items they needed. Where was the mess—the destruction—some kind of sign that last night had actually happened? There was nothing—not a torn curtain or a broken table or a smashed door. Kate was exhausted when they finally arrived. she went quickly up the stairs.J. she thought.” she replied. His expression was as confused as Adrianna’s. no broken furniture. as the afternoon sun came into contact with half a dozen stained-glass windows. With a firm. so Rick quickly ushered them through the church to a small apartment of rooms near the back. even the shattered window in the living room had been replaced. and then did the same in the bathroom. As she entered the house. Car doors slammed and gravel spat from beneath spinning tires. Could it all have been a dream—a horrible nightmare? But she knew better than that. Kate and I couldn’t see anything that indicated that there’d been any kind of trouble. It was a beautiful old building of red brick. she ran quickly back down the stairs.D.” “I know. On the advice of Thomas. She hesitated only briefly and looked around in confusion. Someone had worked very hard to ensure that nothing remained of the chaos from the night before. It 220 . Nothing like what I was expecting after what I’d been told. “Let’s get out of here. Marteeny won—and I refuse to let that happen. Everything was just as it had been before the attack. stopping near the front door for one last look around. this being the only place that actually had consecrated ground. It must be Julian—his men are trained well. She was surprised by the tidiness of the place. After the attack happened. as the caravan made a hasty retreat down the road toward the center of town. as she moved forward up the front steps. They pulled up in front of the church twenty minutes later. She made a quick trip between the two bedrooms. “There’s no sign of anything.

and two end tables. Addie.” was Kate’s only reply and Addie gave her a worried look. The basement of the church was used as a hall for wedding receptions and other functions. I have a lot of parishioners who feel it’s their duty to keep me well fed. “Hmmm. holding a large. I’ll be back in a minute with those blankets. so I don’t let on that I’m actually a pretty fair cook. Addie. soft blankets.” Rick chose that precise moment to come back with an armful of thick. as well. “I know. she hadn’t realized how hungry she actually was. after making sure Kate was comfortable. I need to know. as well as a pair of working lamps. Kate sat on an old cushioned chair. He helped Addie make up both cots and then. but nothing concrete. with two guards in tow.” she said. Addie. while Addie rearranged some of the items in the room to make it more comfortable. Rick and Addie entered a large room. Addie soon turned around triumphantly. There’s a bathroom down the hallway that should suit your needs perfectly. “Thanks again. thus food. “then I’ll have the caretaker remove some things. “If you’re thinking its homemade wedding soup. and I’ll tell you everything—as soon as you’ve eaten and rested a while. If it looks like your stay will be longer than expected. so Kate can get some rest. Head buried deep inside the refrigerator. Rick. Kate.” he told them. It’s the least I can do—for both of you. “Just like home. so occasionally they bring me some of my favorite dishes. Rick. You have to tell me. “You don’t have to thank me. “Are you all right. which Rick opened up for the women to use. and it boasted a full kitchen. looking closely at Addie. When had she last eaten? She tried to remember. Descending a staircase near the rear of the building.” Addie told him. Is this what I think it is?” Her mouth was already watering. then yes. We can warm that and have a few sandwiches. it’s just … all so strange.” Kate told her. as she anticipated the treat to come. as she started 221 . round container in her hands.” he said. “Oh. When we were at the house. Kate? Do you need anything?” “I’m fine. one outside the door of the small room to stay near Kate. “I’ll find some linens and blankets for you to use. I hate to disappoint them. the others in various positions around the building. The other men also took up their positions. they both left.” she said to Kate with a smile. How would that be?” “I can’t think of anything better. so you two will have a livable apartment. She found the couch that matched the chair.The Vampire’s Lady had become a place to store miscellaneous items and just happened to contain two small cots. to go in search of food. I kept getting flashes of what had happened.

I would’ve been angry if you hadn’t called me.J. he continued. I’m sorry I had to get you mixed up in all of this. why not vampires? But I’ve never had to deal with anything like this. Addie. and pass them around to everyone. Addie paused for a moment to look at the man across from her. I just … I didn’t know what else to do. We have plenty of holy water and Communion wafers.D. I have to be honest with you. I don’t know that much about these creatures we’re dealing with. “But I’m hoping that if the monsters of legend are real then so are the weapons used against them. but coddling her was not going to help her. Do you think I made a mistake? Do you think we’ll be safe here at the church. He decided honesty was the best policy.” Then. Grab as many forks and knives as you can. Maybe Julian and his men are the only ones who can protect us from these things we’re dealing with. this isn’t 222 . I’ve never believed they actually existed. The next time we have to face these rejects from hell. they won’t catch us unprepared. Vampires—they’re supposed to be a myth.” “So you believe there will be a next time?” He tried to choose his words carefully. Addie. Rick was in the process of cutting an unusually large tomato. or should we have stayed at the mansion?” she asked him.” she smiled.” “I know. I couldn’t deal with it if something had happened to you. placing her hand gently over his. Maybe Thomas was right.” Looking at her. he reached for the knife he’d just placed on the table. I’m out of my element here. and. it scares me to death. As they worked at preparing a light supper. yes. he could see the fear she was trying hard to hide. “But. he sighed deeply. I’m the last person any of our vampire friends what to take into their confidence. What sort of hell had she gotten him involved in—and would any of them survive it? “Rick. I’m not sure what is actually happening here—and why it’s happening now. too. we can get started making more wooden stakes that I can bless. that’s something I know about.” “Don’t you dare apologize to me. “I’m a little out of the loop. as another idea struck him.” “I’m glad you weren’t there. With a smile of encouragement. Addie. Addie—I just don’t know. either. something that came to life in a Bram Stoker novel. But I suppose if they can actually exist. Marteeny lining the countertop with everything she could find in the refrigerator. Placing the knife he was using down on the table. Rick. from what I can gather from Thomas and a few others. We should be fine until Julian and the others get here tonight. after supper. Devils and demons. He didn’t want to add to her fears. “I have to tell you. When I think that you were both in so much danger. “Silver—Addie! We have an abundance of silver in this place! All the eating utensils are pure silver. and I wasn’t there to help—well.

a grin lighting up his handsome face. I didn’t question you then.” How does he do that? she thought to herself. After a moment’s hesitation. Addie. He wasn’t sure he liked the thought of the two of them together. to be more specific. There was no way to avoid it. Now. I do. Addie. if you choose to use them. She’d have to see him whether she liked it or not. but what could he do about it? “We’ve known each other a long time. in this case. before we all starve!” 223 .” he said with a smile. What we do with them after it’s all over—well. They’re strong weapons.” Taking her hand in his.” As he started to move forward. “Hopefully you won’t ever have to find out. she placed a hand gently on his arm. and I can read you like a book. because you haven’t told him anything—and he’s probably right about all of this. he replied. or. Julian. That and food. But. How could she have forgotten? He’d be coming here this evening. is not an evil being. Kissing her lightly on the cheek. strangely enough. and let’s go. Rick. “I don’t know what I’d do without you in my life. I think you believe it. but she had refused to listen—so she had no one but herself to blame for what had happened. he’s fighting to control the evil that took him against his will. and. I think I’m a pretty fair judge of people—or vampires. “I know you’re right. You’ll talk to me when you’re ready. he said. “Faith and prayer.” he said. I feel certain. We need to do what we can to help Julian and the others fight this evil. “I’ve also seen my share of evil. How does he always find a way to make me feel guilty? He has no idea what I’ve been through—what Julian did. I’m just so confused right now. Rick replied. Could she face him again after what had happened between them? “Rick. That’s what we need right now. she thought. do you trust Julian. Starving people make poor soldiers. “Yes. Something happened between you two at the mansion. ladle some soup into that bowl.” he told her. only this one was in her mind—and it had something to do with Julian. and we need to be prepared. “Let’s feed the masses. as he lifted the tray of sandwiches. angry at herself.” she told him. So. Another battle is coming. I really believe he’ll do all in his power to help us or die trying. deep down. After all. knowing what he is?” she asked. avoiding his eyes. I think we have no choice but to trust him. She was waging a battle of her own. Human nature is riddled with it.” Looking at her closely. too.The Vampire’s Lady over. Julian. we can think about that afterward. This place wasn’t that big—there was nowhere to hide from him. she thought. Of course he doesn’t. Addie. which is why we made a hasty retreat. he could tell she was upset. hadn’t she been the one to make the first move with Julian each time? He had tried to warn her.

” the guard replied. and he slammed the heavy door shut just as the old woman was about to enter. If anyone had been foolish enough to take a late-night walk on this particular evening. you’re a feisty one. She slowly climbed the steps to a door near the side of the apartment. and he’s well aware of this. filthy woman. “No one gets in here unless I have specific orders. one of the guards opened the door cautiously. They come for the leftover food from the kitchen. well. who was still trying to persuade the old woman to leave. he went in search of Rick. the full moon. They have nowhere else to go. his face only inches from that of the scowling caretaker. where she began a steady pounding. nodding toward the pathetic old woman. “It’s all right. I’ll take care of her.” the guard said firmly. High and Mighty thinks he can give orders around here. “What do you want. I take my orders from Father Ferrante. “If Mr. Tonight they’ll have to go to bed hungry.J. Then you can hear from his own lips why no strange visitors are allowed in here. he or she would have noticed the shadows moving among the buildings and avoiding any contact with the soft light streaming down from the street lamps. he motioned her inside. All was quiet— deathly quiet. Noticing more shadowy figures standing outside. One of the shadows began to take on the form of a ragged. So. Your priest is not in charge right now. old woman?” he asked in disgust. he told the guard. They would also have noticed those same shadows creeping ever closer to the church and soon surrounding the entire perimeter of the building. “They’re just hungry—the poor of this community.” He spoke firmly. I’ll go get him for you. He trusted no one. I’ll give you that. “Humph!” the caretaker grunted when the guard was out of earshot. “No one gets in here tonight until I get the okay from my superiors. and we’ve always fed the poor. After some time. the sun had disappeared from the evening sky and had been replaced by another shining orb. As a matter of fact. Marteeny ***** Outside the church. enunciating each word clearly. “I can’t let you do that. young man. “Well. eyeing the disheveled woman suspiciously.” And. he’s got another think comin’!” he mumbled to himself as he proceeded to open the 224 . “But it’s obvious you haven’t spoken to the good father today.D.” “I don’t know who you get your orders from. but they have nothing to do with me. turning to the woman. who looked near death from lack of food. I will say this just one—more—time.” the guard said.” the church caretaker said as he walked up behind the man.” the caretaker said stubbornly. old man. Turning quickly.

Yes. frightened by the pained look on her friend’s face. What are you going to do?” “I don’t know. “You’re not joking—are you! You’re really serious—we were attacked by vampires? Oh my God! But. You’ve always been welcome in God’s house. that should’ve been the first thing we told you. But she was definitely improving. Come on in then. and that ain’t gonna change now. Her friend looked so much better. I’m just so … confused. “Oh no. Anyway. 225 . I’m so sorry. as he was attacked from behind. “Vampires! You’re kidding. I’m sorry. to the kitchen. she had even smiled at some silly joke Rick had told. the popular consensus is that Julian and his men are the good guys. now we know the reason. This was the reason for the haunted look in her eyes—but that would disappear. Right now. what’s wrong? Do you feel all right?” she asked. and it seems they’re our only hope of winning this little war that’s coming and—Kate. Addie was feeling very optimistic that they all might actually make it through this ordeal. in time. Well.” “Julian? Julian is a vam…?Oh Addie. really think about it—he scares me to death! But when I see him—when I’m alone with him. I’ll give you some broth. Monsters biting my neck aren’t the least bit fun—” She stopped her ranting when she saw the look that passed between her two friends. you know. right? You’re just telling some silly joke to try and make me laugh. “Thomas?” The one word was all Kate could manage. if that’s true. There was still the circular scar on her neck where the Communion wafer had seared the two puncture wounds. and then you can be on your way before our uptight friend has a coron—” But the words died in his throat before his scream of terror had a chance to escape his lips. it’s a totally different situation. I really hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. “Well. it’s not working. “Well. don’t tell me—” “Do you remember how weird I thought it was that Julian never seemed to be around during the day?” Kate shook her head slowly. the old Kate was back—almost. He can seem so … human and he makes me feel …” She stopped when she saw the look on Rick’s face.The Vampire’s Lady door one more time. Kate. how did Julian and his men defeat them?” This time the look that Addie gave Rick really disturbed Kate. That would probably be a permanent reminder. When I think about what he is—I mean. “Oh. Rick and Addie had chosen their words carefully as they explained to Kate all that had happened the night before—especially to her. ***** Watching Kate finish her supper and noticing the color coming back to her cheeks. sharp teeth sinking into his shriveled neck. all of you.

Don’t worry about hurting me—squeeze it as hard as you can. It’ll all work out. a little surprised by the strength of her embrace.” Kate was strong and a fighter. “I’ve no doubt you’d do the same for us if our positions were reversed.” he said as he moved to take the tray of dirty dishes from Addie’s hands. not wanting to spook her 226 . A thought suddenly occurred to Rick. Addie knew she’d be back to normal in no time. Right now. everything’s still fresh in your mind. when she heard one of the guards answer it. “Michael and Thomas said we should be prepared. right? Don’t worry. honey. You really need to rest now. Rick leaned down to give her a hug before leaving the room. “Whoa!” he said. “And I can’t seem to stop the nightmares—every time I shut my eyes they start. Looking at Kate. “Take my hand.” “I was a little hungry. and he seems very loyal. She fell silent when the phone in the hall began to ring. Thomas has been with them for a long time. not knowing what the evening had in store for them. She had to admit she felt almost human again after a hot shower and change of clothes. Kate and Rick also had silver accessories adorning their clothing. and give it a good squeeze. while she went to clean up. as well. “Well. “They’ll stop in time. which is the main reason we have to trust the others. She took a deep breath. Kate. Thanks for the great supper.” Rick told her. She’d slid the small dagger Michael had given her inside the soft leather of the calf-high boots she’d pulled on over her jeans. and he placed the tray down on the bed. Kate. “Have you been working out?” “What d’ya mean?” Kate asked in confusion. A silver kitchen knife was hidden in the other boot. Kate. hoping to ease the nervous feeling that had suddenly risen in the pit of her stomach. “I’m glad to see your appetite’s returned.” Kate started to say.” “But why?” “Just humor me. so they can’t be all bad. Balancing the tray in one hand.” Addie told her.” Addie said as she removed the tray of empty dishes from the bed.” Rick said as he gave Addie a serious look. Both of them were dying to know who the phone call was from. Kate. we’d better get these things back to the kitchen. We just have to get through the next few days—and you have to get well. Hopefully you guys won’t have to wait on me too much longer. “But I’m not tired. okay?” he said with a smile.D. Addie left Kate in Rick’s capable hands. Marteeny Thomas is all right—he’s as human as you and me.J. but they didn’t want to upset Kate.” “You know we don’t mind taking care of you. he said.” she responded wearily. She just wished they had some idea of what was going to happen next. She’d decided to dress practically.

Are you all right? I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’m fine. there was no mistaking the look of pain on his face—or the look of horror on Kate’s. okay. very interesting. how were they supposed to protect them from anything? “Well. But that was very interesting. I thought we’d move to the actual church itself just before dusk which should be … right about now. shaking it slightly to get the circulation going again. But you actually seem to be in better health than you were before you were attacked. Think. “Okay.” “Oh my God—it’s the bite—the vampire bite. just as confused as her friend. Kate.” “But Rick.The Vampire’s Lady any more than she already was. Rick said. that’s quite enough.” “You don’t mean—what else have I ‘inherited’ from those things? Am I going to start craving blood next? I thought Julian said they killed all the infection. and neither can most of his men. Geez. if not more. She must have retained some of the characteristics that they possess—like their strength. We’ll discuss it with Julian when he arrives. I’m so—” “Kate.” Addie couldn’t disguise the concern in her voice.” Addie spoke softly. Kate. but it was still daylight when we arrived. I should have listened to him. Thomas tried to warn me. I would have expected anyone who’d just gone through what you did. It’s all right. After only a few seconds. Anyway. They can’t enter onto hallowed ground any more than those things that attacked us. I’m wide awake after my rest. Am I going to be normal?” Kate’s voice started to rise in panic. as both of them turned to stare at her. Addie. honey. in the hospital.” he said. I didn’t realize what time it was. Taking the hand before her. actually. to spend a few days. you’re going to be fine. almost to herself. “Shhh. only now they’re more enhanced. I’m thinking you’ve just retained some of their … abilities. “Oh my God. then he can’t come in here. and survived. we’d better get going.” “Yes. Kate. all right? Don’t worry. gently grabbing her by the shoulders. Kate grasped it in what she thought was a firm handshake.” As he pulled his hand free. If Julian and his men couldn’t enter the church. “That thing must have passed some of its power to Kate. Rick! I’m so sorry. “It’s okay. strange is a better word. technically. and you both needed food and rest. I guess I should’ve said something to you. and I feel almost energized—like I could take on the world. to answer your question. the only part of the building that’s actually blessed is the church itself. the ones you actually had as a human being. and Rick took her in his arms. how do you really feel—after everything you’ve been through? “I feel fine—great. I asked Michael about Julian and 227 . Addie watched their interaction. No. how can we talk to Julian? If he’s a vampire.

fighting hard not to let Kate see how terrified she actually was.” Addie said.” he shouted. She could hear more shouting—and gunshots—outside the church. I’ll never let one of those things touch me again!” “That’s my girl. Kate.” Rick felt he had to add. Addie could hear shouting and sounds of a scuffle. “Oh. that he’d take care of it. “Kate! Kate!” Addie screamed as she saw the panic on her friend’s face. Kate—can you do that for all of us? Kate—do you hear me!” Kate continued to stare straight ahead for a long moment. Kate’s face went white with terror as another bloodcurdling scream pierced the air. He said it wouldn’t be a problem. so it should do some damage. staring into the woman’s fear-glazed eyes. It sounded as if they were surrounded. as the guards posted outside fought to keep someone. I have to tell you. Grabbing Kate by the shoulders. “Addie. If the sight of it doesn’t stop them. We’re all in this together. Where was Julian? 228 . We won’t make it easy for them!” she said as shoved the makeshift weapon into Kate’s hands. I’m sure it’s blessed. The noise continued to grow louder—only now they could hear screams as well. “Don’t give in to the fear. She looked around to see what else she could use as a weapon.” Out of the corner of her eye. take this.J. He also said that as long as Julian and his men came with him and were invited by me. but then the glazed look in her eyes slowly began to disappear. or something. He emerged with a large crucifix—a silver crucifix—in his hands. The three of them stared at each other. Can you do that.D. for some reason. Addie spun around to face Kate. Do you understand what I’m saying? We’re going to have to fight. I’ll use it all right. Marteeny the others coming here when I had a chance to speak with him alone for a few minutes. He also said all would be made clear in time. he’s a strange one—loves to talk in riddles. “Hold this close. Kate! Julian will be here soon. “Use it any way you can!” Catching the cross with both hands. It was only a matter of time before whoever—or whatever—was out there came crashing into the room! Suddenly Addie and Rick sprang into action. “It’s just us three now. frozen in time. Suddenly they heard a loud commotion coming from the hallway outside their room. they could enter here. Kate. I believed him. honey. from entering the room. she shook her gently. and. but we have to hold them off until then. Addie saw the fear change to anger as Kate turned toward her and took the cross from her outstretched hands. she could see Rick opening a closet door at the far end of the room. tossing the shiny object across to her. as they realized the guard had lost the battle. Addie. and a look of fierce determination came over her face. then use it as a weapon. as if someone was in great pain. “Help is coming.” she said as she ran to the bed.

as she realized the creature was sucking the blood from the body—just like with Kate. as they moved forward looking for more victims. Memories of the attack at the cottage came flooding back. Then. a decidedly strange sound.—at least she thought that’s what they were—except these wolves stood on two legs and walked like humans! They moved forward. Addie’s eyes were drawn to the source of that awful sound. pieces of skin and human gore were plastered to the long. “Oh my God!” she uttered in horror. “Throw it directly at them.” An old wooden chair sat by itself in the far corner of the room. if nothing else. sensing movement. Taking a deep breath. three smaller vampires emerging from behind them. she gripped the stake in her hand even tighter. unbelievably. catch. No. the thing that made her stand frozen in fear. At first she was confused as to what it was. where the bulk of the beasts had hidden them completely. matted black fur which covered the entire bodies of the two enormous creatures. Addie. lying in a pool of blood. Blood dripped from mouths full of razor-sharp teeth. Rick and Kate need you.” she told herself. Her eyes were riveted to the opening where the door used to be. It shattered into a dozen splintered pieces. a silent message passing between them as they all turned to face the door—just as something came smashing through it! Addie vaguely remembered the two weapons hidden inside her boots. but before Addie could reach it. until she realized it must contain holy water. Wolves.The Vampire’s Lady “Addie. Nausea threatened to overtake her. while Rick grabbed the remaining two. Pieces of their bodies seemed to be strewn about everywhere. Rick had already grabbed it and smashed it hard against the marble floor. a sound broke through her terror-filled mind. that wasn’t the worst of it.” Rick shouted as he threw a large plastic bottle toward her. her eyes 229 . It should at least slow them down a little. but she decided to leave them as a last defense. as she fought for control. Looking past the creatures preparing to surround her. As the vampires fanned out on either side of the man-beasts. but. As Addie watched their approach. leaving four wooden stakes that had been the legs. What was that noise? she found herself wondering. “Get a grip. she saw a vampire leaning over the still form of the church caretaker. growling as they entered the room. or what was left of them. Addie joined him back at Kate’s bedside. Scooping up a stake in each hand. She saw the two guards. The three friends looked intently at each other. These monsters had left a path of destruction in the hallway behind them. and the other towered at least a foot above it! And she’d thought vampires were the only things they had to worry about. One was at least seven feet tall. and she focused on the scene before her. unable to move—unable to even breathe—were the two huge creatures standing just inside the shattered doorway.

trying not to alert the creature above her. exaggerated features. as the hideous creature before her hesitated and then screamed in fury. “Finish her. The sight of it was enough to freeze the blood in her veins. as they moved forward with purpose. But its approach came to an abrupt halt as it caught sight of the silver cross gleaming brightly in her hands. But these weren’t the eyes of an animal—these were the eyes of … a human. she thought as she stared into eyes almost identical to her own: soft brown surrounded by white. she heard Rick shout. a mass of bloody pulp. Cowering. But that wasn’t what filled her with terror. Slowly she bent down. “Kate. Easing her hand out. Realizing what they were up against. spinning on its heels to face Adrianna instead. “We’ll handle this one. setting one of the stakes onto the ground next to her. 230 . and that could mean only one thing—werewolf! She knew the stakes in her hand would be useless against this kind of monster. hitting it with such force she could hear the bones splinter as the head exploded in all directions from the impact. where she felt the kitchen knife that she’d placed there earlier. saliva dripping from its mouth as it floated in Kate’s direction. the vampire backed away. As she did.J. I need silver. Kate swung the cross with all her might. This is the one he wants!” The long. or even blood red. where she could grab it quickly if it turned out she did need it after all. Then she slowly slid her hand deep inside her right boot. It had a long snout and hideous. on the floor before her. hiding its eyes from the sacred image engraved upon the shining silver. she continued to beat what was left of the creature’s mutilated body until it lay. or brown. The creature’s eyes should have been totally black. except for the rolling growl deep in its throat. considering the other monsters they were dealing with.D. she pulled the weapon carefully out into the open. Kate stood upon the bed. One of the vampires turned and hissed loudly. No—it was the eyes. Toss me the cross!” He threw a wooden stake onto the bed beside the terrified woman before running toward Addie. unable to move or even think clearly. Marteeny were drawn back to the wolves. Like a woman gone mad. screaming. Kate jumped from the bed. “Noooo!” Running at the vampire in her path with speed born of terror. sniffing the air and catching the scent of their prey. holding her ground. Seconds later. clawed fingers were pointing straight at Addie. you cowardly fool!” the wolf in the lead shouted in a voice that sounded almost human. The taller of the two beasts towering above her was like something out of a B horror movie. It was a monster that looked like no wolf she’d ever seen before—except in her nightmares. as both man-beasts began moving slowly toward her.

She’d already flung herself at the animal’s back. the muscles in its powerful legs corded and bunched as it prepared to spring forward. one unlucky vampire making the fatal mistake of charging him head-on. vampire!” the man-beast screamed as he turned. The last thing she remembered was seeing Rick burning his attacker with holy water. “I guess I’ll have to forego the pleasure of ending the life of your friend. and that was all the edge Rick needed. Addie’s limp form slumped against the matted fur. as the massive form began to hiss and burn. “Oh God—Addie!” Rick screamed again. “Save her if you can. the smaller beast turned to face the priest. twitched a moment longer. He was lucky once. the wolf slowed. as she faced another winged creature. to face the half-crazed figure running toward him. the cross!” Rick shouted as he retrieved the stake from the bed and ran toward her. His hand snapped forward and grabbed the creature by 231 . “Addie. a stream of blood flowing down the black fur from the large wound in its back. as it slowly took a step backward. priest. while the other knocked the knife from her hand. as the larger wolf spun around in amazement. Then the blackness took her. with more help. just as it turned to face her. He ripped and tore his way through them. the silver knife held high in the air. Rage took over as he realized the creature’s sole purpose was to prevent him from reaching Adrianna. just as a vampire flew at his back. he ran forward. One clawed hand grabbed her by the shirt.” The foul breath nearly smothered Addie as the beast growled in her face. Clutching wildly at the silver shaft. which was entering from the large window across the room.The Vampire’s Lady it was enveloped in flames. At the sight of the cross. just as Julian. don’t!” but Rick’s warning was too late. Rick positioned himself behind the two wolves. They switched weapons in midair. With renewed courage. driving the shaft of the cross directly into the chest of the creature with all the force he could summon.” it screamed. and then went completely still. ready to strike. “no!” The angry shout came out in a roar. “Kate. and it caught her midair. Now the sound of shattering glass caused her to pivot wildly. so I’ll let them have the pleasure. entered the hallway. Catching his scent. weighing its options. pulling her against the solid wall of its massive chest. “Rick. the wounded creature fell to the ground. My followers need all the practice they can get. The howl of pain was earth-shattering. screaming her name. run!” Addie screamed as she charged the beast from behind. The wolf’s hordes fell upon Julian from every direction as he fought to reach her. It understood the danger the weapon posed. “You will die for this. As Kate prepared to face the winged threat. We’ll see if he can survive a second attack.

causing it to notice no pain as one of Julian’s vampires attacked. The vampire was almost upon him. Marteeny the throat as it flew at him. I will when I return. Hesitating a second longer. The wolf’s followers were slowing him down—he was going to be too late—again. he tossed Addie’s limp form into the arms of the waiting vampire. We must get her to Father at all costs!” The wolf turned slightly to see Julian fighting his way toward him— getting closer with every second. he jerked his arm. 232 . a loud swooshing sound caused the creature to turn quickly in the opposite direction. disappeared through the open window. the wolf turned to stare at Julian. He could swear the beast sneered at him just before it. biting the head in two and dropping the remaining body to the floor. His bloodshot eyes blazed their hatred at the being that was his only sibling. Hanokh hated to admit it. but the beast’s hordes were everywhere. Hatred burned deep in the heart of the werewolf. In horror. Just then. But a mere vampire was no match for the monster’s strength.D. Julian continued to fight his way down the hallway toward them. and the wolf picked it off like a small insect. driving sharp fangs into the tendons of the beast’s thick neck. “And let you take the credit for her capture? I don’t think so. “Give her to me!” came the command as the largest of the vampires appeared just outside the window … hovering … waiting. “Adrianna!” came his agonized scream. Julian saw Thomas fighting alongside Kate. He’s almost upon you. Fury and frustration filled Julian as he turned to face the charging creature. severing the head from the broken neck of the pitiful creature and leaving nothing but blood and burning ash in his wake. rushed him from behind. much smaller than the others. He saw the beast toss Adrianna’s still form through the window and then turn to look at him. “This was my doing. Reaching forward with his free hand.J. the man-beast felt a twinge of fear. Enoch! If you don’t tell our father. where it quickly disintegrated into a pile of ash. both their bodies covered in ash and blood. Hanokh. For one brief moment.” the vampire hissed as it turned and disappeared into the night sky. brother. but that blasted brother of his was right. although Julian’s men were making short work of them.” “Now is not the time for petty squabbles. he snapped the neck with the sheer force of his grip. my brother. too. For a brief moment. as he watched the destruction brought about by this one being. Another werewolf. Twisting his wrist sharply to the left. but they weren’t quick enough to help him reach Adrianna in time. Julian watched as the three figures disappeared into the night. saliva dripping from its bloodied mouth.” “If you return.

reality came flooding back to her. Julian scoured the room. knocking him to the ground. but he grabbed her wrists easily. placing a hand on Thomas’s shoulder. Thomas. As she stared at him. but victory would not be theirs this night.” she said through sobs as she struggled against his hold for a few seconds before wrapping her arms around him. You’re all right now. reducing it to a pile of dust. honey. It’s over now. Christoff and a few others were still battling the vampires that had remained outside the church. as he took her into his arms.” he said soothingly as he took the weapon from her hand. and then. The creature screamed in pain and fell to the floor in a mass of blood. Amazed. After a few moments. stake in hand. his eyes searching every inch of her body for telltale teeth marks. “Make sure she’s all right. Blood. Before the Avenger could withdraw his weapon. following the vampire who’d taken Adrianna. After assuring himself that Michael was fine. Thomas. Julian wasn’t worried about them. admiration for what the priest had done evident on his face. he forced his body to move and approached the couple before him. assuring himself the others were all right. Her eyes seemed glazed as she started to swing the stake toward the young man’s chest. “Kate. arching it downward with swift strokes until nothing remained of the attacking vampires but blood and ash. pulling a gleaming sword from a sheath attached to his belt. he said. He saw Kate standing on the bed. as his men fought feverishly to destroy the remaining creatures that had not fled through any opening they could find. covered in ash. I won’t let them touch me again. Within seconds Michael had thrown them off. he swung the blade high. and ash were everywhere. A look of understanding passed between them. he watched the priest hold a screeching vampire at bay with his cross while swinging his other arm out from behind his back and stabbing the creature deep in the heart. The remaining few of Dragone’s hordes who had managed to escape Julian’s men fled through the night. He continued to watch as Thomas ran to her.” he said. two vampires fell upon him. and the other man gave him 233 . “Remind me never to get on your bad side. They could handle themselves. priest. my girl.The Vampire’s Lady But before it could reach the waiting vampire. taking in the situation. The image in his mind of Adrianna being taken from him was almost more than he could bear. Rick just stared back in stunned silence. Michael ran up behind the beast and drove the silver-tipped spear into its back. Holding her close. the pain in his chest making it impossible to breathe. “You did great.” Julian said as he stared at Rick. it’s me. He took one last look around.” Julian watched the two figures as if paralyzed. “I didn’t let them touch me. smoke.

Knowing the Avenger would try to stop him when he realized what he had planned. Glancing around until he saw the figure he was seeking. Julian watched until Michael. Marteeny a slight nod. but. the vampire didn’t approach him. mouthed the words Michael knew were coming but didn’t want to hear: “I have to go. “no! Julian—wait!” Julian was gone through the open window. They have her. instead.J. turned to face him.D. 234 . soaring high into the night sky as the transformation took him. sensing he was needed. the sharp eyes of the eagle searching for any sign of the trail that would lead him to her.” Before Michael could scream his warning.

Where am I? she wondered. you don’t. That will come in due time. Disoriented. bringing that horrible face closer to hers as she stared into blood-red eyes. all right. he’ll come for you. “No.” Enoch whispered close to her ear. but huge claws grabbed at her.Chapter 19 Slowly she began to regain consciousness. “I must be dreaming. She thought she heard … was that flapping wings? Yes. his long tongue darting forward to lick the blood and sweat from her face. We need to be sure our old friend comes calling—and he’ll surely come for you. the wind lashing across her face as they flew high above the rough terrain. “I’ll kill myself first before I let the likes of you touch me!” she shouted. after I kill your lover—” “Never!” Addie screamed as she spat into those red eyes. memories filled with fighting and screaming—and the blood. I’m in the middle of one of those realistically vivid dreams. this could work out to my benefit. “Yes. So much blood! Heaving herself forward. he doesn’t appreciate blood fresh from the vein anymore. 235 . for now. pulling her back against its foul-smelling carcass. You’re such a tasty little thing. he wants you in one piece. I’ll just convince my father to let you be my reward. that has to be it. A quick glance downward revealed scattered rocks and hundreds of fallen dead tree branches strewn about in all directions. Pity.” it hissed at her. struggling desperately to break free. shaking her head to clear the fog from her mind. It’s a shame to waste you on the likes of him.” she told herself. she tried to throw herself from the grasp of the creature that held her. but. “Believe me. Still. I won’t have my life ended because you want to destroy yours. From what I hear. The stench of decaying flesh was causing the nausea to rise inside of her. she tried to focus. it was—and extremely large wings! But how could that be? Where was she? Suddenly everything came flooding back to her in a rush. you’ll be begging for death when my lord is through with you.

But she wouldn’t scream. He knew from experience that where there was one. as his nightmare came flooding back to haunt him. gnarled tree branches that should have been covered in green foliage but were now only blackened sticks grabbing at his hair and clothing. It looked like the remnants of an old church of some kind—a monastery. but he remained alert to every sound. Something told her she’d better have all her wits about her for what lay ahead. he thought as he pushed onward. until they came to stand before a massive door at the very end of a long. just when she thought she couldn’t stand one more second next to the foul-smelling carcass. and its thin. If this was the hand that fate had dealt him. It landed with a thump in a small clearing a few minutes later. and then. She wondered what new horrors awaited her. as he pulled her inside an opening that once had been the front entrance. there were sure to be more. dark hallway. and how will Julian ever find me? “Come on! We don’t have time to waste. The darkness was suffocating. They flew along for another thirty minutes. Cautiously moving around an old oak tree.D. Scanning 236 . stood crumbling before her as she gazed at the structure. as she fought desperately to stay conscious. The fear she felt nearly choked her. A dark form loomed before her. Marteeny The creature shook the spittle from its eyes.J. she wondered. almost nonexistent lips pulled back to show razor-sharp teeth ready to tear into her soft throat. every slight movement around him. Where the hell am I. “Try that again and I’ll save you the trouble!” The claws holding her squeezed a little tighter. as it hissed in hatred. the creature pitched downward to begin its descent. He wouldn’t be caught off-guard again. It also told her that whatever lay behind those doors was more terrifying than anything she would ever experience in her life—if she survived it! ***** Julian walked slowly up the steep incline. They moved so quickly she barely noticed her surroundings. then he was determined to end it differently this time. Déjà vu overwhelmed him. She could feel the blackness threatening to overtake her. Old stone walls. once strong and beautiful. He could just make out a figure crouched behind the trees ahead awaiting his approach. There was too much at stake. as she shook her head to clear her vision. digging into her arms and stomach.” said her captor as he grabbed her roughly by the arm and dragged her toward the ruin. his vampire senses screamed a warning as they were assailed by the stench of what could only be a rotting corpse. probably. His keen eyes searched the area around him. Once inside. she wouldn’t give the son of a bitch the satisfaction. she was aware of climbing many steps. This can’t be happening—not again.

With weapons in hand. But nothing else approached him. Vampires were waiting in ambush—just like before. only to reappear inside what had once been the grand foyer. The body then disintegrated into a pile of ash. as his senses remained alert for any movement in the shadows. he found one. he noticed 237 . As he started to move forward. covering every inch of ground in front of him.The Vampire’s Lady the scene in front of him. Julian grabbed the skull-like head. shining down through the mist. Turning sharply to the right. leather duster. as the stone ruin rose before him into the night sky. Julian fell to his knees as the remaining vampire rushed at him. too. ripping and tearing. he stepped forward. Reaching inside the long. inhaling the stench of years of decay. he pulled out the silver dagger Michael had given him. winding staircase in different stages of disrepair stood before him. He stopped suddenly when the woods came to an abrupt end. To his left was a set of beautifully ornate double doors. coming up silently behind the vampire crouching beside the boulder. It beckoned him to enter if he dared. making him even more cautious. Cautiously he continued to move deeper into the woods. beckoning him to follow its worn path to the rooms above. With inhuman speed. this vampire. Quickly jumping to his feet. It was what they wanted. Julian cut a path through the decaying woods. the next he’d disappeared. eyes peering into the darkness. you really need to come up with a new game plan. with a scream of pain. he pulled out another stake. illuminated the decaying building. as his arms flexed. “Dragone. Pulling a wooden stake from inside his coat. and he found himself standing before a small clearing. but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. disappeared in a cloud of dust. and then. which he assumed led to a dining hall or something of that sort. but he wouldn’t be caught unprepared this time. his hand protruding through the back of the mutilated body before. Bones cracked and blood spurted out in all directions. another figure was hiding behind a large boulder directly across from the first creature. The evening air brought faint whispers to his ears. as he breathed deeply. The moon. One second he had been staring at the old building. A long. you son of a bitch!” Julian muttered to himself. Hearing a sound behind him. feeling a small bulge in the same pocket. his desperation to reach Adrianna the only thought in his mind. Julian searched the surrounding area but could get no sense of anyone or anything else. as the head came off with the sheer force of the twist. They knew he was coming. blackness surrounding him. He was sure there was some sort of trap awaiting him up ahead. The massive front door lay on the ground some distance from the opening that led into a large foyer. Julian drove it all the way through the oncoming chest.

He would rather die himself than let that happen again! His mind made up. There were at least six vampires. Julian quickly followed. but he also knew that every second he waited brought her closer to a fate he was determined to prevent. He stood in silence. but. There were at least six doors on either side. He was bleeding from a multitude of wounds. and it became another pile of foulsmelling ash. Another one attacked him from behind. a dark shadow—at least twice his size—bore down upon him. silently. slicing the already decaying body in half. as everything went black. regardless of the danger. when. he saw the third vampire running up the huge staircase. and scratching as they attacked! But as quickly as they reached him he took them down. Taking the steps two at a time. 238 . Behind it. He’d made sure he’d fed well tonight. the silver knife gleaming red as blood flowed freely before flames and ash covered the floor. Adrianna needed him—and this was the way he had to go. The room began spinning. the more they kept coming. eyes closed as he concentrated. Crouching low. he struck the creature directly in the eye. he knew most of the rooms weren’t empty. as Julian grew weaker from loss of blood.J. and soon exhaustion overtook him. Turning to the left.D. as it exploded into a cloud of ash. planning his next move. hissing. It seemed as if he’d been fighting forever. its claws ramming into his chest. dagger-like claws ready to strike. as three figures rushed him. the vampire fell backward. Julian slashed the silver blade across the midsection of the vampire closest to him. No. Spinning around. he stood staring down a darkened hallway. Suddenly. giving Julian the opening he needed to plunge the stake into its chest. For the first time he was assailed by doubt. He should have waited for Michael and the others. The last thing he remembered was Michael’s face staring in horror. He could feel them lurking in the darkness. he would find what he was looking for—and more. Lunging forward. and he thought. he began to move cautiously forward—slowly. His mind screamed a warning—Caution! Go back! But he knew that was no longer an option. But the more he killed. but the fight at the church. and now this. for waiting at the very end of the hallway was the largest door of all. without warning. Screaming in pain. he reached the top of the stairs in a matter of seconds. only to find the creature had already disappeared. Marteeny movement to his right. two of the doors splintered open and they fell upon him. had slowly depleted his energy. Adrianna would have a better chance of surviving if he had. Swinging the blade up hard over his left shoulder. I should have waited. he was certain. snapping as it tried to tear at his neck. flying at him. He could feel his strength waning. which brought brown liquid spurting down his back. hidden deep in shadow.

I will remind you—I don’t take orders from you! I—” Christoff began. The Dark Vampire was moving forward with purpose. but Michael cut him off. but he was reluctant to leave the others if they still needed him.” Michael. He still couldn’t believe that Julian had let his emotions rule his head—again! He’d watched in horror and frustration as Julian disappeared through the window into the night sky. had brought about. “Are Dragone’s hordes contained?” Michael asked. yes. Thinking with his heart instead of his head will not save her—or himself!” Turning quickly. the other vampire’s lifeless heart clutched in his hand. Spinning around. 239 . among other things. warrior! There’s no time to waste if you wish to save the life of your friend. “The scum are all dead or fleeing. “Now is not the time to assert your dominance. “The fool!” he’d shouted to no one in particular.The Vampire’s Lady ***** The Avenger stood staring at the window.” “Again. The attacking creature didn’t even have the time to realize the mistake it had made in confronting the warrior. “Christoff !” the Avenger called to him. “Gather your men. and Julian’s gone after her—alone. but we’ll not be following Dragone’s men. Christoff pulled back his arm. When the smoke had cleared. “I will gather some men and follow the cowards. Dragone’s foul offspring have taken Adrianna. the Avenger surveyed the situation. His ice blue eyes quickly picked out Christoff ’s tall form. when a shadow entered his line of vision. The Dark Vampire immediately appeared in front of him. “He knows what will happen if he goes alone. We must get to them before it’s too late. shaking his head. He knew Julian better than anyone. Christoff merely brushed the ash from the front of his black leather vest and turned back to see Michael still waiting for him. No one needed to tell him what was at stake. He’d seen what it had done to his friend when he’d failed to save the woman he loved the first time. filled Christoff in on what had happened to Julian and Adrianna. his clawed fist slammed into the rotting chest now directly in front of him. Dragone. He wanted to follow Julian.” Christoff informed him. He’d been there with Julian all those many years ago and seen the destruction that son of a bitch. impatient to be on his way. his clothing splattered with blood. as the figure before him burst into flames. gliding down the hallway toward the room. his movements so quick he was nothing but a blur to the naked eye. I’m sure we’ll come across them again where we are going.” “Shit!” the midnight eyes bled to red as anger consumed Christoff. stranger. the darkness of the night sky the only thing that met his ice blue stare.

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and he knew he would do whatever it took this time to save Adrianna— including sacrificing himself. To the Dark Vampire, that was not acceptable. Nothing but the safe return of both of them—and the utter destruction of their enemy—would satisfy him. Turning around, red eyes glowing in fury, Christoff searched the room for his men, signaling to Simon and Andrew to join him. When they saw the look on his face, they gathered the others around them, and soon there was a small army surrounding the Dark Vampire and the Avenger. “Julian and Adrianna are gone—” Michael started to tell them. The room erupted, as everyone began shouting questions at once. “Quiet!” That one word from Christoff quieted them all in an instant, so Michael could continue. “I don’t have to tell any of you what we’ll be facing when we find them,” he told them. “You all know what Dragone is capable of. I wish there was more time to prepare, but if Julian and Adrianna are to have any chance at all of surviving, we must get there with all speed.” Michael looked at all the faces before continuing, “We’ve destroyed a good number of Dragone’s hordes, which will make things easier for us. Unfortunately, the two creatures most important to that evil being have escaped: his sons, Enoch and Hanokh. If we can manage to take them down, Dragone’s forces will surely be crippled, but this will be no easy task. His sons—one werewolf, one vampire—are almost as vile and demented as the creature that sired them. So stay sharp, stay focused, and take nothing for granted. We don’t need any heroes,” Michael said, looking directly at Christoff. “So no one goes in alone. Christoff, how many of our men were lost?” “We lost Brian and James. The priest,” he said as he motioned toward Rick kneeling over a body of one of the soldiers, “is doing what priests do for the dead. I suppose that’s a good thing, in his eyes—and probably theirs, since they were only human. But they fought bravely. Adam was torn up pretty badly. He needs to feed and rest, but he will heal. Some of the others are injured, but nothing that will keep them from the fight.” As he talked, Christoff was unaware of movement on the floor, unaware of the four-legged beast, presumed dead only moments earlier, now rising to its full height directly behind him, talons of steel ready to bury themselves deep into the warrior’s back. Whizzzz! A sound was heard as a flash of silver flew through the air, missing the Dark Vampire’s stunned face by a fraction of an inch and burying itself deep within the skull of the attacking beast. Screaming in agony, the man-wolf fell to the ground and then was motionless. This time there would be no recovery for the beast, no chance of rising again. Michael stared at Christoff in stunned silence for a moment before

The Vampire’s Lady

reaching forward to retrieve the silver knife from the head of the dead beast. It was the same knife that, only moments ago, had been knocked from Addie’s hand and slid across the floor, coming to a stop before the bed—where Thomas stood with Kate. The look of surprise on Michael’s face was matched only by the astonishment on Christoff ’s as he spun around to stare at the lifeless form on the floor behind him. “Well, done, Thomas,” Michael said in admiration. “Thanks,” the young man replied, but his eyes were on Christoff, as the vampire slowly turned back to face the man who’d just saved his life. No words were needed, as the two stared at each other for a long moment and then, in one fluid motion, the Dark Vampire bent forward into a deep bow. Rising slowly, a slight smile appearing on his handsome face, Christoff spoke in a quiet voice, “It pains me to admit this—especially to you, human— but I may have been wrong about you. You actually do have a set of balls, and they are obviously made of steel! I am in your debt.” “It would seem so, my inhuman friend. Who’d have ever thought that would happen? Anyway, I couldn’t let anything happen to you, now could I? Someone has to ease the pain of the lovely ladies in this community, now that I’m no longer on the market,” he said as he wrapped an arm around Kate’s waist. “I guess they’ll have to make do with you. Do you think you’re up to the task, my night-stalking friend?” he asked, trying desperately to lighten the mood for just a short while, as he noticed Kate trembling. The worst was yet to come and they were all extremely aware of that fact. “Don’t push your luck, huma—” “Enough; we have more important things to worry about,” Michael ordered. “Thomas,” he said in a softer voice, as he saw the man holding Kate in an attempt to calm her. She’d fought as bravely as anyone there, but now reality was setting in. Her friend was gone, and she was shaking violently. “Can you handle things at this end? We’ll leave a few to guard the area, but I feel certain they will not be returning here. They have what they came for,” he said, and Thomas saw the sorrow in his eyes. “We seem to have made a mess here—and we can’t leave the priest alone to cover our tracks,” Michael continued as he noticed Rick approaching from the back of the room. He looked as battle-worn as the rest of them. “Don’t worry about things here. We have it covered, right?” Thomas said, looking at Kate. Taking a deep breath, she nodded in agreement. “Just give me a minute— I’ll be fine.” Turning to Michael, she continued, “Just bring them back. Nothing else matters—do you understand, Michael? Bring her back to me—” her voice broke as a sob caught in her throat. Taking her in his arms, Thomas whispered, “It’ll be fine, Kate—it will

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all be fine. Michael and Christoff will see to it,” he said as he stared into the eyes of the vampire who had been his nemesis for so long. “They couldn’t be in better hands.” “Thank you for your trust,” Christoff nodded toward him. “Coming from you, human, it has great meaning.” “And don’t think I’ll let you forget it anytime soon,” Thomas said with a slight smile. “Come on, Kate, we have work to do, and then I’m taking you to get cleaned up.” “Humans,” Christoff muttered under his breath, a slight smile appearing on his otherwise dark countenance as he watched them walk away. He would never let Thomas know how much that little speech had affected him, because Christoff knew the young man meant what he’d said—he’d never let Christoff forget it. “All right!” Michael shouted, “Let’s go!” “Wait—I’m coming with you, Michael.” He heard the words as Rick came up behind him. “Rick, no!” Kate screamed, grabbing his arm in a futile attempt to hold him back, as he walked past her and Thomas. “You can’t go with them. Don’t leave me—we need you here. Please, Rick, don’t go. Please! I can’t lose you, too,” she cried, tears streaming down her face. Taking the anguished woman in his arms, Rick gave her a reassuring hug, wiping the tears gently from her cheek as he talked to her softly, “I have to do this, Kate. I … love her, too. I can’t stay here and wait, not knowing if she’s alive or dead,” and, turning to Michael, he repeated, “I’m going with you.” “Priest, you fought bravely tonight, but coming with us is not an option. You have no idea what a soulless creature you would be dealing with if I allowed you to come along. I cannot let a human, however brave, walk straight into hell!” Michael replied vehemently. Calmly Rick replied, “Save your breath, Michael, I’ve already been there, so nothing you say will change anything. I’m going with you. If you don’t take me, I’ll follow on my own, but, one way or another, I’ll be joining you. It’s not for Adrianna alone that I have to do this. This is my fight, too. I have to do what I can to fight this evil. After all, isn’t that what my profession is supposed to be about? I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t do all in my power to help you—and her—so I’m going with you. It’s not your choice. I know the odds, and I accept them. Besides, we have you,” he said, leaning closer to the man in front of him. “I know who you are,” he whispered softly. Brown eyes met ice blue ones, as the two stared at each other in a battle of wills. Michael seemed to look deep into the soul of the priest. He saw terror there, for the man had seen things in the past few hours that no human being

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should ever have to witness—but there was also a fierce determination, and he knew this man would do all he could to save his friend, despite the risk to himself. But did he want the priest’s death on his conscience? “If you know who I am, priest, then you must also know that it’s not in my power to save you if it’s not meant to be,” Michael said quietly, staring long and hard at the man before him. “That being said, have it your way. As you say, it is your choice.” And, looking deeply into the other man’s eyes, he continued, “May God protect you.” Looking around at the others, Michael said, “Do what you can to destroy what’s left of his army, but leave Dragone to me.” “No! The creature is mine to destroy,” Christoff shouted in protest, and the men behind him shouted in agreement. “You are brave, warrior, and I understand your need. But only I have the means to destroy him—and I’m not certain that even I can finish it at this point in time. You will need to concentrate on his sons. The bloodline must end—here and now. They are nearly as dangerous as he. All must be destroyed if we are to succeed this night.” Christoff nodded his acceptance of the plan. “Find Julian and the girl, free them if you can, and then get as far away as possible. Listen to me when I say, ‘do not look for me.’” Michael’s glance singled out the Dark Vampire. “This monster cannot harm me, but he will destroy you all if given half the chance, understood?” “You’re not invulnerable, stranger,” Christoff stated. “After all, you’re only human. You’ll need us to—” But the warrior stopped when he saw the look on Michael’s face. Something in the Avenger’s expression told Christoff not to pursue the matter further. “Have it your way then—let’s do this if we’re going to. We’re wasting time that Julian doesn’t have. I’ll take the priest.” And, lifting Rick in his arms as if he were only a small child, the warrior leaped through the window, as wings black as night replaced the leather covering his back. Rick’s eyes grew large with surprise, but he knew better than to say a word. Michael watched them all leave before he approached the window. He’d let them get a good head start—he knew he’d still beat them to their destination. He had only to think about the place, and he would be there. His only fear—would they be in time?


Chapter 20

Nothing but silence reached his ears. Eyes closed, Julian concentrated on his surroundings. The room was deathly quiet, yet he knew he was not alone. He could sense eyes watching him, as consciousness came flooding back to him. He was weak from loss of blood. His body ached from the many wounds covering it, which were slow to heal because of his weakened condition. He must feed, to regain full strength, or he would be useless to both of them. What have they done to her? he thought as he fought to control the panic rising within him. He knew she was near; he could feel her, hear her soft breathing. She was so still and very quiet, but she was alive. Of this he was certain. Slowly he opened his eyes, but he kept his head bowed so as not to alert the two who stood watch on either side of him. Then the sound of laughter reached his ears—slow, maniacal laughter—as he watched a long, dark shadow flow across the floor and come to a stop directly in front of him. “Our friend is awake, Father. Can I play with him a little more?” the hissing voice asked as sharp claws scratched a bloody trail down the side of Julian’s face. The clawed finger rose slowly to thin lips, as the pointed tongue darted forward to taste the blood dripping from its tip. “Ahhh, he is a tasty morsel; his blood is old and rich,” the voice hissed again. Slowly Julian raised his head, eyes blazing with hatred as he stared at the figure before him. “Enoch, I should have known. The room reeks of your foul stench!” he spat out. Adrianna heard the crack, and she watched Julian’s head snap back from the force of the blow as Enoch slammed his fist into the side of Julian’s face. “Julian!” he heard her scream. “Enough! We are not here for games, Enoch,” the voice boomed across

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the room as Julian, head hung down, tried to focus on the direction of the sound. “You’ll have plenty of time to play later, when we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do!” “Lift your head, if you have the strength, my friend,” the voice continued. “I know you have it in you—that will to survive, that last ounce of strength to draw on. I know you. My bloodline made you,” the voice taunted. “No,” came a soft whisper as Julian slowly raised his head again, this time to look directly at Adrianna. “No!” she said again as her eyes traveled from the man she loved to the monster beside her. She remembered Julian telling her that Dragone was his sire—but this monster, this foul being sitting beside her, couldn’t be the one who’d turned Julian all those years ago. Oh my God! she thought when she realized the truth. She was slumped in a chair, bruised and battered, her clothing torn to shreds—but she was alive. Relieve flooded through him, but still his eyes searched the slender column of her throat for the telltale signs. No marks—no blood. They haven’t tainted her, he thought as he slowly, thankfully, exhaled the breath he’d been holding. Anything else she could recover from. Sitting next to her, in a massive chair made of solid stone, was the one being he’d hoped never to see again in his long lifetime. He stared at the image that had been imbedded in his mind since that fateful night centuries ago: the massive skull, the limp, dangling hair, and those eyes—those red, blazing eyes. Hatred rose inside of Julian like a tidal wave, and he pulled at his bonds in a desperate effort to break free. “Dragone!” he cried in frustration. “No, no!” the creature mimicked Adrianna’s anguished cry of disbelief. “Julian, is it possible you haven’t told the lovely lady what you really are—and who was responsible for your … transformation?” Dragone hissed as he reached over to grab her arm. He jerked her closer to him, as she stared into those red eyes, refusing to show the terror she was feeling. “Has he not told you about your part in our little ‘family’ tale—how important you are to our handsome friend—and how I cannot allow you two to, how shall we say, form an attachment? Ah—I see by the look on your face he has told you, thus depriving me of the joy of telling you myself,” the voice droned on. Adrianna turned her head from him, fighting desperately to break free from his grasp. He roughly jerked the arm he held, bringing her even closer, his foul breath leaving her gasping for air, as he began stroking her hair, running claw-like nails down her cheek to the vein pulsing at the side of her neck. “This life’s blood running inside of you—you are aware of what it means to him—other than the obvious?” he smirked. “He’s not like you!” she cried. “He’s not the monster you are. He has a


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conscience—and if it’s within my power to turn him human again, I will!” she screamed angrily. The sharp claws of the monster lashed out, grabbing her by the throat. “Silence!” the creature screamed. “The only turning that will be done today will be done by me—and you can be sure no one will be human after that!” he raged. “Adrianna! Let her go, you bastard!” Julian shouted at his maker. Smack! The sound reverberated throughout the room, as another fist connected with his cheek. He absorbed the blow and then, with slow deliberation, turned back to stare directly into the eyes of his attacker. “I—will—kill—you!” came the slow, strained words as Julian stared at Enoch. Was that a flash of fear he saw for just a second in the other vampire’s eyes? Then Enoch sneered back at him, “Brave words coming from someone in your—present position.” “Enoch!” Dragone shouted at his eldest son, before turning back to Adrianna with a look of pure hatred. “He is exactly the monster I am. As a matter of fact, my dear, you have a little of that monster inside of you yourself,” he said, laughing at her gasp of shock. “You’re insane!” “You’re probably right about that—but it doesn’t change things. It was my daughter, you see, who turned your ancestor all those years ago. It was she who was responsible for the ‘special’ traits of the twins he sired afterward. And since you both now have that blood running through your veins, you are, in all actuality, exactly like, well, me. Our friend over there just has a different priority, that’s all. My wish is the preservation of a superior vampire race—made in my own image, of course—through the destruction of all that is human. Julian was once a part of that dream. Only the strongest and the best did I call to join me, and he was magnificent in his day, a true leader of men—and vampires. But he decided he didn’t like my … methods. Instead, he wanted to play savior to this weaker race, thus hoping to regain the humanity I took from him,” Dragone said in disgust as he turned to stare at Julian. Adrianna nearly fell from the chair as Dragone shoved her aside, rising to glide over to the imprisoned vampire. He leaned in close to whisper, “If I am condemned to an eternity of living hell, then so, my friend, shall you be. No, Julian, there will be no regaining of anyone’s humanity this day—or any other. I will destroy you both before I allow that to happen.” With iron claws clasping his chin, Julian was forced to look deep into those red eyes, as the force of that grasp drew blood from the deep indentations of the claws. “You can try,” Julian said through clenched teeth. “Julian, Julian,” Dragone went on in a voice sounding almost contrite.

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“Where did I go wrong with you?” Julian tried to draw his head back, as long, clawed fingers wiped the blood away, gently caressing his cheek. “We worked so well together at one time. You were an obedient child at first—every father’s dream. Why did you leave me?” “A lot of us disappoint our makers, Dragone. You should know.” Was that a look of pain I saw in those evil eyes? Julian wondered, but it was gone in a second. He continued, “And this world has no room for your kind of evil. You and your kind,” he said, his eyes burning with hatred as he stared at Enoch, “will die—if not by my hand, then by another!” The red eyes burned with anger, but Dragone quickly regained his composure. He held up his hand, stopping Enoch in midflight as he charged toward the shackled man. “Patience, my son. All in good time.” Turning quickly back to Adrianna, Dragone said, “Well, since your beloved seems to think our doom is imminent, my dear, I guess I’ll just have to hurry and dispose of you before he …” Dragone turned to look Julian straight in the eyes. “… can accomplish his threat.” He kept talking; as he walked slowly back to where Adrianna sat huddled in her chair. “Although, I’m not quite sure how he proposes to do that, seeing as he’s a bit—tied up at the moment. Unless, of course, he thinks his ‘Avenger’ will arrive in time to save the day. Oh, yes, my dear friend,” Dragone said as he noticed the expression on Julian’s face at the mention of Michael, “I know he’s here, and we will deal with him just as we will deal with the rest of you.” Panic filled Julian when, watching the scene before him, he saw Dragone approach Adrianna, while his monstrous son watched with eager anticipation. Twisting and turning, he struggled to loosen his bonds, trying to muster what strength he had left. “Yes, my dear, it seems I must now put an end to your miserable existence— unless,” he said as he pulled Adrianna close. She fought desperately as that horrid face came closer, the clawed fingers running through her hair, as he continued talking, almost to himself, as if he were thinking aloud: “You are immune to the kiss of a vampire of our line, but …” he said as his younger son, Hanokh, entered the room at that precise moment, in all his human glory, “… there are other options. My younger son does have a weakness for the appearance of the human body,” Dragone said, anger in his voice, as he watched Hanokh’s nude form walking toward him. “He parades around much too often in that disgusting form, when he can be—so much more. Now, my son, show her what true beauty really is.” “Yes, my lord,” Hanokh bowed, coming to stand before them, his smile filling Adrianna with sheer terror. As she watched in horror, the room went totally still. Some of the lesser vampires, who’d recently entered the room, began to inch slowly backward

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toward the door. Was that fear she saw on their hideous faces? What could they possibly be afraid of here among their own kind? she wondered, and terror filled her anew, as she looked again at the man before her. His beautiful brown eyes stared at her for a brief moment, until he began to crouch and bend as if in great pain. Now down on all fours, that perfect body, so handsome in human form, started to change before her startled eyes. The smooth skin of the muscular back was suddenly split in two, mounds of coarse black hair bursting through the gaping wound. The legs began to extend, sending the rippling body sprouting upward until it seemed it would touch the ceiling, bits of human flesh, torn and shredded, flying out in all directions. She continued to watch the transformation, speechless with terror, until the silence was broken by a howl so savage it shattered the soul! Something in her memory was triggered by that god-awful sound. The howling that night at the club—it was him! she thought in shock as her eyes traveled upward to stare in horror at the seven feet of raging fury which now stood before her. A deep growl came from the monster’s throat, and saliva dripped from the razor-sharp teeth. She fought to stay conscious, as Dragone inched closer to the beast, turning to look at Julian as he did so. “How would you feel about your lady, my friend, if she turned into this once a month?” Dragone asked, looking at his son. The beast caught the scent of fear—and blood—in the air; the red eyes scanned the room for prey. “No! You will not give her to him!” Enoch shouted, flying across the room. “If anyone deserves her, it is I. I am your firstborn!” he screamed as he flew at the beast, driving his own sharp talons deep into his brother’s chest. The beast screamed in pain, as, knocked off balance; it slammed headlong into the wall. “Enoch!” the room reverberated with the sound of Dragone’s cry, as both his sons turned to face him. “Enough of your petty bickering! I do apologize,” he said to no one in particular as he scanned the room. “It seems we are a little short on brotherly love in this family, but,” as he turned back to his sons, “we have more important concerns at the moment. We will just kill them both and end this all now. Come here, both of you, and do the job I made you for—or I will destroy you along with them!” “Dragone!” came a cry of such hatred as Julian tore one hand free of its bonds. Behind him a splintering crash shattered the huge wooden door barricading the room, smashing it into a million pieces. Enoch, wings extended as he turned toward the source of the sound, soared high into the air, only to land among the horde of creatures staring at the gaping hole before them. Anticipation grew to a fever pitch inside the vampire, as he watched the

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scene unfold before him. This was better than he’d ever imagined. The fools! he thought when he realized Julian’s men were coming for him. They actually think they can free the vampire and his whore—from Dragone! Well, such arrogance must be taught a lesson—a painful one. “Destroy them all! Leave no one alive!” Enoch shouted to the crouching figures surrounding him as his brother’s howl of fury pierced the night. The hordes’ fear of a moment ago was replaced by their bloodlust, as they sensed the battle to come. Turning toward the broken door, they charged forward in an attempt to head off the attackers. Julian seemed oblivious to what was happening behind him. His focus was on the two figures before him, “If you touch her, I will kill you!” he screamed at Dragone. “One way or another, I will destroy you and those demon seeds you call sons!” he said as he stumbled forward, still weak from lack of blood. Chaos erupted behind him, but he was aware of only one sound: laughter—slow and maniacal—from the figure before him. “You will never cease to amaze me, my friend,” Dragone said, looking at Julian with something like admiration before turning back to the woman before him. Julian watched in panic as the clawed hand grabbed Adrianna around the throat, pulling her forward, as she kicked and scratched, fighting desperately to break away. Shaking his head to clear his vision, Julian thought he was imagining things when he saw her small hand slide down her leg to reach inside the calf-high boot. Seconds later a tiny silver dagger glistened in the candlelight, as she swung her arm upward, and then, with all the strength she could muster, she drove the sharp blade deep into the neck of the creature holding her captive Screaming in pain, Dragone threw her across the floor, as he struggled to grasp the weapon. Blood flowed from the open wound, as he tore the blade free and tossed it to the floor. Spinning around, he hissed in fury, “It ends now!” Stretching his long arms skyward, the grotesque body began to grow, taller and taller, until it towered above them all, a monstrous being, black as night, with skin like leather and wings extending half the width of the room. Thin, cracked lips curled back over sharp teeth in a hiss of pain, as Dragone slowly turned his massive skull, noticing for the first time the gleaming red liquid streaming from the open wound and down his massive chest. Tiny droplets pooled into a pocket near the tip of the large wing. With a rush of wind, he raised the appendage high, and the blood dripped from the tip of the claw into his waiting mouth. When the flow of blood ceased, the red eyes of the monstrous creature surveyed the room before him. Chaos reigned everywhere, as Julian’s men, with Christoff in the lead, tore their way through broken bodies and burning ash to reach him.

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“Oh my God!” Addie gasped in horror as she tried to rise from the floor, head spinning from the force of the blow she’d received. She actually thought she was hallucinating when she heard—no, it couldn’t be—“Rick!” she screamed. “Abomination!” came the shout from across the room. The boney skull of the giant creature turned slowly toward the sound of the voice, its cruel laughter filling the room, half triumph, half pain. “You are a fool, priest! What do you think you can do? Your kind have no power over me,” the powerful voice reverberated throughout the room, and Addie could have sworn she felt the floor shake. Dragone saw Rick standing alone in the doorway, a large silver cross in one hand, a long, glistening sword in the other. “Your toys will not harm me!” In a flurry of wings, Dragone took to the air, saliva dripping from the sharp teeth in anticipation of the flesh they were about to tear into, the fresh blood they were about to taste, as he flew toward the priest. But before Dragone could reach the waiting figure, someone else suddenly appeared in the doorway—someone who had the power to strike fear into the black heart of the charging creature. It was Michael. He stood perfectly still, his long coat trailing to the floor, arms crossed over his chest, hands hidden underneath the coat’s lapels—watching and waiting. Dragone literally stopped midair as he saw the man with lights glistening like sunlight off his golden hair. Turning sharply, the black form climbed upward, landed on a window sill high above the room, and shouted to his two sons below, “Kill them all!” Hideous creatures of all shapes and sizes came storming into the room from panels hidden in the walls on either side. They slashed and tore in their attempt to stop the intruders. “Go to him,” Michael told Rick, and the priest ran to where Julian had fallen to his knees, and, with one swipe of the sword, slashed his remaining bonds. “Hurry, priest, or we’ll be too late,” Julian said in a voice barely above a whisper. Rick turned to see a vampire charging Addie from behind. Crawling forward on all fours, she reached the tiny dagger Dragone had thrown to the floor, and, flipping onto her back, she drove the blade into the creature’s chest as it fell upon her. Julian made a mad attempt to reach her, but he stumbled, falling to one knee. “You’re too weak,” Rick said. “You’ve lost too much blood.” After a moment’s hesitation, the priest continued, “What do you need?” “Blood,” whispered Julian. “I need blood. Find—Christoff —someone.” Rick, after one more glance at Addie, turned to face the fallen vampire. “You’re her only hope,” he said as he slowly extended his arm and, rolling up the sleeve, raised his wrist to Julian’s lips. “No! Not from you—I can’t let you do this. Find someone—”

If I could help her myself. His crouching form sprang forward and he grabbed the sword Rick had used to cut his bonds from where 251 . Julian noticed the brown eyes suddenly glaze over. “Just do what you have to. As Rick turned his head. he prepared to release the priest. She needs help. from Julian’s lips. he felt a sharp stab of pain as the vampire took his arm and bit down. Power coursed through every vein and artery.The Vampire’s Lady “There’s no time. he thought but. but we both know only you can save her.” came the words. which mere seconds ago had restored Julian’s own strength. beyond a shadow of a doubt. now spread in an ever-growing pool on the floor beside him. and he heard a scream of terror from somewhere in the room. and go to her. as Julian gazed upward at the hideous face of the vampire that was Enoch and then back downward to the clawed fist at the monster’s side. Adrianna. as blue eyes bled to black and then to blood red. Julian could feel his strength returning as Rick’s blood surged through him.” the priest told him. so don’t argue with me—just take what you need!” Rick ordered as he held his wrist out to Julian. Reaching the danger level. before he could search for her. the precious liquid healing all the wounds covering his body. Julian feared he might have taken too much blood from the priest’s wrist. as he gently passed Rick’s broken body to the woman kneeling before him. “Oh dear—did I interrupt your dinner?” Enoch hissed. her vision blurred through the veil of tears flowing freely now. still on hands and knees. He felt the beast in him taking over the man. when he felt a sudden jarring. barely able to disguise the pleasure he felt at such an act of cruelty. “No—not this. Julian raised his head to find Rick staring at him. Anger surged through Julian. a surprised look on his face and a thin trail of blood beginning to trickle from his mouth and down his chin. Julian reluctantly took the arm extended before him. “Rick—no!” the screams continued as the voice registered in Julian’s subconscious mind. Releasing the priest’s wrist. and she needs it now. as the body of the priest pitched forward into his arms. I would. but it was nothing compared to the large red stain covering Rick’s neck and back. swallowing the life-giving elixir. Large drops of the priest’s precious life’s blood. Reynolds. please. that the wounds inflicted by the other vampire were mortal. They were too deep—the blood flowed too quickly to be anything but. Everything moved in slow motion. It destroyed all rational thought. Julian knew. barely audible. falling to his knees. Cruel laughter echoed throughout the room. Addie scrambled forward. as Julian’s eyes focused on a spot directly above the priest’s head. the priest staggered forward. “You love her that much?” Julian asked.

as a clawed hand reached out and grabbed for him. Avenger. The look of blazing hatred on Christoff ’s face was its last image. Julian hit the ground and rolled. as Julian turned to face the man. felling the beast where it stood.” Dragone taunted as he flew high above the man. Julian ran toward his enemy. “It’s your turn now. “I know who you are. as they turned to face new attackers. you demon wolf! I’ve owed you this for some time now. Prepare to meet your fate. Dropping down on all fours. before it could move. he pulled his hands free from his coat to reveal a shimmering silver sword in one hand and a smaller weapon that Julian recognized as the shortened spear in the other hand. as it lay there in a crumpled heap upon the stone floor. Marteeny it lay on the floor. “Not today.” Michael spoke the words softly. finding its mark. “Enoch!” Dragone screamed. Then. hatred numbing his mind to everything except the task at hand. Muscles tensed as the beast prepared to strike. As he did. and neck.” Julian said as he drove the sword deep into the creature’s back. The black form lay motionless on the floor before bursting into flames. heart. Nearly upon the creature. Jumping to his feet. They nodded to each other. It missed him by mere inches. the wounded vampire screamed in pain. An agonized howl split the air.J.D. “Hanokh—my son!” came the enraged cry as Dragone soared into the air to circle the room.” the Dark Vampire muttered to himself as he lowered the crossbow to the floor. it sniffed the air. but with purpose. “Look at me!” Julian shouted. accursed one. Charging forward. as he raised the sword to strike the killing blow. and a foul-smelling black smoke filled the room. who watched his every move. but. advancing slowly into the room. “I told you earlier I would kill you. severing its winged arm at the shoulder. “Hanokh—avenge your brother!” Dragone ordered from his ledge high above the carnage. “Does He always send you to do His 252 . eyes burning red with their own hatred. Crashing to the ground. piercing the heart as it was shoved through the black chest to beat its last on the tip of the silver weapon. striking Dragone’s second born in the head. as the massive form jerked and convulsed before going completely still. Julian came up behind the giant form and swung with inhuman strength. The scent of blood drove both of them to near madness with bloodlust. and Enoch’s monstrous face twisted sideways.wolf. he met Enoch’s winged figure halfway as it flew at him. as the monstrous form of the black beast roared with anger. He turned to look at Julian. a whizzing sound split the air: zzzp—zzzp—zzzp—as three silver-tipped arrows found their mark.

trying to avert Michael’s attention from the huge gray man-wolf creeping up behind him.” Dragone continued talking. The beast fell to the ground with a resounding crash. Julian. He wanted nothing more than to take the priest away from this awful place. Suddenly sensing movement behind him. “Be careful. The creature howled in pain but continued to charge at the man before him.” Michael said.” Dragone spat at the man standing below him. With lightning-like speed.” “You have to catch me first. “Aargh!” the monster screamed as the silver burned through a membrane of his left wing causing him to crash into the far wall and slide in a heap to the ground. as he spread the wing wide. He hit the ground at a roll and then came up behind the creature. and.” he told her as he lifted the body of the priest effortlessly into his arms.” Addie said as she placed a gentle kiss on Rick’s forehead. Michael shouted. as she cradled Rick’s head in her lap. Dragone was forced to land on the window ledge high above the ground. diving at Michael with claws. “We can keep this up all night. The tear in his wing was throwing him off balance. Avenger. as Michael pulled the blade free. Turning back to face Dragone. We must be careful with him until we can get him to a doctor.The Vampire’s Lady dirty work?” he said. Regret filled Michael as he stared at the fallen man.” 253 . “Take the woman and the priest with you. the Avenger’s voice was filled with sorrow.” Julian nodded and reached forward to take Rick from Addie. but he still had a job to do. Dragone recovered. but I can make sure you are unable to inflict harm on anyone else until the weapon is found. lashing out to destroy his enemy. burying the blade all the way up to the golden hilt. But Michael was too fast even for Dragone. like blades of steel. but we have to go. drove the sword deep into the chest of the wolf as it rose to attack him. but. His last breath should not be in this place of evil. launching himself back into the air with muscled legs just as Michael reached the spot where he’d fallen. We both know you’re missing the one weapon that can destroy me. swinging the sword in a wide arc. He said. he turned to see the vampire kneeling by Adrianna’s side. Michael met the beast head-on. “That won’t be as hard as you might think. Avenger. Adrianna. he spun around with lightning speed and swung the silver sword in a wide arc before bringing the blade slashing down onto the beast’s shoulder. “I may not be able to destroy you. “Julian. you must get your men away from this room—now! But see that you let nothing else leave. “Julian!” Hearing no response. “Stay directly behind me—we have to move quickly. it began to heal before their eyes. with a plunging thrust. as well.” As he looked again at the two figures beside Julian. “I’ll take care of him.

as Michael had instructed. but I know Michael has something planned. “Simon!” he shouted. I don’t know how or why. trust me. with no effort at all. “Julian. Marteeny As they turned toward the door. Julian replied. “I think that’s the plan. We have to let him handle Dragone. mistakenly thinking Julian and his men were fleeing in retreat. he grabbed with both hands and. looking at Addie as he laid Rick’s unconscious form onto the floor. then we’ll have to step in. wedged into place by various pieces of furniture from the rooms. Now. and the small group fought their way to where Christoff stood. but … if he should somehow fail. the stench of fresh blood and burnt flesh filling the room. “Find Andrew and the others and follow us!” Simon found Andrew and a few others. as they finally backed through the opening. blond hair covered in soot and ash. Christoff. Julian—I agreed he could have Dragone. “Andrew—your help please!” Christoff shouted as he ran toward the open door of another room midway down the hall. but there are many of his horde still alive! They could interfere—and that bastard could escape once again!” “Christoff. only splintered bits of wood lay scattered across a floor running wet with blood and bits of torn flesh. ripped the door from its hinges. turned to stare at the Dark Vampire. Andrew did the same. “Christoff !” Julian shouted. we can’t leave until that demon bastard and his horde of vipers are destroyed!” Looking back at Michael.J. He was sent here for that purpose. The faces of the enemy had no time to even register surprise. Rick. “Leave a small opening—“I’ll be returning. Following the Dark Vampire’s lead.D. Forming a protective circle around Julian. The misguided fools attacked with renewed vigor. He then used it to block the opening they’d just come through. Reaching it. thus preventing Dragone’s creatures from coming after them. Christoff looked around the room. until three doors covered the gaping hole. as Julian’s men. under Christoff ’s lead. Dragone’s hordes. slashed and tore at everything that came at them. allowing Julian and Addie a clear path to get the wounded priest to safety. they battled their way to the jagged opening where the large door had once stood closing off the outside world to Dragone’s sanctuary. 254 . and Adrianna. of that I’m sure. See that our men get out quickly.” he said. The vampire. and still they came. Christoff came up from behind to grab Julian’s arm. as Christoff and the others fought off a fresh surge. Their eyes flashed red fire from their own bloodlust. Do what the Avenger says. but it’s not by our hands that his destruction will come about. spilling into the hallway outside the cavernous room.” Nodding in agreement.” “Damn it.

” he called. looking at the priest. I will do what you ask. if you want him here. but. We can turn him. turning back to Addie. I need you—we need you. If we’re going to do this. Then. As he leaned close. Adrianna. You were willing to do it for Kate.” “Julian. The Dark Vampire approached. “Adrianna. I don’t think it’s in my power to—” “Please. We can’t make it without you—please Julian! You’re his only hope—” the words caught in her throat. Please try to understand. she grabbed his arm urgently. I. This is my fight. but you’ll have to wait outside.” he said as he listened to his friend. or there’s something he doesn’t want to leave. 255 . I must go back.” Then. You can save him—you can turn him! He might not be human. leaning forward. so why not him?” Julian stared at her for a moment before coming to a decision.” Julian told her. Adrianna! Do you know what you’re asking—what you’re condemning him to?” “Yes. Julian!” she begged when she saw the look on the vampire’s face. the face a pale mask of death. am sure the priest would have an issue with that. you know what sort of life we’ll be condemning him to. not Michael’s. cradling the priest’s head in her lap. but.The Vampire’s Lady Addie fell to her knees. “You can’t be serious.” “I don’t care. “Julian. but—it’s against all he believes in. it’s not over back there. her hand looking small and pale against the dark material of Julian’s clothing. looking at the man in her arms. Once again Julian looked at the woman beside him. Taking her hand in his. As a vampire. “But we have to help Rick—you—have to help him.” “Then I’ll do what you ask. I can’t leave him to do this alone. then. “We’ve lost too many already—and I will not let them die in vain. “Christoff. he continued. “The choice is the same as with Kate. Julian. all he’s ever stood for. his humanity will be lost forever.” “Yes. “If we succeed in saving him. “Adrianna. Rick needs to get to a doctor. Adrianna. he said. I can’t lose him. He may never forgive us. no. I have some control over what he becomes. “He was mortally wounded by that demon. Julian. he was just able to make out a faint heartbeat.” he said as he stared into her tear-filled eyes. but he’ll be here—please. the quiet pounding getting slower by the second. I can’t—” he began. I know. kneeling down beside him. please—just do it. as the tears flowed down her cheeks. “There’s still a faint heartbeat—the priest is a fighter. I do—but if that’s what it takes to keep him with us.” Christoff said quietly. myself. “He’s gravely wounded. please don’t go back in there. we really have to hurry.” she said looking directly into those gray-blue eyes.” he said as he continued to look at Addie. but.

so listen closely to what I’m telling you.” Hesitating only a moment.J. “I love you. With one last look. I’m staying right here. as well as the gaping wound. But as he looked at the man lying near death. reaching out his hand to Adrianna. causing him to pause midstride. She felt Julian’s hand on her shoulder. Rick!” But she knew it was already too late. “Take her outside until I can join you. Andrew!” Julian shouted. coming closer. he gently took her hand and raised it to his lips. Julian gave her one last look before taking Rick from her arms to lay him gently on the floor.” The next moment he was gone.” Addie.” Andrew nodded in agreement. made it hard for Julian’s men to concentrate. Save your strength. tried to comfort him. Leaning forward. too. she turned to him. he turned to go. “Go back to Michael. he turned to walk back to her. Destroy that son of a bitch. as anger replaced grief.D. do—don’t—” “Shhh. he heard a faint sound. Julian said. as Rick fought for breath.” she insisted. Marteeny “What? No. Rick. Addie—I love yo—” but the words died on his lips as he fell back against the arms that now pulled him close.” she whispered as the tears flowed freely. “Come back to me. but I will not have you sit there and watch while I take this man’s last shred of humanity away from him. Julian—for Rick—and me!” she said as he rose to stand over her. I can’t lose you both. as the bloodlust pulled them toward the flowing liquid. Leaning forward. I make no excuses for what I am. “No …” came a faint whisper. Don’t leave her side for a second until this is all over. Blood flowing freely from his mouth. It’s—what I—want. “Please—let me—go. I don’t have time to argue with you. and. When the vampire approached. “Rick—please don’t leave me. “… no. “Adrianna. A fit of coughing overtook him. “Wait for me. but he became more agitated the more she talked. Julian. offering what comfort he could. Addie. Julian ordered the others back. she touched her lips to his cold forehead. “Julian!” she called after him. 256 . don’t talk … just rest.

And I will share the rule of this world with the one who kills him. the throng of creatures closed the circle around Michael. but. They didn’t sense the fear they expected. Then. you fools!” Dragone ordered. Michael stood very still. doubt filling them. as suddenly as the quiet had come. Michael’s eyes remained focused on the creature above him. The advancing hordes stood very still. He remained hidden in the shadows. the hordes creeping up from behind were now after a new prize—him! Slowly they continued their approach. but they weren’t sure from what source. chaos erupted. moving in for the kill. his sharp senses registered every breath and heartbeat in the pathetic creatures surrounding him. as his golden locks fell forward. Michael dropped 257 . It is yours for the taking. while the others were out of harm’s way. the scent of fresh blood strong as they sniffed the air. “He is but one man—and his blood is rich. as his eyes focused on the tall figure standing in the center of the room. from their victims. his body rigid. if you—will—just—destroy—him! What are you waiting for—attack!” Spurred on by their master’s voice. “Take him. Both hands grasped the hilt of the shortened spear he held tightly. The room was hauntingly silent. Julian and the others are safe. saliva dripping from jaws hungry for the taste of his blood. even craved. although he was aware of the sudden quiet behind him. he thought. the danger to himself had only increased. Eyes closed. surging with power. They will be nearly as strong as I.Chapter 21 Julian crawled through the small opening Christoff had left in the barrier across the doorway. The creatures’ animal instincts warned of danger. after losing their prey. head bowed. hiding his face. for. It will fill the one who drinks of it with a power beyond their wildest imaginings. He felt immense relief that no other friends would have to die this day. Michael stood calmly.

listening with great interest to the conversation. ash. the silver sword slashed through the air and connected with its target. Dragone. Flames erupted from the silver tip. but I was never good enough. as he hissed. charged him. Dragone continued. Michael rose to his feet. With one clear thought I can summon them to my side to destroy you. for he now realized this was no ordinary foe. He knew he must concentrate and keep his wits about him if he was to win this fight. and pieces of fur—that was all that was left of the frenzied hordes that had hoped to destroy him. Avenger—but your efforts are wasted. So focused were the two figures on each other that they failed to notice Julian standing very still in the far corner of the room. the shimmering staff reducing everything in its path to smoke and ash. I have thousands who serve me.” Dragone taunted. Moments later. Slowly he spanned the circle surrounding him. “Impressive. and they will meet the same fate as their fallen brethren. “I served Him my entire life. as he stared at the man below him. the small weapon in his left hand growing to five feet of gleaming silver as he pressed the small button buried inside the handle. And for what—for spilling the blood of one worthless man! Where was His omnipotent mercy then?” “Worthless!” Michael shouted at the creature. Then. Then I made one mistake.D.J. realizing the danger.” Michael said quietly. Swinging wide with his other arm. “The man you murdered 258 . “They can try. Marteeny to one knee. he breathed deeply in an effort to calm himself. “Again I ask you. Hatred dripped like honey from Dragone’s lips. A gray man-wolf. hair matted with blood and gore. Smoke.” Michael whispered. and I was condemned for all eternity. and the blood-crazed hordes. silence once again filled the room. and one such as you is not worthy to be in His presence. Avenger: Does He always send you to fight His battles? Can He not come and face me Himself?” “I serve willingly when the cause is just. spittle dripping from the twisted mouth. came charging at Michael through the flames. “no!” came the enraged scream from the open window high above the ground. their dying shrieks of pain shattering the silence. Dragone’s eyes burned liquid fire. “That was for the priest. With a great effort.” “Worthy to be—He created me!” Dragone screamed in fury. so I gave up trying. Nothing I did could ever please Him. as the fur-covered body crashed to the ground before him. surveying the destruction around him. claws extended to strike a killing blow. the gray head rolled to a stop at Michael’s feet.

although I’m sure He will not allow me to destroy you!” The winged figure dove at the man below him with blinding speed. Dragone. and all he kne—” “Yes. as he fell to one knee. Razor-sharp claws cut deep into flesh.” Dragone sneered at him. “You aren’t the only one with abilities. trying to get close to Michael without calling attention to himself. But. He is not to blame. and as my punishment your great Lord banished me from the light. I already know all about my good brother’s virtues. his cruel laughter echoing throughout the room. and molded you into the monster you’ve become. You deserved whatever punishment you were dealt. the sword in his right hand nearly falling from his grasp as he did so. before Michael could raise his weapons. left where Adrianna had dropped it earlier. “You know as well as I do. as Dragone hovered above him. so we finish this now!” Michael challenged. as he climbed back up toward the ceiling. You did this to yourself!” Julian began inching his way forward. It rotted you from the inside. Taking a deep breath. Avenger. Avenger. the moon came into view through one of the larger windows. “Enough of this useless prattle. Slowly he made his way toward the weapon. Dragone—I am justice! You committed murder—the first murder. 259 . leaving Michael’s arm cut and bleeding. but he’d had worse. yes. blinded you to any chance of redemption. he rose to his full height. But I have others to consider. That was his mercy—that was his justice!” “No. The wound was deep.The Vampire’s Lady was your own brother! A brother who had only love for you. I will win. and. in fact. My Lord would have taken you back into his fold had you but asked and proven you could change. The silver dagger lay inches away from where Julian now stood. as the spear went skidding across the floor. But the evil in your soul was embedded too deep. If it’s a fight you want. I can hover above you indefinitely or simply fly through the open window and let you scream your frustration as I make my escape—and there’s not a thing you can do to prevent it. so much. casting its silvery light across something lying upon the marble floor. that it drove me mad! So I spilled a little blood. As he moved out from the shadows. he decided as he surveyed the damage. Eventually you will tire yourself out. even after what you’d done. standing tall in the middle of the room. pressing tightly to stem the flow of blood. as Dragone screamed at Michael. then I will certainly oblige you! We shall see who will be victorious. that I can keep this up all day. “Or will He?” Dragone hissed. Michael clutched his injured arm. inevitably. my only sustenance the very blood I had spilt. ‘Abel did this today—Abel did that’—it’s all I’ve ever heard about.

but this time Michael was ready for him. Talk about shape-shifting! Dragone stared. Julian. The force of the blow snapped the blond head to one side. that’s where you’re wrong. His chest and back were covered in some short of ancient armor. He turned. nearly severing the wing at the joint. butting the creature full in the face. a pair of large. Dragone was propelled backward by the force of the blow. He was dressed in blue slacks of some strange fabric that seemed to shimmer as you gazed upon it. Dragone screamed in pain. Michael dove at the injured figure. feathered wings. as he thought to himself. All he could sense—all he could smell—taste— was blood.D. Michael stood very still for a few moments. Michael whipped his own head forward. transfixed. it was not the strangest part of Michael’s coming transformation. “So be it. speechless. but only for a brief moment before screaming in rage. the bloodlust—caused Dragone to forget all reason. Marteeny “Now. extending them out behind him and letting the coat he was wearing fall to the floor with a rustling of material. leaving his neck exposed to razor-sharp teeth. Avenger. Julian couldn’t help a small smile. one evil—the darkness versus the light. But. as he slowly lifted his arms. odd as this might all seem to the average human. ready to dive at the injured warrior.J. so white they dazzled the eyes. at the sight unfolding before him. and the atmosphere in the cavernous room began to change. That scent—the liquid flowing. grabbing the hilt in both hands and forcing the blade downward. as the sword buried itself deep into his winged shoulder. abomination!” came the reply as a slow smile spread across the beautiful face of the man they called the Avenger. 260 . The battle is on!” and he charged the figure rising to meet him. after retrieving the dagger. as the blade worked its way through tendons and membrane. Dragone was unprepared for the quick reflexes of the man before him. as the man standing before Julian began to rise off the floor. the color of gold. Tossing his massive head back as he prepared to savage the tender flesh. seemed to sprout from Michael’s back. nothing but the glistening hilt visible to the eye. This caused the wing to dangle loosely. the silver sword flashed brightly in Michael’s hand before he launched it skyward. As Dragone’s leathery back was turned for the climb upward. As Julian continued to stare in awe. stood against the wall. he shook his head violently to clear his vision. Dragone’s deadly claws whipped out of nowhere to leave a trail of blood seeping from a gash across the flawless skin of Michael’s cheek and downward along his neck. fresh and warm and pulsating with power through the vein now directly in front of him. climbing high into the air again. The two bodies came together with a resounding crash: two powerful forces—one good. which resembled the scales of a dragon. staring. A strange power flowed through the tall figure.

but. guttural. Avenger. when mine have failed. evil heart. muscle. That’s why your weapon has taken him down. who—or what—are you?” Julian asked. Blood streamed from the wound. and. The words froze on his thin. The repair was flawless—there was not a cut or scratch to be seen anywhere on that grotesque body. just for the record. red eyes burning into the blue eyes of the warrior. head bent. so your efforts are futile. as he stared at the grotesque figure before him. and bone slowly rise as Dragone stood before him. and evil—as that horrible face lifted. the candlelight from dozens of sconces on the surrounding walls reflecting off the bulging muscles of his back. watched in shock. It was whole … unmarked … completely healed. “I. still hidden in the shadows. Michael’s gasp of surprise could be heard. all you—” A trickle of blood flowed from Dragone’s mouth. Then there was the sound of laughter—deep. “The bloodline—that must be it! It was foolish of me to have forgotten!” “You’re talking in riddles. black lips. sinking lower onto the floor. “Maybe it’s not the weapon at all—just his aim. he waited to see if the monster would once again heal himself and declare his triumph. Avenger.The Vampire’s Lady Spinning out of balance. “You were a little off your mark. But Dragone remained motionless. to be sure. What does it take to destroy him? How can we ever hope to win this battle? he wondered as he watched the creature flex the thick muscles of its back and lift the severed wing and spread it wide.” Michael answered. but he wasn’t the only one staring in amazement at the creature who was Dragone.” he pointed out to Michael. as the blood continued to flow.” Michael raised his eyes from Dragone to the vampire standing at his back. “The bloodline—the killing blow can only come from someone of the bloodline. on the other hand. “I told you before. his undamaged wing enfolding his injured body. don’t have that problem. You don’t have the weapon needed to destroy me. 261 . The Avenger watched the mass of black membrane. as Michael landed a few feet away. Julian. you son of a bitch!” Julian shouted in triumph at the fallen creature kneeling before him. a questioning look replacing the shock of a moment ago. as they slowly traveled downward to see a gleaming silver point protruding straight through his black. A look of understanding flashed in the blue eyes as he stared at Julian. anger building to fever pitch. Dragone turned in a slow circle. as Dragone fell to his knees. and his eyes stared in shock and surprise. Dragone hit the floor in a flurry of wings. In the silence of the empty room.

“I will take care of him. He is ancient. This stone was the weapon this monster used to kill his own brother—and it will be the weapon that destroys him as well. with a tip made of stone. and then I will see that he is kept where none of his minions can get to him until we find the weapon. will. most certainly. and only by His means can we destroy him.” Michael said as Julian’s gaze went to the shaft lying a few feet away on the stone floor. She’s seen—and done—more than anyone could’ve asked of her.D.’ Which reminds me—what will you do now that you’ve found her. worked to a fine point as sharp as the dagger in your hand. is not an ordinary stone. Julian.” “No. Oh. “Help me tie him.” Michael explained. I have been searching for it ever since. “That would make no difference to a creature of Dragone’s power if you were not of the bloodline.” Julian pointed out. You’re not the only one that needs her ‘special gifts. Michael had the grace to look a little sheepish. doesn’t it? What do we do with him in the meantime?” Julian asked. perhaps the first. too. With all that’s happened—all that she’s lost—how can I ask anything more of her?” 262 .J. The stone.” “And this mystery weapon—where is it? It seems a little. It would have slowed him down only until he pulled the blade from his body. Marteeny “Or maybe the fact that the blade is directly through the heart might have something to do with it. “The spear we seek is special. Julian helped him bind the creature’s hands and feet. careless of you not to have it with you. that presents a problem for both of us then. shall we say. I haven’t had much time to think about it.” Michael said as he untied a corded belt from around his waist. in conjunction with one very special weapon. He is cursed by God. I will return. many years ago. We will also need the woman to help in our quest. we will begin our quest for the weapon. bring about his destruction. she’s been through enough already. there’s one more important detail I forgot to mention. What is this weapon you’re both obsessed with?” “A spear—no.” “She’s of the bloodline. which is what I was doing when I came across you and your little band at that night club of yours.” Michael reached for the body now lying flat on the cold floor. Julian. I won’t put her in any more danger than she’s already been subjected to. “Well. “After I see that he is imprisoned in a secure place.” Julian pointed out. the one that can help change you back?” “I don’t know. The bloodline. “It was … misplaced.” “You’re talking in riddles again. Then he would have healed himself again. not that one. If you are willing to help me. but that’s not all. also.

Go in peace. The light enveloped Michael and the burden he carried until they were invisible to the naked eye. “Sacred ground will no longer be a problem for you.” “You’re very welcome. In the next instant. You must hurry. Michael. It should keep him secure and well away from his minions until we find the spear. but for now it will suffice. just as a shaft of bright light seemed to flow down from the ceiling. “I will answer all of your questions. He deserves that much. I have a package that needs delivery to a secure place. but right now we both have more important things to attend to. “I have a plan. as Julian opened his eyes to find Michael and his evil cargo gone.The Vampire’s Lady “Don’t underestimate her. I’m confident you’ll make the right decision when the time comes. It’s not what I would have wished for one as evil as Dragone.” Stepping forward. “Are you sure you can keep him under control until this mysterious weapon of yours is found?” Julian asked. “Who—or what—are you?” Michael gave the vampire a sly smile. indicating the figure he held tightly in his arms. “And. shielding his eyes from the brightness and protecting his body from the light he thought would surely destroy him. Julian threw himself back into the shadows near the wall behind him. Julian.” Julian nodded in agreement. Julian said. Michael nodded.” Michael said. Avenger—you still have one more question to answer before you disappear from my sight. It’s forbidden to me—and you won’t be with me this time to change that.” Julian said out loud. Get him to sacred ground. Hanokh’s mangled body lay where it had fallen after receiving the killing blow from Christoff ’s arrows.” “I’m trusting you on this one. the room was in total darkness.” As Michael rose with Dragone’s seemingly lifeless body in his arms. the Avenger seemed to be in a deep trance for a few seconds before his eyes snapped open. Then. “I think you have more confidence in me than I have in myself—and I thank you for that. she’s stronger than you might think. Michael stretched out his hand until it rested gently on Julian’s head. dawn is approaching—and you must take the priest from this evil place. He noticed something from the corner of his eye. he turned and headed back toward the opening he’d come through earlier. Julian. but Julian’s voice stopped him once more.” Julian told him.” “You know I can’t take him there. vampire.” Michael nodded as he turned to go. Besides. seeing as I don’t have any other choice. For now. “What the hell! He most definitely has some explaining to do when he gets back. The 263 . But we’ll talk in more detail later. in due time. taking a deep breath. Closing his eyes.

he let it lie as he climbed through the small hole. he asked. along with some helpful suggestions planted in his mind by Sonya. bending to retrieve the disgusting mound before him. you evil bastard! Only in death may you actually be of use to me. The Dark Vampire’s black eyebrows were raised. for now at least.J. ***** Adrianna had reluctantly surrendered Rick’s body to the vampire Andrew. let’s go. my friend. The women need time to adjust to all that’s happened. returned to his human form. We have an unpleasant chore to do that I don’t want Adrianna to know about.” Julian replied. I need you to take him back to the church. Come on. his handsome face a mask of confusion. He found only Christoff remaining. the lifeless gaze Julian now looked upon was soft brown in color. Michael said he’ll explain everything when he returns. to grieve in peace. I know. “That. I know. and I was going to come in after you. “You have one more trip to make. The Avenger took him to a secure place.” And I must get back to Adrianna. Time is growing short. should keep Detective Bertram from digging any deeper into what actually happened and involving us all in a long and trying investigation. Christoff. mingled with blood and pieces of flesh and fur. with the Avenger’s help. body numb with exhaustion and sorrow. as well as the good priest. Meet our serial killer—drinker of blood and mutilator of women. She now stood by. away from this place.D. but the question he was going to ask died on his lips.” Christoff nodded in agreement. to see that it stays that way. we have need of this vile mass of flesh and bone. as the beast. “Easy. when he suddenly straightened and looked around the room.” Christoff told him. “I’m glad you stayed. Smoke drifted upward from the many piles of ash covering the floor. Christoff.” he said as he led Christoff back inside. where he can also take the blame for the death of the caretaker. It’s up to us. but. A few minutes longer. watching the night sky slowly beginning the change from black to charcoal and then light 264 . as Julian explained. Instead. The Dark Vampire hissed angrily at the sight of Hanokh’s body. “It’s a long—and very strange—story that is far from over. “I had Andrew take the priest and the woman outside. in death. I’ll send a few of the others to help you. Looking back at Julian. Dragone is not a threat to anyone. he thought to himself. Marteeny red eyes of the savage beast no longer stared up at him. “Dragone?” “Immobilized for the moment. and the priest needs to be laid to rest.” Dragging the body toward the opening.” Julian was surprised how much it pained him to talk of Rick’s death.

but it was still a little too dark to make out exactly who or what it was. She stared a few moments longer. as if soothing a small child. There’s one more task to be done before we can put this particular nightmare behind us. I’ll explain everything to all of you then. The Avenger has taken Dragone to a secure place. I promise. “Yes.The Vampire’s Lady gray. Where is he? she wondered anxiously. “Oh. she saw a figure emerge from the ruined shell. Gently he set her down when they’d reached the others. It’s over. Adrianna. She broke into a run. Julian …” “Shhh. for now. can you take Adrianna?” “Of course. Just a little while longer. quickly.” she cried. He can’t harm you anymore. Dragone’s gone. “Give the priest to me. Julian held Adrianna’s sobbing form tightly to him. and we can all go home. but time was running short. Julian continued. no one—came forward. “Then take two men with you back to the ruin. Catching her up in his arms. her only thought to reach the approaching figure. Christoff is waiting for you inside. “I’m not going anywhere. “Thank God you’re all right! Oh. his face buried in the silken hair as she clung to him. yet she had remained strong through it all. as her tears flowed freely. Simon. stifling the cry of joy and relief ready to burst forth.” Julian whispered as he breathed in her scent. Julian …” He stroked her hair gently. as her anxiety reached fever pitch at not knowing whether he was alive or dead. and then her hands flew to her mouth. he thought to himself as he held her close. and the priest to his home.” As Andrew passed Rick’s limp form over to him. Julian. “Is it finished?” Simon asked as he looked behind Julian for any sign that someone else was following him. She’d had to endure so much pain in such a short time. He must get to shelter—and soon. but nothing—or more specifically. as the dawn began its approach.” he said as he leaned down to place a kiss on Adrianna’s cheek before saying to Andrew. raining kisses on every inch of her face. so he’s no longer a concern of ours—but the coming dawn is. it’s all right.” he told her as he picked her up and carried her toward the spot where Andrew and the others waited.” Finally.” 265 . “Come on. “I was so afraid I’d never see you again. He felt cold and empty inside as she backed away from him. Her tired eyes kept glancing back to the broken doorway of the crumbling building they had just exited. We must get everyone to a safe haven. I’ll be here as long as you want me. The sun will be up soon and he’ ll be trapped in that hell hole for another day with God knows what for company. She watched with bated breath as he came closer. Come back to me.

but we may have a few stragglers. but never more so than in the early morning hours on that fateful day when he witnessed his friend’s return home to Winwood. The Avenger took care of most of that bastard’s followers. take them out—leave nothing alive. Thomas. he realized the worst had happened.” Addie said. the others climbed high into the night sky. I’ll come with you. please. It’s the women who will need you now.” Julian told him.J. tell Christoff to stay alert. When Thomas was satisfied Kate wouldn’t follow him. “Julian. I’m so sorry. no—not the priest!” He could barely utter the words.” he said as he put his arms around her and kissed her lightly on the cheek. what can I do to help?” “There’s nothing more to be done for the priest. With Rick’s body securely in his arms. he ran to offer his assistance to Julian. 266 . But any joy he felt was short-lived when Julian came into view and the realization of what he carried in his arms hit Thomas full force. Thomas. I don’t anticipate any trouble with Dragone out of the picture. man? Don’t let her outside until I find out what’s happened!” The guard nodded in agreement. Marteeny “Good.” Thomas offered. ***** Thomas had proven himself invaluable on a number of occasions since that day when he’d first met Julian Reynolds. Addie by his side. “Adrianna. The pain on the vampire’s face nearly matched that of Adrianna. Do you hear me. as he turned to look quickly behind him. and then. I need this time alone with Kate. the slowly approaching dawn hard on their heels as they made their way back to Winwood. If so. Still holding her close. he made his way back to the monastery where Christoff stood waiting. standing tall as she looked at Julian. you shouldn’t have to do this alone. “Steven. You’ll have to tell Kate. Thomas turned to his friend. “Oh my God. not knowing what fate his friends would meet at the hands of their enemy. “No—I’ll tell her.” he said to one of the guards Michael had left behind. “Oh no! Addie honey. Relief flooded through him when he saw Simon walking quickly down the street in an effort to outrun the approaching dawn. Then meet up with us at the church. He’d been so afraid. “Keep Kate inside the church.D. when he saw the look on Addie’s face. He’d kept an anxious vigil.” Andrew nodded. Andrew. along with Kate. taking two others with him. As he got closer. As Andrew disappeared inside the crumbling ruin. near the main entrance of the church from the moment the others had gone in search of Addie. but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. Try to understand. Julian watched as Simon settled Adrianna safely in his grasp before the two vampires began their transformation. “No.

as he stood in the corner of the small bedroom. Dawn is just over the horizon. but he let her know he’d follow her to Kate’s room anyway and wait right outside the door until she called him. While Thomas waited to take her to Kate. “I’ll place him in the church for now. Adrianna walked slowly over to where Julian stood alone. His own sadness at the loss of the priest was overwhelming. The police will have to be called. pulling him down to kiss him lightly on the lips.The Vampire’s Lady Rick’s …” She stopped for a moment. “I need to see Kate. He made up his mind then and there he wouldn’t let these women deal with their grief alone.” she said. while Adrianna and Kate wept over Rick’s body. she turned back to Thomas. I’ll fill Thomas in on the details. I’ll return to you as soon as I can. He backed away through the door and turned to walk slowly down the hallway. the priest had more than proved himself in Thomas’s eyes.” “And she needs you. he could offer them no comfort. She saw the surprise in his eyes at her choice of words. but I want to give you and Kate time with him before Bertram arrives. “… been a part of both our lives for such a long time. so she told him instead. Even with his vampiric powers. taking a deep breath. anyway. as her voice caught in her throat. Even though they hadn’t known each other long.” Deep in 267 . “She really loved him. such a terrible waste. apart from the others. After taking a deep breath. I know you risked your own life to do that and … I love you for it. Thomas is there.” Leaning forward. “She’s going to need you with her after I’ve told her. she was able to continue. Julian. and then I have to leave. Christoff and I have formulated a plan. Adrianna. and I need to rest. I don’t think I’ll be able to help her then. “Thank you for coming for me. as he listened to the sound of their tears. Come back to me when you can.” Thomas nodded in understanding. and he’d been a good man. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what Adrianna was feeling right now. The grief the two women shared at the loss of their friend was devastating.” Thomas replied as he grasped her cold hand and tucked it inside the crook of his arm. Come on. Julian had never felt more useless in his entire life. she bent down to place a kiss on Rick’s cheek.” Reaching upward. She’ll be in good hands. “What will you do with him?” she asked Julian as she smoothed Rick’s blood-matted hair back from his forehead. “Go now and rest… heal.” Julian thought. she cupped his face in her hands. Thomas thought. Then. “I won’t intrude on her grief—and I have to leave. There was nothing he could do to ease their pain. an explanation that should spare you and Kate from having to deal with any more of this nightmare. Such a waste. I don’t know what we’ll do …” She couldn’t finish what she was going to say.

” The two vampires disappeared in a white. indeed. “Is it taken care of?” was all he asked the Dark Vampire. A few hours later Julian quietly returned. it’ll be best if we send for him this evening. He couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d been in such a place. took charge of everything. Later that evening. in case she should need him. he failed to notice Christoff ’s approach. Bertram should have no problem believing. turned to look at his friend. had fought like a crazed animal. where he stood in amazement as the realization came to him that he was. It’s a good plan.” he mouthed the words as Julian nodded and mouthed “Thank you. just to be sure.” Alone now. Rick’s body and that of the caretaker were taken to the church. the detective seemed to believe their story for the most part. with the help of Seth and Andrew. so Sonya can be here to monitor the situation. lingering in the shadows near the back of the church as the bodies of the priest and the caretaker were examined. Julian felt as if his heart were being ripped from his chest as he listened to Adrianna’s sobs of grief. Thomas. where Christoff and Andrew had carefully arranged it. Thomas. and there was still a chance for him. “And now. where they were watched over by Addie and Kate until Detective Bertram arrived. and he couldn’t help but feel that maybe—just maybe—all was not lost. Julian. Thomas also told how Father Rick and the caretaker had tried to stop him.D. Marteeny thought. hazy mist and then reappeared back at the mansion. With Sonya’s help. As Thomas took both women from the church to the safety of the cottage after Rick’s body had been removed. we need to rest. As he turned to leave. There was a twinge of doubt on Bertram’s face as Thomas related the story of how a stranger (Hanokh) had entered the church in an attempt to attack Adrianna. He stared at a life-size figure of the crucified Christ hanging above and behind the central altar. standing on Holy Ground—and he was none the worse for wear. with its bright colors and many statues. Julian couldn’t help but notice the many beautiful 268 .J. sensing his presence. until the vampire stood before him. Julian stepped from the shadows to walk further into the church. Both men had been mortally wounded in the ensuing fight. The police found the body of Hanokh lying in one of the rooms of the apartment behind the church. wielding a sharp knife.” “I agree. just as you wished.” was Julian’s tired reply. my friend. “It’s done. The attacker had finally been stopped when Thomas and the others arrived. He knew that Adrianna needed time alone to deal with her grief. The eyes of Jesus seemed to bore into him. As they walked past the place where Julian stood hidden from view. so he remained hidden—but he was always there. but the stranger. watching and waiting. But. “I’ll take care of her.

which he was thrusting toward the head of a winged serpent. A slow smile spread across Julian’s face. the light from dozens of candles reflecting their rich colors along the backs of the polished pews. Recognition dawned. 269 . the muscular legs partially covered by a skirt-like garment made of shimmering blue material. like the scales of a dragon. In large. This angel seemed to be some sort of warrior. It was at least six feet high. Michael the Archangel. making it to his mansion just as the morning sun rose in the sky—much to Thomas’s chagrin—again. stopping him dead in his tracks. The chest of the figure was covered in some strange armor. Just as he was about to reach the main exit.” he said out loud before he burst through the door in a flurry of wings. the long curls cascading nearly to the angel’s waist. bold print were the words: St. “You are full of surprises. as Julian gazed in amazement at the hair of spun gold. Warrior of God. a full-length picture of an angel—but this was no ordinary angel. for he held a silver sword in one hand and in the other a long spear. my friend—and you really do have some explaining to do when I see you again. his eyes were drawn to the black script beneath the picture. As Julian stared in wonder. one window in particular caught his eye.The Vampire’s Lady stained-glass windows lining both sides of the church.

270 . Will I ever regain the sense of calm and peace I had when we first came to this cottage? she wondered. inhaling the fragrance of the myriad of blossoms surrounding the porch. and it had been selfish of her to ask. He was avoiding her. Relaxation didn’t come easy for her these days. But. How could things ever be normal again after all they’d been through. She closed her mind to the sadness threatening to overwhelm her. Thomas had been the one constant in their lives. She’d been a witness on countless occasions to how quickly he could heal. Julian was right.Chapter 22 The following week found Adrianna once again seated in her favorite rocker on the front porch of the tiny cottage. According to Thomas. Adrianna breathed deeply. but that didn’t seem to help much. and now there was this huge void that she knew would never be filled. and her heart ached for him. Still. Rick would never have forgiven them if Julian had turned him. but that would never happen. She hadn’t seen him since that awful night. he needed all the rest he could get to heal properly from the injuries he’d sustained in the battle with Dragone. and observing Kate for any ill effects from the vampire attack. the pain of her grief ever subside? She missed Rick terribly. of that she was certain. and Kate’s. focusing her thoughts instead on Julian. In the days since Rick’s death. Would the numbness she felt inside ever go away. all they’d witnessed? “I wish I could talk to Rick just one more time. He was a vampire. But she didn’t buy it—not completely.” she said aloud. Kate didn’t seem to pose a threat to herself or anyone else. other than feeling tired during the daytime and having the strength to match any man. but she knew they’d done the right thing by letting him go. he’d been such an important part of her life. the memory of his death haunted her dreams whenever she closed her eyes. watching over Kate and Addie after the loss of their friend.

The memory of being in his arms caused a burning heat to rise deep within her.The Vampire’s Lady What she wasn’t certain of was why. but. eyes hungry as they traveled over his body. She also knew instinctively that he loved her. no matter how hard she tried. when you would never have said that. “So quickly?” he asked. His hair flowed in soft waves down across his shoulders. tilting her head upward to stare at the millions of stars sparkling like tiny diamonds in the clear night sky. she’d tell him exactly that. it didn’t matter what he was. but he was holding back. before she said. she really had missed him! He was dressed in his usual black attire. Then she thought. He probably thought she needed time to grieve and heal. not so long ago. waiting for him to speak. his head bowed slightly as he leaned over. With a deep sigh. to wrap her arms around him. if he’d just give her the chance.” He climbed the three steps leading onto the porch and moved over to stand near the banister directly in front of her.” she told him. “How long have you been standing there?” to the shadows surrounding her. She continued to rock gently. instead. She loved him fiercely. the fitted shirt hugging his muscular arms and back. back and forth. 271 . Her heart skipped a beat. she became aware of him before he actually entered her line of sight. too.” “Things have changed. to feel the muscles of his back against her cheek as she laid her head against him. as he.” “There was a time. “I’m glad to hear it. the black silk pants leaving nothing to the imagination. she sat still. She had the overwhelming urge to go to him. But what she really needed—wanted—was him. senses tingling. “You could never frighten me. and. as an idea began to form in her mind. that he couldn’t love her the way she needed to be loved. in his own way. she slowly opened her eyes. That was the one thing she had been absolutely sure of throughout this whole nightmare. “A lot has happened—to both of us—that’s made me see things differently. His back to her. Maybe there was a way they could be together. Then. And. as she watched the man before her. She could no longer deny the feelings she had for him.” she told him. still a little skeptical. He would say it was for her own protection. “Only a moment—I did not want to frighten you.” came the reply as Julian moved out of the darkness. falling forward as he placed strong hands on the banister. He really was magnificent. God. her eyes closed to the soothing sounds of the night. back and forth. contemplated the night sky. he seemed deep in thought.

” Julian turned his head as if straining to see her. You’re here now. “If you say so. but she interrupted his apology. What I am is unnatural—an abomination—no better than Dragone himself!” He spat out the words. “We should have tried—” “No. Julian 272 . his actions and his bravery earned my respect— and my immense gratitude. then I believe you. It took her only a second to decide her next move. Rising from the chair. as he turned his back to her once more. it doesn’t matter now.” came the reply. “Rick died doing what he did best—helping others.D. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. as she lay her face against his back. She saw his tall form stiffen. There’s no need to apologize … for anything. His death haunts my every waking moment. “Nothing that happened was your fault. trying to reassure him. she covered the short distance between them and came to stand directly behind him. She stepped forward. Adrianna. If only I could’ve … well.J. wrapping her arms tightly around him. as frustration and despair overwhelmed him. but Adrianna knew he could see every line and curve of her face perfectly with those piercing eyes.” she interrupted. but it doesn’t make me feel any better about what happened. Julian—and we did the right thing. If it hadn’t been for you and your men. but he refused. feeling his warmth against her cheek. If he hadn’t been trying to help me—” Julian began. and that’s all that matters. she could almost feel the longing deep inside him.” she said angrily. well. “Even the threat of death couldn’t stop him from coming for you. “I’ve gone over that moment in my mind a thousand times. I want you to know. “Julian. I’m so sorry about the prie—.” she told him. Christoff said they tried to stop him from coming with them.” he continued. “He must have loved you very much to put himself in such danger. “Don’t say that! You’re nothing like that monster. Julian. We both needed time to rest … and to grieve. “There’s goodness in you. Softly she whispered. “you’re absolutely right.” He studied her face closely for a moment before saying. “Adrianna. that even though I only knew him a short time. and his body trembled before her with the force of his emotions. It was selfish of me to want to keep him here by any means possible. and he didn’t deserve to die like that. I’m sorry. about Rick. He was a remarkable man. “No. I didn’t mean …” her hand stopped in midair as she reached out to touch him.” As those blue eyes stared deeply into hers. “Julian. who knows how things would’ve turned out?” she said.” The word was out before she realized what she’d said. You knew him better than anyone. but Adrianna refused to let him take the blame for what had happened. Adrianna. Marteeny “I’m sorry I didn’t come to see you sooner—” he started to say as he turned to face her. please. He would never have forgiven me if you’d have done what I asked and turned him into something—unnatural.

Julian. is the reason we can’t be together. “if you’re not happy with what you are.The Vampire’s Lady Reynolds. “If the nightmare of the past few days has taught me one thing for certain. could feel the answering spark rising within him. Michael saw it. I need you to be patient and guide me through this. Julian Reynolds. we can change that—you and I. Tell me exactly what needs to be done. His lips blazed a trail of soft kisses across her cheek and along her jaw-line.” Reaching forward. day and night. You wouldn’t have been able to enter the church unharmed otherwise. it’s that I love you. waiting with bated breath for his reply. I’m willing. He could see the love and something else—desire—burning there. as he continued to rain kisses down the side of her neck to the hollow at her throat. too! That I couldn’t bear. as he spun around to face her. her eyes following the path of her finger as it traveled downward to brush. But with the desire came the hunger—always the hunger—and 273 . Life—and our time together—is too precious to waste another minute. in spite of—or maybe it’s because of—what you are. passion pushing him beyond all reason. She heard his sharp intake of breath as she spoke.” she continued cautiously. looking deep into his eyes and willing him to understand what she was trying to say. He could hear her blood pounding. and she thought she felt him relax a little in her arms. like a hot flame. could hear the soft moan of pleasure as she clung to him. rising between them. but I’m frightened. If this is the only way to have you with me.” Blue eyes stared into brown eyes. as she felt him stiffen once again. Rick’s loss was devastating to me. I do. “Besides. in your mind. she smoothed a strand of hair back across his shoulders and brought her hand up to cup his handsome face. she placed a feather-light kiss where her finger had been. I won’t lose you. you listen. so I’m willing to do whatever it takes to keep you with me—including doing what must be done to help you become human again—if that’s really possible. “Adrianna. breaking their hold around him. Julian! Let’s do whatever test is needed to—oh!” she gasped in surprise as her arms were locked in a grip of steel. which Dragone could never begin to understand. She could feel the hunger. Julian. and how it will affect you—and me—afterward. listen to—” “No. It nearly drove him mad. “I’m very well aware of what I’m saying and of what it entails—and I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life. He dragged her to him in a crushing embrace. as she stared at him. Leaning forward. across his soft lips. Then let’s find out for sure. But I won’t lie to you. moist with unshed tears. ever so lightly. “You said I might have what you need—that my blood might contain what you need to make you human.” she told him. then let’s do this.” she ordered. But your being a vampire.” she said. No more talking this nonsense. you don’t know what you’re saying—” “Yes.” “Adrianna.

“It’s what I want most in the world. trying to convince him to see her point of view. I need to be at full strength to help Michael and to protect you.” she pleaded. Adrianna. “we’d better stop … now …” He waited while his breathing slowed to a more normal pace. that she meant it. without a shadow of a doubt. “As hard as 274 . I’d like to ask something else of you. looking at her meaningfully.” he said hoarsely.J. so I can wait a little longer—because we still have a job to do. How much. I thought it’s what you wanted. whether we want to admit it or not. I don’t like the idea of you going up against Dragone and his hordes again. as he held her tightly against him. and now.” He placed a finger under her chin. So—and this is important—as long as Dragone is alive. “Now is the wrong time. his forehead resting gently against hers. he took her hand and led her back to the rocker. It will take a monster to catch a monster. let me finish. and then. taking his face in both hands as she stared into his eyes. gently lifting her bent head. taking her shaking hands in his.” he said. he told her. After a moment. “Adrianna. as if comforting a distraught child.” “Julian.” “Anything. but—” Pushing her gently from him. when he does. but I’m unable to accept your generous gift. So I must refuse your generous offer. because I can’t … I won’t … live without you—not when I came so close to losing you. he kissed the top of her head gently. “I love you for what you’re offering to do for me. whispering against her lips as he did so. pushing her slightly away from him. he wants all of us to help him in the search for the one weapon that will destroy that son of a bitch once and for all. you can’t even imagine. Suddenly he stood very still. Marteeny he fought to stay in control. Dragone is technically still alive. and he knew. he forced himself to pull away from her.” he said as his lips met hers in a kiss so full of hunger that it took her breath away. and the world will never be safe as long as he is. breathing deeply. To be human again—to have a normal life with you. As he placed her into the chair. too. “But I hope someday to be able to take you up on that offer. his hands entangled in her hair. he knelt before her. my love.” she told him.” he said. and I know you’re sincere in your offer to me. Adrianna. Pulling her close again. and. but the Avenger insisted on your being there. I need your help to control the beast within me. I tried to argue with him. “It’s what I want. I know that you think you understand what’s involved in helping me to become human. Michael will be returning soon. his face buried in the soft waves. “Since I must remain a vampire a while longer. “And full strength means I must remain what I am—a vampire. if I may. which means all the more to me because it was offered out of love. please. but—” “Julian—” “Shhh.D. lifting his head.” “It is. I’ve waited for centuries.

but it’s that very nearness that causes my demon to rise.” he said vehemently. but. I’d place you as far away from this nightmare as it was humanly possible—but I know you won’t accept that. even though I should. hearing the desperation in his voice. Show me the physical moves that will keep me alive when I face them again. Adrianna. When my demon rises. and I want to stand beside you when it’s finished—whatever the outcome is. It was foolish of me to ever be frightened of you. Julian. What’s so important that you need it right now?” he asked. or take someone that I love away from me—ever again. “I’m serious. and you. and we’ll hunt for the weapon together—along with Michael. We’ll work this out together. believe me when I tell you.” Placing another kiss. I need you with me always. I’ll do my best to make sure you’re prepared to face it properly—and heaven help the monster that comes up against you!” he laughed. the one place he knew he could keep her safe.” she said. Adrianna. I’m afraid I’ve grown lax over the years. gentler this time. THE END 275 . he knew. I would destroy myself first rather than hurt you in any way. against anything we might come up against in the future. and please don’t worry. Somehow. he continued. Adrianna. No one’s affected me as you do—not for a very long time.The Vampire’s Lady is it for me. “Teach me how to fight. because I will not let them hurt me. Julian—in combat. onto her lips. so. “Don’t talk like that. if you must face this danger. Leaning forward slightly. I want you to train me.” she told him with a smile.” “No.” “Adrianna—” “Fair is fair. Can you do that for me—for us?” “Yes. “It can be controlled—but it will take practice and discipline. He pulled her into his arms again. she stroked his cheek. it’s not what you think. as long as they were together. she went on. yes. his curiosity getting the better of him. the danger is very real. Julian. I understand things a little better now. “I want you in my life any way I can have you. Julian if you’ll do one thing for me right now. I’m tired of being afraid—and helpless. Besides. Will you do that for me?” “If I had my way. Show me how to properly use the weapons that will destroy them. I want to be able to defend myself. all right then. because there was no need for me to exhibit such extreme control. “Hmmm. they’d come through this all right. Julian. I can’t stay away from you.” When she saw his expression of surprise. I’ve paid a heavy price for the right to join you in this fight. you had every right to be frightened. I’ll help you control your demon. Adrianna. I need you to be patient and understanding.

They had to begin the hunt for the one weapon Michael knew would destroy Dragone’s life force forever. or so some believed. The irony of it all caused Michael to shake his head in wonder. he turned slowly. the waist-length fall of golden curls moving slightly with each twist of his head. Standing in the middle of the dusty road. for two caves burrowed into one side of the huge formation gave it the look of empty eye sockets embedded deep within a boney skull. his crystal blue gaze settling on a location off in the distance behind him—a place he’d left only moments ago. He’d done all that he could for now. He was Michael— archangel—warrior of God. Early Christian tradition had named this place as a possible burial site for the skull of Adam. The image of a silver coffin.Epilogue The tall figure. a life-size crucifix welded to its lid. Dragone— though he was known by another name in those early days. the father of us all. and it had to be found before the minions of the demon had a chance to locate 276 . it was aptly named. “Now the name is even more fitting. he wasn’t human. A slow smile spread across Michael’s perfect face. Would the safeguards he’d put into place be enough to contain the evil within and keep that foul presence buried safely away from humankind while he and his friends searched for what they needed to destroy it once and for all? It would have to suffice. must watch over his firstborn son.” he thought to himself as his mind focused on the skull-like countenance of the creature newly buried deep within the ground underneath the rock formation. the father. Called by some Skull Place. and he needed to get back to the others as quickly as possible. walked for another mile or so before coming to a stop. the first man ever created. filled the Avenger’s mind. Now Adam. a traveler in a foreign land. It was difficult for any human being to see clearly in the murky gray light of dawn. but then.

help them. as tourists from all walks of life began descending on the place held sacred by Christians all over the world. Shaking his head.” In a flash of light. my Lord. all the sadness. He knew Julian. Golgotha—or skull place. Now it is also a prison. Adrianna. until a small band of warriors can find the one weapon needed to rid humanity of this evil once and for all. pain. so he would allow them a short respite. Closing his eyes. far away from the world. all the grief. Besides. Michael concentrated on seeing what was happening with his friends. and the others would need time to heal and to prepare for the trials only he knew they would face. Pray that they will succeed! 277 . as some call it—is a place where one act of great sacrifice was the means for the redemption of the human race. and not a second too soon. He envisioned in his mind’s eye all that had transpired in Winwood during the past few days: all the bravery. as he prayed to his maker: “Guide them. His tall form slowly began to rise off the ground. above all. They would not rest until their lord was free once again—free to bring misery. grant me the wisdom and the skill to keep them safe in the coming battle. keeping a presence buried deep within it. Amen. Michael disappeared from view. they say good things come in small packages. Michael thought to himself: Who would’ve thought this small New England town would harbor the means for the salvation of the entire world? “Well.The Vampire’s Lady their master—for they were everywhere. the steady beating of pure white wings propelling him upward. and death to anyone who crossed his path.” he said aloud. he had to make a few arrangements before he could return to them. and.

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if anyone can send this book for free to my email account that would be great :) nd the blood countess by andrei codrescu .. that would make my day XD its luvsscreamomusic@yahoo.com please nd thank you :)
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