Posted in Character Stories

Enemy Fire

Somewhere in the rafters above me a parakeet squawks. My father’s friend refuses to have a normal pet. She signed up instead for a service bird who has managed to escape every attempt she’s made to take him to Sunday service. 

Maybe he’s a demon trapped in the tiny body and trying to run away from this cathedral before the singing commences. 

In that sense, he and I would have some common ground. 

My heels drag with each step. There’s a pounding in my skull that gets incessantly louder the further I make it into this holy place. My skin doesn’t burn, though. I don’t feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust or puke out the virus that has attached itself to my system. 

The virus that I had hated until it saved my life.

My limbs heavy, I press forward past a handful of bystanders who pretend not to see me. Everyone says help is at the church. It sure is for the wealthy and the affluent. Me, though, in my bloodstained shirt and bare feet, I look like a dead man walking, a bad omen that they would rather avoid than face head on. 

Ash coats my tongue from laying face to face with Death all last night. Some might argue that destiny finally caught up with me. I’d argue that a coward with a hammer caught me off guard. 

There has to be cracks in my skull from the impact. At least, there were several hours ago. I heard the crunch and then laid on the cold concrete while the insidious disease I contracted a few weeks ago carefully put my fractured bits back together like they were only pieces to a simple puzzle. 

My vision wavers as I take another step forward. My right side swings forward fine. My left leg drags. I continue in that movement as wave after wave of nausea tries to overtake me. I continue anyway, my limp more and more pronounced with each step closer to the front of the cathedral. The bishop is speaking over my movements, pretending that I’m not getting closer and closer to his precious grasp on this audience. 

“Where’s my mother?” I gasp over the pain lancing from my shoulder down through my ankle. 

He doesn’t even bother to look at me. Someone nearby tries to hush me. I’m not about to be silenced. My life on the line, the life of my family as it currently stands is in danger. I won’t just be shushed and pushed aside. 

I make it almost to the first step up towards his lifted podium before someone actually gets up to stop me. The bishop never stops speaking. He doesn’t hesitate to spread lies to these gullible people. 

“Let me go,” I growl, my hold on the virus slipping as my vision turns red and claws extend on my left hand. 

I haven’t had nearly enough time to come to grips with the supposed vampire variant. I didn’t even believe it was real until a few days after my run-in with the savvy businessman. The guy who exposed me to the virus left me a number to call if the shit hit the fan. He wasn’t exactly in a place to educate me while I fought to suck in a simple breath of air. He, though, had more civilized compassion than the person who attacked me last night. 

The good samaritan who came to my side is babbling about a hospital when he notices that my eyes aren’t a normal shade. Jumping back from me, he clutches at the crucifix around his throat while some kind of garbled prayer sprays from his lips. If I was a Dracula knock off, that might have done something. Since I’m a very real, likely an invincible recreation of Stoker’s first imagined creature, it does absolutely nothing. 

I make it up the first step before another voice rings through the confused din of the audience. “Erik!”

Mom. Mother. The high heeled attacker who left me for dead in a cold alley. 

Glaring at the Bishop, I watch as his hands tremble over his text. Another time. I’m not going to forget the person who brainwashed my mother and then sent her after me. 

I am going to deal with her first. 

Staggering away from the front of the cathedral, I follow her out the side door and into a dim hallway. She’s uninjured and far faster than me. While the beast resting just under the surface of my skin wants bloodshed and revenge, I only want to talk. 

She’s nowhere to be seen.

Leaning against the stone wall, I squint into the next room. Some kind of archive. Maybe just an individual prayer room with a stack of ancient texts for every need. 

She’s in there. 

“Does Dad know?” I ask the room as I step past the door frame. 

She seemingly materializes from an exit across the room. Hiding. It’s not really the way innocent people act. 

“He knows you got into some trouble.”

Right. Dad runs a bakery. He was injured in the army a long time ago and now she coddles him from the real nasty bits of our world. 

“So, you left out the part where you tried to kill me?”

She doesn’t flinch at the statement. I thought she would show some emotion. Maybe she would take a breath to beg for my forgiveness. Instead, she straightens her shoulders and looks down her nose at me even though I’ve been taller than her since I turned fifteen. 

“When you started sneaking around with questionable men, you betrayed the family. You’re not human anymore, Erik. If you cared for any of us, you would take care of this mess yourself.”

I’m going to puke. 

“Kill myself,” I breathe, the words barely penetrating the thick air between us. 

She shrugs, her thin frame wrapped in a jacket. Like this, she just looks like the woman who used to stand in the kitchen and ask about my grades. That’s not who she is now. It’s more than the additional lines around her lips and eyes or the gray strands she can’t seem to keep covered with expensive dyes in her hair. She chose the goddamned Bishop over the rest of us, vowing her life to his secret society. 

One that dislikes anyone who strays from the traditional path and despises vampires. 

“It’s the best choice for the family.”

Of course. The family is the most important thing. We’re not supposed to upset Dad’s life or distract Malcolm from his booming security business. We’re just expected to keep our chins up and our mouths shut. 

I haven’t ratted Mom out in years. She’s been moving family funds around and going to these secret meetings with the Bishop and his followers. I open my mouth to argue with her and then firmly shut it. 

There’s no point. I dragged myself off of the ground and came here to make a statement. 

But it doesn’t matter. 

“Tell Dad I died. I’ll get out of your life.”

For the first time since we came face to face, her stern mask cracks. There’s something else underneath. Likely not sadness since she was already prepared to wipe me off the planet with nothing more than a hammer and her personal conviction. 

“Where will you go?”

That has to be a ploy. She isn’t really going to let me walk out of here. Is she?

I shrug, the action making everything on the right side of my body ache. “Anywhere that isn’t here.”

“You can’t reach out to your brother.”

“I know.”

It would defeat the purpose of faking my death if Malcolm was aware that I was alive. I’m not willing to keep playing these games. I’m mad, really fucking mad about all of this, but it’s not a fight I can win on my own. 

We’re at a standstill. I don’t know if we’re supposed to say more. There’s no way that I’ll be trading statements of love and well being. 

This sucks. 

It really, really sucks. 

But I know when I have to throw in the towel. 

I didn’t stumble through college just to die in an alleyway. 

I’ve got dreams and I know there’s places for me to follow them. There’s a mysterious number in my phone for me to call. I’ll see where that lead takes me while I buy a ticket out of town. 

Still, I don’t know if there’s something else to do. I went through all of the effort to chase her down and say something. Is this really how we’re going to leave things?

I don’t get a chance to make that decision. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out her phone, clicking through several screens before her dark eyes, the same dark eyes I inherited, pin me to my spot. 

“I can buy you eight minutes. Get out. The others are coming.”

A last minute show of loyalty or just a way for her to force me out of her life, I don’t think twice about turning away and limping down the next hall. The door closes behind me with a final thud. Half dead, rage and disgust and grief rampaging through my intestines, I keep my eyes forward. 

It’s time to see where life will take me.

Author’s Note

This writer is physically and mentally exhausted. November has been a very long month packed with keeping up with all of my usual updates and working on the NaNoWriMo challenge.

I started this prompt this morning with a vague idea that I would introduce yet another one of my characters. If you enjoyed The Last Dance a couple of weeks ago, I’m happy to introduce Erik as the stranger that whisked Miles away at the end. Erik’s story is going to play with familial tension and a resistance to religion as he tries to find himself in this terribly complex world.

As always, thank you for coming to read this blog and support my dream to write. It has meant the world to me these last few months.

Please check out Bridgette’s story as well on the theme of chasing an enemy: Chalky Hands

And if you’re reading Lore, come meet Erisa Nabil through Ashby’s eyes: Lore by A D Reece

I’ll see you next weekend, readers! ❤

Posted in Character Stories


My brothers never heed my warnings. I don’t give them speeches about the butterfly effect or other useless theories. In this day and age, all I ask is that they keep their heads down and beware of the vultures hidden as human beings in every city. 

Seth thinks I worry too much. Of course, I do. Dressed in black, my hands loose at my sides, I am worried that I won’t get to my destination in time. 

There’s so much in this world I don’t have to worry about. It’s highly unlikely Seth will ever die from snorkeling or a fitness purge. He doesn’t need to fight for a space in the music industry or have to deal with corporate snitches. The newspapers are always full of crazy stories about young people who sell their souls for fame and fortune only to be destroyed far too quickly. 

I’ve created a home and safe place for us, so my brothers never have to fend for themselves. 

Does that mean I don’t have to worry?


I was on my way to the grocery store when the messenger found me. He had no scruples pushing me up against a wall in broad daylight. There was no reason to defend myself. People on the sidewalk around us had started to stare. This was not the time or place for a supernatural showdown. Instead of trying to overpower me, he leaned in close enough for his hot, garlicky breath to waft over my face. 

The message was simple. A location. A time. An exchange. 

Normal rules applied, of course. Don’t tell anyone. Come alone. Any deviation from the request would be met with extreme consequences. 

He shoved a vial in my hand and then left. The exchange. Ivan is getting impatient. There haven’t been any more success stories after mine. My brothers were infected by me and share the same strand of the virus. All other twenty-first century vampires have irregularities in their blood and virus’ that leave them having issues that science has yet to fix. 

Most aren’t too much of a problem. I scour the world helping people infected by rare strands and teach them how to function once more. Cedric from Ireland blacks out when he’s overwhelmed, leaving him to become a notorious “werewolf” in the area that I recently brought back home to recuperate. He’s no monster. Just a vampire without any sense of control and a few memory problems. He should be fine in a year or two with a rigorous schedule full of training and consistent sleeping schedule. If he should choose to stay on, he’ll become part of an onboarding team for more future inhabitants. 

Ivan isn’t looking for vampires that need a little bit of work and gentle counseling. He wants killing machines. He wants lethal soldiers that can walk off of a battlefield no matter the strength of the army they’re facing. 

He wants me and the special properties that come from my blood. 

I didn’t head home. Seth would immediately see my face and know that something was wrong. Should things go wrong, he knows what to do. I’ve left him a cabinet full of advice and helpful materials, but he understands the importance of our operation and that the lives of our occupants come before any attempt to come find me. 

We’ve had longer together than most brothers. It would be an honor for him to carry out my legacy. 

Seth, of course, has never been the problem. Ditching the grocery store, I slipped into a back alley and cut my hand, letting my blood fill the vial without hesitation. This sample of my DNA could be all that Ivan needs to create a superhuman army ready to take over the world. It wouldn’t happen today or tomorrow, but in two decades, this vial could be the reason the world has gone from a place that struggles to balance good and evil to purely a dystopian novel. 

It’s worth it, though.

Ashby and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. He came to America without a dream, trapped as an immortal because of mistakes I made. I’ve never asked more of him than to try to be happy. He did that for a few years and has now lost it all. 

This is inevitably my own fault. 

It’s been a year, but I knew he wasn’t doing well after the death of his boyfriend. He moved back home. I thought that would be enough to keep him out of trouble. 

Clearly not. 

I make it across the city in less than an hour, my legs cramping from speeding through intersections and taking shortcuts around the humans still crowding the sidewalks as the evening starts to creep across the sky. Seth always teases that I spend too much time doing bureaucratic bullshit and not enough hours in the gym. Perhaps he’s right. If I make it out of this predicament alive, I might just make it a goal to join his daily workouts. 

I’m almost ten minutes early, but Ivan and his men are already here, taking over the darkened corner of an abandoned parking lot. There’s no point in creating a strategy or trying to sneak up on them. They know I’m coming and I won’t risk Ashby’s life. 

Already, a fire burns behind them, one that licks purple flames towards the coming night sky. The only way to kill someone like Ashby or I. Expose the virus and burn it to a crisp. It’s rare for a vampire to survive some fatal wounds, but this is a surefire way to keep me in line and threaten Ashby’s existence. 

I walk towards them, my hands at my side, the promised vial tucked in my pocket. “Where’s my brother?”

Ivan, the large brute in his typical black trench coat, steps out of the way to reveal Ashby being forced to sit in a chair while a man presses a blade to his throat. Not the worst situation I’ve found him in, but definitely dangerous. We have to be careful with this exchange or I’ll lose more than just the fate of the world. 

Ashby’s eyes widen as he gets his first look at me. “What are you doing? I told them you wouldn’t come.”

Pupils too large, words slurred, he shakes his head at me, his hair sticking to his sweaty forehead. There’s more he wants to say. Insults and commentary on my failure as his brother most likely. He doesn’t get a chance to say more as the man holding him cuts him off with a hand over his mouth. 

I should have had someone watching him. I don’t know if he’s drunk or high or a combination of both, but he’s been out of control for the last year and too reckless to be left alone. It’s the only reason Ivan has him now. 

Another failure to add to his list of faults for me. 

Ivan isn’t here to deal with my family drama. “This is an exchange, Carter,” he prompts, stepping back in front of my brother. 

Plucking the vial out of my pocket, I hold it out for him to see. In the flickering light of the raging fire, the red liquid looks ominous. No different than anyone else’s life force. Ivan thinks it’s the key to his campaign and I’m happy to give it to him if it means Ashby comes free. 

“Let him go, Ivan.” 

Those are the only words I let myself say. More demands push their way up my throat. He’s just a kid. He shouldn’t be involved. If you wanted a fair fight, you would have sent your goddamn goons after me. 

I can’t say any of that. Ivan already predicted my presence by kidnapping Ashby. The man is more monster than anything akin to human. I won’t give him the satisfaction of begging for my brother’s life when he has never had the capacity to love anyone or anything in his prolonged existence. 

We’re at a standstill. 

Ivan is still standing in front of Ashby, unsure of how to let go of my feral sibling without giving me the upper hand. I haven’t stepped any closer. I’m not fool enough to get into his arm’s reach with this vial. Staring across the parking space between us, I dare him to make the next move. 

He’s the one that demanded my presence. 

Deep breaths. Stay calm. Even though rational thought is begging to exit my mind, I have to stay sharp enough to get Ashby out of this predicament. 

He doesn’t deserve to die for my inability to keep him safe. 

If I can just get him out of here, Seth will know what to do with him. He could lock Ashby in a room and throw away the key for all I care. An isolated life is better than this dangerous path he’s been barreling down for too long now. 

Ivan lets out a ragged sigh. “Release him.”

Ashby staggers to his feet, rubbing his neck and smearing the line of blood the knife had created. He’s muttering curses under his breath in French and English. I want nothing more than to grab him and pull him behind me, but I can’t do that without walking past Ivan. Ashby has to come to me himself. 

I’d appreciate it if he could do it sooner rather than later. 

My brother is barely strong enough to stand on his own, using the chair as a crutch to keep his footing. I don’t know why he was outside in this condition. He put a target on his back and then dared the bad guys to come get him. 

There will definitely be a lecture for him if we both get out of this. 

Ivan waves for the man who was holding my brother to come forward. “Make the trade.”

Grabbing Ashby’s arm, he drags him a few steps in front of Ivan and then holds out his hand. It’s now or never. I hand over the vial and take my brother. Everyone walks away a winner. 

That’s the point, right?

Ashby’s hands dangle at his sides, black claws appear and then retract back into his skin. He’s barely keeping his virus at bay. I don’t even think he realizes how close he is to losing control. As much as that could help me in the event of a fight, he’s not in any condition to have my back. 

I just need to get him away from here. 

Reaching forward, I let the man snatch the vial from my hand while I grab onto Ashby’s arm. We both pull away with our chosen prize. I’m ready to run for our lives and slam the doors behind ourselves back at my compound, but Ashby has another idea. 

“I’m worth one vial of blood?” His unfocused gaze flicks between me and Ivan. “That’s all you wanted? You know he and I have the same blood, right? We’re literally brothers infected by the same viral strand.”

I’m stepping backwards and Ashby isn’t budging. A cruel smile peels across Ivan’s face

“I do know that, little Carter.”

The next moment happens almost too quickly for me to follow. Two more goons appear from the shadows behind us. The one who was holding Ashby before lunges forward, stabbing at me with a previously concealed knife. The blade catches my bicep, tearing my T-shirt sleeve and leaving a bloody gash in its wake. 

Ivan starts to walk away, his coat fluttering behind as his heavy steps echo around the empty space. “Don’t waste too much of that blood. Take them alive if you can. Otherwise, there’s still one more Carter I could get my hands on should the need arise.”

The fight I was worried about having to survive is here. I barely feel the cut on my arm as my blood clots and it begins to heal. My main concern hasn’t changed. Ashby is in no condition to make a smart decision right now. I have to get him out of here.

My hand wrapped around his shoulder, I pull him back just in time to miss the next slash of the knife. Ordinary weapons have no real effect on us. It’ll take them too long to hack us into small enough pieces. 

This is just a distraction. 

Ashby fighting against my hold as much as he is flailing against the next swipe of the knife, he stumbles over his own feet as I turn to see the real problem. Chemical warfare was created by humans, but perfected by vampires. Dressed in specialized hazmat suits, the other two goons toss a grenade. 

It explodes with a blinding light. Bits of rock and shrapnel embed themselves into my back as I throw myself over my brother. Ashby lands with a thud, any argument covered by the boom of the weapon behind us. 

Blind, my ears ringing, I struggle back to my feet while I hold my breath. Gotta move. Gotta get out of here. 

Ashby doesn’t get up. 

The three other men don’t give me space while I try to retrieve my brother. Blood splats over the concrete as I take a punch to the ribs. Choking on air, I cover my face with my shirt while they surround me. There’s no way to protect myself and defend Ashby’s still body, so I take several more hits to my back and stomach and one to my cheek that makes me see stars before my knees hit the ground. 

We made a pact several decades ago to never show the other vampires what made us special. 

Today I have to break that. 

Blows rain down on my body as I curl over Ashby. Home. I have to get home. 

Black tendrils leak from my wounds. The attacking vampires stagger back. Shocked or surprised or disgusted, I don’t care what they’re feeling. 

Thirty seconds. That’s all I need. 

My body weak from the fight and the breaths of contaminated air, I blink away the dark spots clouding my vision. Home. 

Grey walls and grey floors. Tunnels beneath the city. I haven’t had time for major decorations, but my bed has red sheets. 

I hold that color in my mind’s eye. 

Red like the blood dripping from my mouth onto the floor. 

The black tendrils swirl around us, creating a cocoon that has the other vampires keeping their distance. Ashby and I are specimens they could never understand. Danger fills the air around us. 

 Should I fuck up, Ashby and I will die here. 

Not at the hands of our attackers, but as a consequence of using powerful magic I still don’t understand. 



My mother’s dining room table sits in my living area. There’s a picture of my brothers taped to the wall next to my bed. Red and grey and black. The colors swirl through my mind as I let my eyes fall closed and feel the inevitable tug of the magic on my bones. 

I wrap my arms around Ashby, clinging to him harder than I have ever tried to cling to life. This will not be the day I lose him. Even if this destroys me, he has to get home safe. 

I don’t dare open my eyes. Even as the other vampires shout, their voices sounding muffled from the cloud of darkness around us, I focus on getting Ashby home. 

I’m too far gone to do anything besides hold my brother and hope for the best. 

Screams fill my ears as the magic starts to pull me towards my destination. Fire rages along my arms as the tendrils try to separate me from Ashby. He’s a lead weight in my grasp, threatening to stay here as I plummet through space and time to home. 

I pull him tighter, burying my face in his hair long enough to take a deep breath of his expensive, vanilla shampoo and the lingering hint of smoke. 

Please. This has to work. 

In the space of a second that seems to last forever, my joints seem to dislocate and slam back into each other. We’re weightless and then dropped onto concrete. Every moment of my long life hits me at once. I feel the wounds of injuries received and healed three decades ago. Gunshots and broken bones from my past. That pain in my shoulder that never seems to quite heal roars back to life. I can’t breathe. 

It takes every remaining ounce of strength in my body to force my eyelids open. 


Ashby in my arms. 

Seth must have heard our fall. He’s at the open door, his mouth open in a question or a yell for my attention. 

It doesn’t matter right now. 

I close my eyes. 

We made it.

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday! Thank you for checking out Gideon’s ordeal this week. When I first saw the prompt for an interrupted journey, I thought it was something that could fit any of the characters that I’ve brought out onto this blog. There are several story ideas jotted down for other characters and the various journeys they could have been on before their inevitable interruptions, but I thought Gideon was a fun person to follow this week, pushing further into another of his many adventures before he runs into Tamyra Raeleigh.

I also hope this was a little bit of insight into the character of Ashby Carter long before my kindle Vella series: Lore. There’s a long timeline to play with and a lot of different phases these characters go through over that span, so I hope it continues to be interesting enough to bring my readers back every week.

As always, please take a moment to drop a like or a comment to let me know how I’m doing!

Bridgette’s story will be up soon!

Posted in Character Stories

Meet Me at the Waterfall

There’s a knock at my door. I don’t bother to answer. They took the locks away a long time ago. Nothing is stopping them from coming in. 

My nightmares still roaring in my ears, I wipe my nose on the back of my hand and then go back to fiddling with the tie of my left shoe. “Hey. You’re already up.”

Seth. He’s only here half of the time. I don’t glance up. “Do you need something?”

He takes three steps into the room and sets a glass bottle down on the table against the wall. “Just wanted to say happy birthday before I head out.”

I glance at the pink substance. Twenty-one. I didn’t think I’d make it this long. Most days, I wish I hadn’t survived. 

“Thanks,” I murmur, my throat tight. 

Seth hesitates in the doorway, his bulky frame overtaking the small space. “I don’t have to leave if you wanted to do something special tonight. I could push the rest of my plans, Tamyra.”

I shake my head. I don’t have the energy to argue with him. What would we possibly do? My birthday is the anniversary of everything going wrong. 

He doesn’t insist on springing any other surprises on me. “You should put that in the fridge if you don’t want it until later. I put some other stuff in there, too.”

“Thanks,” I say again, my hands undoing and redoing the lace of my boot as I wait for him to leave. 

He lingers there again, but I don’t continue the conversation. There’s too many muddled emotions between us to try to sift through it right now. I owe him my life. I hate him for it. He wants me to have a future, to be happy, and there’s just no way I can promise to do that. My life ended three years ago and I continue to go through the motions every damn day for his sake, for the sake of people I don’t know and may never meet, for the memory of everyone who lost their lives so I could continue to trouble the world with my presence. 

Finally, Seth leaves, his heavy footsteps thudding through the rest of our shared cottage. His departure means Seymour should be getting here any minute. I only have one shot. 

Grabbing the bag I stuffed under the mattress, I sling it over my shoulder and tip-toe out of the room. Silent. One careful step after another. These vampires have better hearing than most and will catch me if a single wooden board dares to squeak. 

I just need to get away.

To breathe. 

To scream out into the world and not have someone watching me break down. 

It’s all I want for my birthday. Not to hurt anybody or escape. Just to have a moment alone. 

They boarded up the windows in my room and the bathroom after my last escape attempts. There’s another window in the kitchen and the front door, both of which Seth or Seymour could see me using to leave. Typically, they keep the room they share locked, but they’ve been getting sloppy the last few times they swapped positions. I can grab a few more supplies and sneak out the window in there before they have a chance to realize I left. 

I inch the door at the end of the hall open and squeeze inside, careful to hold the handle as I put it back in the closed position. Breath frozen in my lungs, I listen for footsteps. Nothing yet. I don’t hear Seth talking, either. He’s probably out there waiting for Seymour to get here. 

There’s locks all over the drawers and cabinets in the rest of the house, the two men in charge of me making sure I don’t get into anything without their direct permission. I brought that on myself. The first few months of my imprisonment are a blur, but I remember acting out. I broke so many dishes that they switched everything to plastic after only a week. I let the stove run just to press my hands to the hot grates and then sit on the floor to watch it heal. I couldn’t hurt myself, punish myself enough, so I took it out on the rest of the house and the two men working to keep me alive. 

Three years later, I have a better understanding for why they did the things they had to, but it doesn’t mean I like it. It certainly doesn’t mean I appreciate any of it. Seymour likes to tell me that grief is immeasurable and will ease with time, but I can feel its deadening weight in each of my limbs. 

Every day. 

Nothing helps. Nothing erases the memories of that night or quiets the screaming that fills my dreams. Nothing takes my focus off of the past, I suppose, but the letter tucked into my pocket. 

A careful handwritten letter composed of three lines. 

You are in grave danger.

Your friends can no longer help you.

Meet me at the waterfall.

I found it tucked under my pillow three days ago. The words woke something dormant in my veins. Not fear. Fear is an old friend at this point.

Something else. 

Something dangerous and thirsting for retribution. 

Whoever left it had all the chances they wanted to attack me when they dropped it off. I don’t know how I slept through an entire person in my room, but I won’t let it happen again. I’m not even worried about the warning. There’s always someone trying to kill me. It’s an average Tuesday after the last few years. 

Whoever this is needs me alive and needs me to come willingly or they would have kidnapped me from my bed. Curiosity piqued, I need to get out there to see who it is and find out what they want. I cannot have a whole entourage, so I need to be out of the house in the next thirty seconds or so in order to slip my personal guards. 

Stopping in front of the dresser placed at the foot of their bed, I pry open the first drawer and take out a handful of sharpened blades. They slide into the designated sheaths in my pants. Four blades total. Two slipped in at thigh level, the metal pressed tight to my body. The other two are smaller. They slide into the pockets designed into my boots. All of them padded and secure. All of them seamlessly designed to make it nearly impossible to see the weapons before I pull them out. I pull out one more and tuck it into the holster-like pocket attached to my hip for quick access. 

It’s time to go. 

I slide open the window and slip through without a sound. It closes with a whisper, straining to tattle on me. I don’t stick around to see if either of them noticed. 

Nobody comes racing around the other sides of the cottage as I step away from the building and disappear into the trees. Tightening the bag on my shoulders, I take off at a sprint. The waterfall isn’t far from here. It’s a space they use for training me in different combat combinations, forcing me to keep my balance along the wet shore and uneven rocks or hold my breath under the water until I can reach the other side. It’s basically home territory against whoever left that note. 

I don’t slow down until I’m almost there, listening for any pursuit from my guards while also scanning the area ahead. There aren’t very many hiding places out here. The trees are a bit more sparse in this area and are too thin to truly hide behind. I press my hand to one of them, my fingers sticking to the syrupy substance bleeding from the trunk. 

The rushing of the waterfall makes it impossible to hear anything clearly. I step past the tree line and look over the bank of the river in our metaphorical backyard. Nothing. No one. The writer didn’t give me a timeframe. 

This was stupid. I don’t know what I expected. 

That’s a lie. I do. I’m waiting for an opponent who can finally put me out of my misery. Someone good with a blade. Someone better than me at hand to hand combat . Someone faster and stronger and merciless. Someone dressed in old fashioned robes and spouting insane science like an alchemist out of the old world who just needs my heart or my blood or my spleen, but not me to continue on with their evil plans. 

I won’t go down without a fight, but there’s a dark part of my soul that would happily lose. 

When still no one comes rushing behind me to drag me back to the cottage and no strangers pop out from the dirt to end my life, I walk to the edge of the water and settle onto a large rock. The waters are clear here. Small fish wriggle along the bank, picking up bits of sand and spitting them back out as they search for food. 

My reflection taunts me from the surface of the water. Look, it dares. 

I don’t meet its challenge. 

I can’t. 

There’s a shoescuff behind me. I’m off of the rock in a split second, my boots splashing into the water as I pull the knife from my hip. 

The man behind me has his hands held on either side of his head. Not Seth. Not Seymour. Taller than me by a few inches with long, black hair and a prominent nose, he watches me with careful eyes, his posture too casual for someone at the other end of my blade. 

“I just want to talk, Miss Raeleigh.”

My hands don’t tremble as I stare across the space. “Talk fast.”

“You’re in danger.”

He waits for a response. I don’t give him one. That’s not news. It hasn’t been news for years. 

“I want to take you somewhere safe.”

I can’t stop the snort that huffs from me. “And you expect that I’ll just go?”

“I expect that you won’t have much of a choice.”

My blade catches the early morning sun. “Why’s that?”

“Ivan’s troops have learned the location of your safe house. We have a couple of hours to clear everyone out before they’ll be here.”

Ivan. It’s such a simple name for such a terrible man. 

I don’t lower the knife between us. “I can handle it. I’m not abandoning the others here.”

He lets his hands slowly fall and rest at his sides. “They’ve been made aware of the situation. They know what to do.”

No. That’s not good enough. Seth and Seymour aren’t family. They’re barely friends. I don’t know what relationship title to give them, but, whatever it is, they don’t deserve to die in a battle that was meant for me. 

Nobody else gets to die for me. 

“Either let me walk away or try to restrain me, but I don’t have time to stand here with you.”

He doesn’t move. “I’m on your side, Miss Raeleigh. I can take you somewhere safe and your friends will join us later.”

Each step a carefully calculated risk, I move out of the water and then circle him until my back is to the trees. He can attack and die here on this lonely beach or he can let me go. Those are the only options I’m giving right now.

Before either of us can make a move or issue further threats, a boom echoes through the forest behind me. Ivan. He’s early. 

I don’t bother with the man by the river. I sheathe the knife at my hip and start running. Back to the cottage. Back to Seth and Seymour. Back to all I truly have in this meager life. 

The man from the waterfall is yelling. He wants me to stop. Desperation burns through each syllable.

I don’t care. 

They need me more and I don’t owe him a damn thing. 

I’m halfway back, the acrid smell of fire burning its way through my sinuses, when he launches his attack. He doesn’t tackle from behind or throw weapons. He just appears in front of me, in the line of my path, and I have no way to stop. 

Smashing my shoulder into his chest, he lets out a groan as he hits the hard-packed dirt first. I roll, but he’s not out of the fight, his hands clinging to my backpack. Hunched over in an attempt to get away, I pull the knives from my boots and let him pull me back. One hits dirt. The other hits its mark. 

The vampire lets out a snarl as the knife wedges itself deep into his bicep. “I’m here to help you, Tamyra Raeleigh. Do not stab me.”

I don’t care that he knows my name, that he isn’t retaliating other than to let me go and pry the blade from his arm. All I care if that I’m on my feet. The ground rumbles with the machinations of war. Birds launch into the sky in a cloud of black bodies, their screams just barely audible over the next explosion. 


I don’t know if I yell it. It’s my only thought. No. Not this. Not again. 

I stumble forward a few steps on the uneven ground before the vampire behind me grabs me around the waist and lifts me from the ground. Thrashing in his hold, he knocks my next knife out of my hand before I can use it. I elbow him in the abdomen. 

Growling ensues. We’re worse than two mountain lions fighting for territory. I scream and he demands that I stop. 

I’m drawing attention to us. 


If they know I’m here, then they’ll leave the others alone. 

My last two knives in my hands, I stand my ground against the vampire from the waterfall. “I will end you,” I spit. 

“You could definitely try,” he snaps back. “Let’s agree to do this another time at a safer location and I’ll let you show me all your best moves, Raeleigh.”

The ass. Without thinking, I throw the knife in my left hand. It whizzes through the air, narrowly missing him as he leans to the side. It lodges into a tree several yards away. 

“If that’s your best, I think I’ll be just fine.”

Killing vampires has been my main curriculum since the creatures crept into my life. Nobody told me I’d have to have a conversation with them. They certainly didn’t mention how infuriating that could be. 

I bare my teeth at the creature. My human teeth. I may share some of their DNA, but I refuse to finish a fight as anything but a woman. 

“Why don’t you just stand still and take it like a man?”

He clucks his tongue at me. “I expected you to think like someone born close to the twenty-first century, Raeleigh. It’s not very feminist of you to try to belittle me based on my gender.”

Who is this guy? There’s a full scale attack happening up this hill and he wants to discuss philosophy. I shake my head. This is ridiculous. A ridiculous waste of my time. 



He’s trying to waste my time and keep me down here. Ivan’s people couldn’t beat me the last dozen times they tried and they won’t now. Seth and Seymour need me. 

Without another word, I go back to racing up the hill, zipping past trees and keeping my path irregular in order to keep him from popping back into my path again. Up. I just need to get up. They need to be alive. 

The man appears on my right, lunging to stop me. I swing at him, but he grabs my hand, pinning it to the ground as he falls on top of me. His legs on either side of my hips, his hand holding mine down, he doesn’t expect me to punch him in the face. 

Blood trickles from his nose as his fangs appear just over his lip. “Seth is my brother. I’m not trying to hurt you or him. He has everything covered up there.”

There’s still yelling in the distance. No signs of fighting, though. Either they’re already dead or this guy is being honest.

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

His chest expands as he takes a deep breath. “You don’t have much of a choice right now, Raeleigh. Say you’ll come with me.”

What choice do I have? If he’s telling the truth, the only thing waiting up there for me is a lot of angry men hurt by the explosion Seth set. If he’s not, I can figure out my next moves from somewhere that isn’t the floor of a forest. 

I can always escape and start my life over somewhere else. 

“Fine. Let’s go.”

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday and welcome to the first story from Tamyra Raeleigh. The main protagonist for my vampire novels, she’s a character that fights for the bare minimum, clinging desperately to an idea of normal while she’s swept away by the actions of those surrounding her. Fiery and feral, she’s ready to spill blood to save those left in her life.

Please also check out my writing partner’s blog piece on this mysterious letter prompt!

Bridgette White:

I can’t wait to see what we come up with next week! Thanks for supporting my blog 😊

Posted in Character Stories

Florida Isn’t Far Enough

Still dressed in the same tux I wore to the funeral, I step into the Florida sun. Erik has several weeks on me and this is the only lead. The humid air settles around my shoulders as I leave behind the private plane and slip into the black Hummer waiting for me. 

My driver is a woman in a leopard print dress with red headphones looped around her thin neck. She slides sunglasses down her nose to look at me in the rear view mirror. “Looking hot as magma, Mr. Firoli.”

I shake my head at her. Any other time I would give into the gentle teasing. I would probably say something back about her appearance and wind up getting her number to meet me at my hotel room. It’s definitely my reputation preceding me that she felt safe enough to say something. This isn’t that kind of trip, though. 

Taking out my phone, I start to scroll through my notes while she pulls out of this makeshift lot in the middle of swampy land. Erik vanished three weeks ago. He called me the day before and joked that he would put me in charge of his funeral if anything happened. Well, something happened. 

I saw the crime scene. His apartment was destroyed. There’s no way my brother staged it on his own. I had the blood spatter tested. All of it came back as his. There’s no evidence of a single other person in that place. 

I saw his body. Just the one time after I got the call. I wouldn’t let my parents make the identification. 

I went to the damn funeral and I’m no closer to having any real answers. 

God, I can’t breathe. Sticking my fingers under my tie, I pull it away from my neck. Not enough. I’m not here to look nice for anyone. I take the black tie off and toss it onto the seat next to me. My jacket is next. This woman works for my family. She’ll have it cleaned and sent back or I can just buy a new tux before the next funeral. 

“You hungry, Sir? I know a place that does great spaghetti and Italian doughnuts.”

She’s being kind. I know that. I understand it, but I do not have time for it. “Just take me where you were previously instructed.”

Her hands tighten on the steering wheel. “My apologies, Sir. I just didn’t take you for a guy who likes tiki huts.”

I’m not. I quite frankly don’t like most of America, especially not tourist areas that hand out alcohol like it’s the source of fortune and health. If it was my choice, I would never set foot out of Italy. However, my brother is missing and I’ve promised to not leave a single stone unturned in my search for him. 

I don’t give her an answer. It doesn’t matter what kind of man she thinks I am. She’s in charge of driving me there and then we’ll go our separate ways. 

There’s an important meeting I need to take care of between me and the “tour guide.” 

Erik mentioned the guy once in the last six months. They met on a dating app. Erik thought he was funny and might plan to come out here to see him in person. 

That was it. 

Not something for his big brother to worry about or stick his nose in. At least, it wasn’t until all of the research I could obtain through hacking his computer turned up this guy as the last person to talk to Erik. 

Not three weeks ago, but three days ago. 

While I stood through funeral arrangements and recitals for the big event, this guy was texting Erik. He told my brother that he was enamored with him, that he hoped his new life was going to work out, and that they would meet again. I cringed by the way he mentioned his love for Erik, not because they’re both men, but because nobody should ever say they’re “magnetized” to another human being. 

The armored car cuts through the crowded streets, leaving behind beach shops and girls in bikinis as we maneuver our way to the bar this guy is known to work. He’s expecting my brother. I changed all of the passwords and took over Erik’s accounts two days ago. He’s either going to have to go through me or continue to pretend that he’s a dead man living in this country. 

I haven’t told anyone else my suspicions. I held my father as he sobbed by the closed casket this morning. My mother stood over the grave as they piled each and every last bit of dirt back onto the grand plot. They’re good people. They shouldn’t have to live through losing a child. 

They especially shouldn’t have to when it’s all fake. 

I let my fingers tap away at the phone until I pull up my text thread with my mother. Be careful. She said it twelve times in the span of a couple of hours. I’m her only remaining child, for as much as she knows, and she’s terrified that something is going to happen to me as well. Scrolling to the bottom, I type out a quick message to let her know I’m okay, I’ve arrived, and I’ll be out of contact for a few hours while I deal with business. 

She thinks I’m out here expanding my body guarding enterprise to American soil. I probably should do that while I’m here just so I don’t have to deal with the guilt of lying to her. There’s no reason to get her hopes up that I can bring Erik home until I have my hands on the motherfucker and find out why he put us through this in the first place. 

It has to be something bad. Erik has always had a rebellious spirit. He fights for the smaller guy. There’s at least a dozen scuffles I’ve pulled him out of or had to clean him up from because he wouldn’t let someone be bullied. It’s a good look on him. The hero. Even after coming out queer, he was a part of the family life and welcome at ever function. Our distant relatives don’t understand it so much, but our parents and I have always been there for him. 

This has to be something else and it has to be really, really bad for him to not mention it to any of us. 

I don’t want to string together false theories, so I let my eyes mindlessly browse images on my phone. There’s no telling if this is drug or gang related. My family has had problems with those topics in the past. I’m old enough to understand that my parents don’t run a regular bakery. There’s shady deals made in the back of the store and odd shipments that come in during the late hours of the night. My father is the face of the business, passing down age old recipes from his mother and his mother’s mother and keeping people happy with his desserts while my mother does more than just housekeeping at the end of the night. 

She has never told me more about her extra activities and I’ve only asked once. Just before I left for college. It was late at night. There had been blood on her apron. I asked if it was safe for me to leave or if she would rather I invest in the family business and stay to help her. 

Go. Make a better life. She wouldn’t condemn me to carry the burden of her career. 

Erik stayed home longer than I did, though. He didn’t leave for college right away and I was gone for a handful of years while I completed my business degree. Could he have known more? If so, is this the reason he has gone into hiding? Wouldn’t my mother know something?


Her eyes were rimmed with red this morning and her fingers shook when she pulled me in for a hug. That wasn’t an act. She lost a son and almost couldn’t bear letting me walk away. 

I’m going to fix this for us. No matter what this takes. Erik is going to come home and my family will be whole once again. 

The car eventually stops. I slip the woman a twenty as I thank her for the ride and then excuse her of her duties. I won’t be needing someone to pick me up. I’m plenty capable of taking care of things on my own. 

My black carry-on in my left hand, I stride towards the bar. Neon lights twinkle around the roof, beckoning tourists to stop in and try a fruity beverage. There’s wood etchings of Hawaiian deities and some signs with quotes dangling around the door. Well, the curtain. This place has beads covering the entrance. 

I blow out a sigh. I can make this quick. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot the guy I need after all of the mostly naked pictures I’ve gone through in the last forty-eight hours. He’ll give me my answers and I’ll be on my way. No need to stay and try a coconut hurricane.

As if to prove my point, I step into the dim interior and blink to clear my vision, my eardrums immediately accosted by the awful singing of a clearly inebriated man. Not any man. TourGuide1986. Got him.

Waving off a waitress that offers me a drink menu, I watch the man finish his song. Thin, dressed in a tank top, board shorts, and flip flops, he has no chance of getting out of here without dealing with me. He falls to his knees as he finishes the ridiculously long note at the end of the song. I am going to be merciless about teasing Erik. This cannot possibly be his kind of person. My brother is so level-headed and kind. This man, Mr. TourGuide1986, is a fool. 

He waves for the crowd to demand an encore, but they boo him off of the stage. Helped down by a security guard, he staggers down to a booth in the back corner. Clearly, he spends a lot of time here. Nobody steps into his way and the table is clearly filled with all of his empty beverage glasses for the night. 

I waste no time joining him there, setting my bag amongst the chaos on the tabletop as I slide in next to him, cutting off any chance for him to escape. “We need to talk.”

TourGuide1986 lolls his head from one side to the other, cracking his neck in the process as he moves his thigh against mine. “Well, hello there, Sir. Are you extremely happy to see me or is that a revolver in your pocket?”

“Sober up or you’re about to find out,” I snap, more frustrated by the second as I come to understand that this worthless human being is the only tie I have to my lost brother. 

Erik better be healthy when I find him. He better be in the best shape of his life because I’m going to strangle him when we finally have a moment alone. This man, this entire situation, is a ridiculous detour from my otherwise perfect life and I do not have time for it. 

Seeming to use all of the effort in his body, he blinks his eyes a few times and then reaches across the table for an empty glass, slurping the last bits of the long gone drink from the ice cubes. “Look, if Benji sent you, I’m getting his money together. We don’t have to play hard to get. I’ll even take you to a private room and-.”

Nope. Not what we’re here for. I don’t let him finish the thought and offer before curling my fist in his flimsy shirt and pressing him into the darkened corner of our booth. 

“My brother, Erik. What do you know?”

“Erik,” his glass falls out of his hand, spilling ice into his lap as he wraps shaking fingers around my wrist. “Erik, Erik, Erik. I don’t know man. I don’t think I know an Erik. You must have the-.”

I slam my fist on the table. Another person has started singing at the front of the room. It covers up the clinking of glasses in our area as I dip my face into his and drop my voice to a threatening whisper. 

“Do not tell me I have the wrong guy right now. Erik Firoli. You’ve been in contact with him.” Blowing out a deep breath, I switch tactics. “QueerItalian93. That ring a bell?”

“Ooooooh.” He excitedly taps my wrist. “Yeah, man. I know him.” Eyes rolling back in his head, he lets out a hearty laugh. “Do I know him. That guy is one fine-.”

Why am I putting myself through this? Is my brother really worth it? He’s clearly gotten into some bad shit with bad people and it isn’t really my responsibility to clean up after him. 

Even if I wanted to, I can’t walk away until this is finished. I won’t go home to my parents without Erik. I’m going to fix everything. 

It is my goddamn job. 

“I don’t care what you think of him. I know you’re not really a tour guide and I’m pretty sure he saw you a few days ago to pick up some forged papers. Where the Hell did you send my brother?”

The red-faced fool fumbles his words. “Look, man, I can’t just be telling you these things. There’s like client confidentiality or whatever.”

I tighten my grip. “You can tell me or we can go outside, so I can show you what the fuck’s in my pocket. Where is Erik?”

Snot dribbles from his oversized nostrils and his long, blond bangs fall into his eyes as he tries to shrink out of my hold. “No, man. It’s okay. We don’t have to do any of that. I got him an I.D. That’s it. He could go anywhere with it.”

I swear, if he makes me ask him again…

I don’t have to, though, as his nervous tongue keeps talking. “Vegas, okay? He told me that there’s a job waiting for him in Las Vegas. Nevada. You need a map. I’ll mark it down for you. Vegas. I promise that’s the best place to go. He probably didn’t even need fake I.D., but he’s covered now and anyone out in that godforsaken desert will employ him without a question. Vegas,” he repeats, his bloodshot eyes wild as he searches my face for a scrap of mercy, “I know it’s Vegas. Vegas is my final answer. You wanna find your brother, you go there.”

It’s a lead. Not the most concrete evidence out there, but I’m already grasping at straws and in over my head. I’ll take what I can get. 

“I find out that you’re lying to me,” our faces are an inch apart, his acrid breath washing over my face as I keep my threats between us, “I’ll be back. It wasn’t hard to find you.”

There’s no reason to wait for his response. Dropping my hand, I slide back out of the booth and pick my bag off of the table. No one turns to watch me leave. 

Las Vegas, Nevada. 

I thought Florida was far for him to run. 

I still don’t know what’s wrong with Erik, but if he felt the need to fake his death and get fake identification in a different country, it’s something real bad. It won’t be today and likely won’t be tomorrow, but I’m going to find him and get to the bottom of this. Family matters more than anything else. No drunk forger is going to stop me from finding my brother. The Devil himself could try to chain me down and I would break away. 

My phone buzzes and I answer without checking the screen. “Yeah?”

“Is this Malcolm Firoli?”

The full force of the Florida sunset beating down on me, I pause at the accented voice on the other side of the line. “Who’s asking?”

“Gideon Carter. Your secretary passed on this personal number. I have an urgent job for you.”

I shake my head. I’ll have to reprimand Amy for that. This is the third time she’s given a potential client my personal number. “I’m sorry, Sir, but I’m out of town right now. I won’t be able to set up a new account at the moment. If you want to call back at my office, then-.”

“Money isn’t a problem. There’s a woman in trouble. I am willing to do anything I can to get her the best security in the world right now.”

How am I supposed to say no to that? Erik’s currently evading me. I may as well set up an American account while I’m looking for my brother. 

“Where is she?”

“Las Vegas.”

Well, that’s just purely convenient. “Name?”

“Lucy Lore. She’s a burlesque dancer.”

I don’t need to ask anymore questions. “Fine. You’ve got a bodyguard. Call the office back to finalize details. I’m on my way to Nevada for another job anyway.”

He doesn’t hang up right away. “Mr. Firoli, there’s something else I can only tell you.”

Shit. This is about to be one of those prank calls. “What?” I bite out, fighting every instinct to just hang up. 

The next statement out of his mouth makes no sense and all the sense in the world at the same time. I know why Erik left. There are greater evils in the world than those brought forth by regular men. Plenty of good men fall ill or are overtaken by this specific evil. My mother is terrified one of us will fall prey to the disease online articles are coining as Stoker’s virus. 


They’re real and they’re going to hurt this girl. 

Their influence has been growing in Italy. Erik must have made a bad connection with one of them. He fled the country to keep us safe, to keep us from being the next victims of this growing bioweapon. 

“I understand the danger, Mr. Carter. I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

He murmurs his thanks as I turn off my phone and tuck it back into my pocket. There’s some supplies I’ll need to gather before I head to this job. Enough gear to protect myself and this girl and my brother. 

It’s a good thing that playing the hero pays well.

Author’s Note

Thank you for reading this far! I hope you enjoyed the introduction into Malcolm Firoli’s mind and the tiny peek at the end of his importance to the overall story. I cannot wait to come back next week with something else for you all!

As always, please take a moment to read through my writing partner’s story, too!

Bridgette White:

Posted in Character Stories


More vampires are popping up everywhere. We have to expand. I got permission from my contact in the mayor’s office to move the tunnels this way, but their help stopped at bulldozing the area.

There’s a thick layer of dust over my clothes. The space around me still looks more like a work in progress than anything akin to a home. I already moved newcomers into the last of the open rooms as well as my own quarters, so I either have to get this finished or resort to sleeping in the halls. 

Footsteps thud down the hall behind me. Seth got plenty of muscles in his change from human to something more, but he never learned to be discreet. I smile at that small fact as his footsteps get quieter in his attempt to sneak up on me. 

Not going to happen, brother. 

He slinks up the corridor behind me on the balls of his feet like he’s trying to stay balanced on a tightrope. Even so, his shoes scuff along the littered floor. Bits of concrete scatter at his every movement. He’s only a couple of feet behind me now. 

I pull the can of spray paint I’ve been using to mark off doorways from my pocket. Wait for it. Almost. Now. 

Spinning backwards, I hold the can at stomach height and press down on the nozzle. Seth stumbles backwards, the yellow paint marring his bare arms as well as the white shirt he’s wearing. I laugh out loud. The look of surprise on his face is definitely the best part of my whole day. 

When he’s finally caught his balance, he scowls at me. “This is brand new, dude.”

I shrug. “Stop trying to sneak up on me. You were supposed to be back by Friday.”

Mischief lights his blue eyes. “I picked up something on my way back, so you act like you appreciate me.”

I roll my eyes. “Your budget is for necessities, Seth. We don’t have extra money for gifts right now.”

“It’s free,” he insists, waving off my concerns as he turns back down the hall and lets out a sharp whistle. 

My heart sinks. He better not have brought home a dog. We cannot handle another stray situation. He gets too attached too soon and I just do not have a space down here for an animal. 

A dark mass comes out from behind the corner. Not a dog. “What’s wrong?” I ask immediately, my eyes taking in the heavily embroidered vest on my youngest brother in comparison to my filth and the paint covering Seth’s shirt. 

His hands in his pocket, he shrugs. “Can’t I just come and visit?”

“You don’t answer my calls.”

Hands in his pocket, he winces at my sharp words. “I’m not a big cell phone person, Gideon.”

I shake my head. “It’s been nineteen years since we’ve seen each other in person. What do you need?”

Seth drops a hand on my shoulder. “Take a deep breath, Gid. Ashby isn’t trying to get one over on you. Let’s have dinner tonight before you’re at each other’s throats.”

I glance around the wreckage in this area. I’m as drab as a nightingale next to the fine plumage of a peacock in comparison to the brother that has just arrived. Ashby looks like he just stepped out to walk the runway. He was always so concerned with his appearance. I haven’t seen him outside of a waistcoat in a lifetime. 

“I don’t have extra rooms,” I finally say. “If you want to stay, you’re going to have to help.”

I expect him to walk away. As much as he won’t say, he’s here for something and he has no intention of helping with the project that has overtaken the majority of my life. There’s plenty of hotels in this area. I’m sure a resourceful guy like him could figure it out. 

However, he undoes the cuff links at his wrists and rolls his white sleeves up to his elbows. “What exactly do you need from me?”

I share a confused glance with Seth. “We’re building the walls to the rooms in this corridor.”

We all stand together then in an awkward stall. It’s going to take a lot of work to change the dismal state of this area. I don’t think he actually intends to follow through and I don’t have time to deal with his emotional meltdown when dust and paint ruins his outfit. 

“Well, tell me what to do or give me a broom, so I can clear some of this muck.”

He’s serious. Okay. We’re doing this. 

So excited to have the family back together, Seth grabs him a broom, already making plans to grill steaks for dinner. 

.     .     .

Ashby didn’t waver. He swept the floors and held all of the wooden beams in place for Seth and I to hammer into place. Between the three of us, we’ve assembled all of the walls for the rooms. There’s no doors, but at least we won’t be sleeping in an open space together. 

Exhaustion pulls at my bones. I haven’t slept in two days since I started this project alone. As is, I already have to go borrow a shower from someone else. Then, I have to survive a dinner with both of my brothers.

Seth has drywall in his hair and a huge grin across his face. “We’re a great team, aren’t we?”

Ashby murmurs his agreement, his dark eyes flitting everywhere but in my general direction. There’s a nervous energy underlining his busy actions. I can’t question him about it without risking him running off on me again, so I stay quiet and give Seth the response he needs before directing them to available showers. 

I take the halls in the opposite direction from them, making my way for my previous room. It wasn’t anything fancy. The same four walls and a bathroom I give everyone else. I did have art on the walls, though, and shelves full of mementos from my long life. Everything is stuffed into a storage closet now. I’ll eventually find time to catch up on building and running this place and be able to remake my quarters. 

Pausing at my blue door, I raise my fist and knock twice. There’s no noise on the other side of the wall. There never is. With just under thirty vampires taking up space down here in my original plans, I made sure to soundproof the place, so we didn’t go mad from the close quarters and never ending noise. 

I could go somewhere else. Any of my occupants would be happy to let me use their shower, but I need to check on Connor anyway. It’s only been a few days since he got here. Seth picked him up in California and dropped him off here before he went back to his duties in the outside world, a job that did not include Ashby until today. 

I knock again. No answer. 

There aren’t locks on the doors here. There’s no point. They wouldn’t keep a vampire out. Connor’s probably asleep. I’ll just slip in and use his shower and then drag myself back out for dinner with my brothers. 

I slowly turn the knob and inch the door open. Connor is not asleep. He’s sitting on the floor with headphones over his ears and a glowing remote in his hands. Seymour is bent over the small television they’ve smuggled down here, trying to plug in cords as he rigs something I have definitely not approved. 

I clear my throat as the door shuts behind me. “Busy making renovations?”

Seymour jumps, knocking his head on the shelf he’s working under and scrambling to his feet. “Gideon. Hi. I didn’t realize you were doing room checks this week.”

Connor whirls to look up at me, carefully pulling his headphones and curving them around his neck. “Oh shit. Are we not supposed to do this?”

I have to work hard to suppress the smile pulling at my lips. “I’ve never made much time for television and virtual games. Will it help you feel more comfortable here?”

He nods immediately. “Feels a little more like home.”

Right. That’s the point of this whole project. I let my gaze move to Seymour.

“Do I want to know how many rooms you’ve updated?”

The older vampire shoots me a mischievous smirk. “Guess you should really start doing room checks.”

I shake my head. There’s enough on my plate. I trust my people. I’m not going to be their landlord and governess in this place. Most of them are adults by the time they make their way to me. They know how to make the right decisions and I’ll help them when things get messy. If they want televisions and video games, I’m not going to stand in the way of it. 

“I came by to see if I could borrow your shower, Connor?”

The large man pushes to his feet, tripping on the tangled bundle of cords as he scrambles to the other side of the room. “Of course, Sir. It’s right in here. I-.”

Seymour is the one to cut him off with a booming laugh. “This used to be his room, Con. I think he can find it.”

I step by the man while he struggles with that bit of information. Questions swirl in his light gaze. Another night I’d happy stay here to answer them all. Today, I slip by and shut the bathroom door. 

The water is running hot in a few moments. I peel off all of my clothes, raining drywall dust and other muck from our project onto the floor. I’ll come back tomorrow to clean it. Folding my clothes, I tuck them in the space between the toilet and the sink. I’ll come back for those, too. 

Stepping past the curtain, I let the hot water wash over me. Soap and shampoo follows. I’m clean too soon. Blowing out a breath, I stand under the hot water for few minutes, anything to relax and recoup before going back out to deal with my brothers. 

I didn’t bring any clothes with me, so I dry off and then tie the towel around my hips. Add this to the list of things I’ll bring back to Connor’s room tomorrow. Deep breath. I can walk down the hall to my storage closet and find a change of clothes and then manage to make it through the rest of the night with Seth and Ashby. 

My shoulders slump from the weight of that task. Seth isn’t the problem. He and I would have done this anyway. We were supposed to be together a few days ago to finish this task of building the new corridor. At no point did we discuss our youngest brother or the real reason he needs to come over. 

I’ll figure it out soon enough. The two of them have never been able to keep anything from me. 

With that in mind, I duck out of the bathroom, wish Seymour and Connor a good night, and then slip back into the hall. It’s a quick walk to the closet I’ve created to store my things. It’s odd that the door is cracked open, but not unusual. I don’t lock away my things and somebody new probably got lost looking for their room. There’s not much here anyway for someone to take. My life’s legacy is these grey, concrete walls. I don’t have much in the way of material items: a couple of outfits; all different t-shirts with grey sweats, a dresser full of important documents and my painting supplies, and stacks of notebooks and canvases that I’ve filled with pictures from my life. 

Closing the door as much as possible, I slip on a shirt and then let my towel drop long enough to pull on my pants. Dressed and as ready as possible, I move back along the halls to the kitchen Seth prefers, the scent of seasoned meats leading me there the entire way. 

I don’t expect to see Ashby actually helping cook, but that’s exactly what I find when I push the kitchen door open. My brothers are shoulder to shoulder, Seth taking up most of the small counter space by himself as he flips steaks on the stove and directs our youngest brother to cut vegetables for a salad. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ashby in a kitchen, not holding a knife or taking directions. He was catered to a lifetime ago when we weren’t superhuman and chose not to learn life skills after he became an adult, relying on money to solve most of his problems. 

This might actually be a good visit. “Is there anything you need me to do?” I ask as I step into the space behind them. 

Seth shoos me to the table. “Just sit. We have this completely under control.”

In another part of my life, I would have taken over and made them leave the cooking to me. I would have said something about how his burner is too hot and the seasonings are burning to the pan faster than they can adhere to the meat. Today, though, I do as he says and slump into the chair closest to the door. 

Ashby glances over his shoulder at me. “Thanks for letting me drop by,” he finally murmurs after an awkward thirty seconds of sustained eye contact. 

I tip my head to him. He knows he’s always welcome here. I don’t have to say it again. It doesn’t matter what kind of fights we get in or how many times he walks away, I’ll leave the door open. 

The kitchen is quiet besides the aggressive sizzling in Seth’s pan for a few moments before Ashby clears his throat. “Did you ever get into that art academy?”

Yes. There’s a handful of acceptance letters shoved into a drawer somewhere. I don’t have time for those types of things and I’ve had far longer to sharpen my skills than most candidates. It’s not really a fair submission. There’s no point in taking away a spot from someone who needs it more. Art is a hobby that has kept me grounded for forty years, but this place is my whole world and all that will matter about my life if I ever get taken out of it. 

“Seth told me you’re seeing a girl.”

Red creeps around his neckline. “Yeah, it’s pretty serious.”

I don’t push for more information. We’re not at that point in our relationship and he doesn’t really want my existential outlook on this kind of union. There’s no point in settling with someone he’ll eventually outlive. I wouldn’t be able to survive that kind of pain and I won’t wish it on him, but I can’t stop him from making his own choices. 

Seth gets busy plating dinner as I come up with a suitable response. “I’m happy for you, Ashby.”

He shoots me something like a real smile and then ducks away from my eyes as his hand brushes his chest pocket. Seth barrels to the table with his arms full of food, so I let that gesture go. I’m too tired to ask why my youngest brother is acting nervous. At this point, I’d rather it bite me in the ass another time. 

The plates barely hit the table before Seth is gobbling his portion. I throw a handful of napkins his way. “Come on. We’re family, not animals. Have some kind manners.”

He rolls his blue eyes at me. “You got it, Mom.”

I snort. It’s not the first time he’s made the joke. It won’t be the last. One of us had to grow up to take care of the others and our mother was an extraordinary woman. I don’t mind being reminded of her. 

We eat in relative silence after that, all of us more tired than we would like to admit after the afternoon of hard work. Afterwards, I let Seth pile the dishes into the sink with the promise that I’ll wash them tomorrow. There’s so many things I’m going to do tomorrow. 

I then set them up with a sleeping bag and spare pillow, letting them choose their room in our empty corridor. My eyes are too heavy to fight sleep. I’m out before I even crawl all the way into the makeshift bed. 

.     .     .

I’m still tired in the morning, but better than before. Crepes sound like a good idea. Mom has been on my mind all night and I want nothing more than to sit around the table one more time with my brothers and feed them something she would have cooked. I’m sure there’s fruit in somebody’s pantry. I can have it thrown together before either of them are up. 

I take a moment to peek into their rooms. My heart sinks when I find that not only Ashby, but Seth is gone, too. 

There’s only one reason they would sneak out before I even woke. 

I stagger to the closet where I keep my possessions and yank open the bottom drawer. There’s two things I have left of my Mom, of ma mére: a table that I have stored in a separate storage area and her wedding ring. 

The box is there in the drawer, but I already know I’m going to find it empty as I slide open the black lid. 

Ashby met a girl. He’s going to ask her to marry him. He came here to steal our mother’s ring. 

We’re brothers, but we’re not a part of each other’s lives. 

Practically a stranger I let sleep in here, he’s out there with a piece of our mom, ready to throw his heart into the hands of a mortal woman. 

No gods can save him now. There’s no magic to heal him when this goes wrong. 

I’ll be here, though. I sigh as I slide the empty box back into its spot and lean back on my knees. When this goes terribly wrong and she dies, I’ll still be here with my door open.

Author’s Note

This was a really fun prompt and definitely a great way to pick up the general vibe of these pieces after the sad story last week. It is an absolute blast to craft these blog pieces from different characters. I’ve imagined this story a hundred times through Ashby’s eyes, but it’s really a different feel through Gideon’s. Still, all of this takes place before the main timeline of my novels, so keep checking in here to see all the behind the scenes tidbits I’m releasing before my novels are in the ands of the public.

As always, thank you for making it to this part in the post. It absolutely makes my day anytime I get a view or a like on these stories and gives me the encouragement I need to come back next week and do it all again.

Please be sure to check out Bridgette’s story about an unexpected visitor:

We’ll see you guys next week 🙂

Posted in Character Stories


My brother laughed when I asked for a roadmap to the nearest rare book store. “Nobody uses those anymore, Ash. Invest in GPS.”

“And give the larger powers of this world a way to track my every movement? No, thank you.”

Seth shakes his head at me, one bulky shoulder leaned into my fridge as he drinks my last bottled beverage without any sign of remorse. “Why don’t I just take you?”

I roll my eyes. I didn’t ask for him to stop in, I never do, but he’s here and he’s not going to leave me alone until I agree to his help. “Fine. I’m not answering any questions, though. I just need you to drop me off.”

He sets the empty, plastic bottle on the counter. “I’m definitely going in with you.”

“No. That is not in our agreement.”

He shrugs. “I’m not ditching you somewhere far from your house, Ashby.”

I cross my arms over my chest and stare across the room at the man who holds no familial resemblance to me. The years have been harsh to us. We haven’t aged past twenty-eight, but there’s a dark depth to his blue eyes that tells me he hasn’t even begun to forget the horrors of the last eighty years even though he smiles and jokes at every chance. Seth looks like our father with his short, blond hair and bright gaze. I look more like Gideon. We both got our mother’s dark hair and dark eyes coupled with the heavy bags smeared into our eternally youthful skin. 

“Come on. I don’t have all day. Get your ass outside or you’ll have to walk there,” Seth says as he pulls his car keys from his pocket. 

“I was fine walking there,” I grumble back, snagging my jacket from the edge of the couch. 

Seth passes me on his way to the front door in board shorts and a tank top. 

“It’s like sixty five, Ash. You can leave the jacket here.”

I shake my head as I pull the dark piece over my shoulders. “It completes my ensemble.”

I swear I hear him laughing as he steps out onto the porch. I let my own lips twitch into a smile. Seth is obnoxious, but he’s my brother, so he can get away with it. There’s no one else I’d rather be doomed to live an eternity with. 

Well, there’s one person. 

It’s a maybe. 

I have to do my research and see if she and I have a chance at forever. 

We climb into Seth’s car. He never bothers to buckle. I click my own seatbelt in, relaxing back into the leather seat. The last thing I need to worry about during a car accident is my virus trying to eat people. I’d rather have as little injuries as possible and a rational part of the aftermath. 

“I’m a good driver,” Seth grumbles anyway. 

We’ve had this argument before. I don’t answer. My seatbelt is on and I’m nearly indestructible. We’ll make it to the bookstore. 

I watch him click in a search on his car computer and then select the nearest location. It’s thirty-seven minutes away. This is going to be a long ride. 

.     .     . 

It’s fifty-four minutes later when he finally finds a parking spot behind the bookstore. Fifty-four minutes of evading his attempts to ask me about my life and listening to his poor renditions of songs from the last three decades instead of turning on the radio. I have my seatbelt off before he parks the car. 

“You can just wait in the car,” I try one last time to keep him out of my business, my car door open already as he finally parks. 

Seth shoots me a stupid grin. “Not gonna happen, mon frére.”

I have some choice words to call him in French, but I keep them to myself as I step out and slam the door. This is not how today was supposed to go. I’m going to have to search this place in the next two hours and get him back on the road. Lucy’s show starts promptly at six and I have to be in the front row. 

I can’t let her down. 

Sure he’ll follow without having to watch for him, I stride towards the front of the building, walking around a large elm tree overhanging the left side of the quaint shop. A small bell dangling on the end of a piece of twine chimes when I open the door. I step inside to the faint scent of eucalyptus and something else old and bitter. A single elderly woman sits behind the counter to my right, tipping her head towards me in a welcome before returning to the riveting story in her lap. Dark shelves crammed full of books fill the space in front of me with just barely enough space for an average sized person to squeeze between them.

This has to be the place. 

Seth is still outside, his attention focused on the helicopter flying over this area. He refuses to call them anything besides choppers. All sorts of aviation information has held a special place in his heart since the late seventies. 

Great. I just need a moment to ask this woman a quick question. “Do you have a mythology section?” I murmur quietly, standing several feet back from the counter as I try my best to disturb her as little as possible. 

With a nod and a finger point, she directs me to the back corner of the building. Good enough. It’s a starting point for this adventure. Seth steps in as I slip between the shelves. 

“I’ll be up here if you need me, Ash.”

I leave him in the fiction section with a wave. I’m on a mission. I need information, credible accounts and histories about syrens. They weren’t supposed to be real. Of course, vampires aren’t supposed to be real, either, and I haven’t found a way to lose the parasitic virus that overtook my system in the late forties. If we’re being honest, everything that is in stories nowadays was real at some point. 

Syrens, though, went extinct. 

The last one was taken sometime around the turn of the century. I don’t remember much. I should have cared more at the time, but I was drowning in my own problems and avoiding Gideon. My brother was upset, though. Not punch a hole through a wall mad, but sinking to his knees in the center of a public square because the news took the strength from his legs. 

His friend, I think it was Raleigh, did something bad. He took a syren and ran experiments. The last syren. 

But that can’t be true anymore because Lucy exists. 

I let my fingertips run over the battered bindings of the old books. This first one is about a necromancer. Interesting, but not what I’m looking for. Come on, come on, come on. There has to be something here. 

There’s an entire section dedicated to vampires. We are incredibly intriguing, but most of that is false conjecture perpetuated by Stoker’s fiction. Werewolves and other human and animal creations. There’s a series on modern witches, the entire collection embossed with different runes. A few small novels boast covers with rare species like djinn or fairies. 

My eyes snag on a green cover with a water lily painted across its surface. Kelpies. Not exactly what I’m looking for, but it’s the closest thing to a water-based creature I’ve seen, so I tuck it under my left arm and continue my search.

Kraken. Loch Ness Monster. Selkis. An entire short story covers sea serpents with vivid illustrations of their winding bodies and bloodied fangs. 

I didn’t realize so many myths sprang from the depths of the ocean. The last thing I want to do is have Seth drive me anywhere else, so I sink down to my knees and start to browse the bottom shelves. 


Sirens and Other Untamed Women 

That’s it. That’s her. My Lucy Lore. 

No longer caring about the fibers of this questionable carpet sticking to my pants, I lean back into a sitting position with the book spread over my crossed legs. Powerless to the desire to know more about her, my eyes skim the yellowed pages, sifting through sentence after sentence in order to figure out fact from fiction. 

There are personal accounts from sailors and naval commanders. I know most of those have been debunked, so I skip past it. I don’t have time for manatees. I’m here for real information about the girl who stole both my wallet and my heart. 

She smelled like the ocean and magic coated her words. It’s the only reason I suspected her to be more than a human. If she exists, there has to be something in these books that connects her to the rest of her world. 

Vampires and syrens once had a symbiotic relationship. The original vampires didn’t infect already living humans. They had children in the more traditional sense. Erisa Nabil is proof of that. 

If the syrens could procreate with those ancient beasts, there had to be love between them right? 

Love lives forever. There had to be a way to keep the syrens alive for the duration of the vampires’ life. 

That’s all I truly need to know. 

To take the next step, to commit to this, I need a plan to make it last forever. 

If she wants, of course. 

I’ve lost enough over the last several decades. I won’t be forced to bury the love of my life as well. Should my research fail, I’ll leave town and let her live a life without me. I’d rather walk away than lose myself entirely. 

“She’s pretty special, then?”

Seth towers over me, the brute a silent force when he wants to be. “I told you I wasn’t answering questions.”

Crouching next to me, he pats my shoulder. “You should try the internet.”

I shrug him off. “The internet is full of fake information, Seth, and I do not have time to deal with false leads right now.”

“Because you want this to work?”

I glance over at his stupid smile. “More than I’ve wanted anything else.”

Together on the floor of a quiet bookshop, he pulls me into a bear hug and lets out an incredibly loud whoop. I ignore the shushing from the woman at the counter and lean into my brother. He’s right. This is a big deal. It’s happening fast, but Lucy makes me feel alive and I can’t let her go without trying to make this work. 

I’ll read every book ever written on the topic of vampires and syrens if that’s what it takes to figure this out. Lucy Lore has wrapped her fist around my heart and I can’t pull away even if I wanted to. For just this one fleeting moment, I let Seth’s enthusiasm carry me. We’re going to make this work. A relationship between a vampire and a syren won’t just be a myth I scrounge up from the dusty pages of old texts, but a fact. 

Lucy Lore and Ashby Carter. 

Together we’ll turn myth into reality.

Author’s Note

Ashby Carter is an incredibly special character in my repertoire. A decade ago, he was a cliche villain who manipulated my female protagonist into some sticky situations before meeting his demise. Today, he’s a morally grey love interest to Lucy Lore who is in a constant battle of trying to live out his dreams with her while not getting dragged into his brothers’ problems or the political drama that surrounds the other vampires.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s prompt!

Be sure to check out other stories for this prompt from my writing partners:



I can’t wait to see you next Saturday 🙂