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


The railroad stretches forever behind and beyond us. We’ve been on it for days. With just the clothes on our body and a backpack each, Thomas Raeleigh and I step off of the platform and back into the real world. 

It’s loud. More jarring than the consistent hum of the train, I flinch when a man yells off to our left. Raeleigh promises that this will get easier. It’s been over two decades for me. I can’t imagine a day coming that I don’t cringe at the shuffling noise of every passerby or tense at the brazen voices of working men. This world was built large and loud and the human population is determined to make everything bigger and louder. 

A city rolls out ahead of us. There’s warm beds and private rooms somewhere out there. Of course, that’s not where we’re headed. 

I keep myself close to Raeleigh as he ducks under a rope meant to contain the human travelers and steps towards the jungle. We agreed to a meeting. None of us trusted that the others would play fair, so we chose a location outside of everyone’s jurisdiction. After days of travel with little sleep, I wish we had just accepted the invitation to visit a castle in one of their provinces. Raleigh and I have fought our way out of plenty of bad decisions. It could have just been another to add to the list. 

A wasp buzzes by my ear. Tension overtakes my shoulder. Without thinking, my left arm moves. I stare down at the crushed bug in my palm. 

“You’re going to have to get control of that if you want to survive in this world, Carter.”

Yes. I know. The virus is capable of reacting without needing me to check off on its movements. From our research, we know it’s a parasitic entity attached to the base of the brain and wrapped tightly around the spinal cord. Any attempt to separate it from the host ends with a dead host and a pissed parasite. So, for the foreseeable future, I’m stuck as a vampire and have to learn to live with the damn thing. 

“I’m working on it,” I murmur to my friend, shaking my head to clear the fuzziness that comes from the virus working on its own. 

It would be so easy to stop fighting and let it turn me into a deadly creature of the night. That’s what it wants. A strong body, an unstoppable host, that it can use for its own purposes. 

Fire is the only way to stop it. Not a campfire. Not something you light on a gas stove. Scientifically engineered fire that burns so hot it turns violet. 

Typically, decapitation starts the process. There has to be access to the parasite. Then fire. So much fire. 

I’ve only seen it used in practice twice. Once on a battlefield. Once as a criminal punishment. Both times by the royalty we’re going to see today. 

Raleigh glances over his shoulder, his eyebrows pinched together in that concerned expression he likes to use on me. “Maybe I should do the talking.”

I nod. It’s my plan, but I don’t want to talk to these people. No. Not people. Monsters. The things the Nabils did to their own daughter… I can hardly stand to be in the same place as them. 

I haven’t met most of the rest of the company yet. I know of Ivan and his desire for blood. He’ll be accompanied by someone as well. The Nabils will travel as a couple as well as bring a half dozen servants. There are others. I don’t know any of them well. They’re all old creatures that are scared of change and reluctant to make an alliance with humans. 

It’s the only way forward, though. Humans have overtaken most of the world and they show no chance of slowing anytime soon. There’s no longer a way to stay hidden in the shadows. At least, we can’t do that with the growing dissent of the supernatural world. Either we change or there will be bloodshed. 

Thomas holds out a hand to slow me. “We’re here. Keep your wits about you.”

Right. Every person down there is a murderous creature that has lived far longer than I have. Some of them have seen the rise and fall of empires. Others remember the fresh air before humans created steam engines. All are restless. 

Following Thomas, we make our way into the deep gulley, stepping into footprints pressed in by the people who have beat us to this location. It makes sense. None of them trust us. Actually, I should rephrase that. None of them trust me. Thomas is like them. Old and created through the evolution of supernatural creatures. 

Not me, though. Science made me. Human-made science.

I’m an abomination that they paid for. One they now fear. 

It’s dark down here, the dirt clinging to my boots as we slide down the steep earthen wall. A few weeds manage to photosynthesize, protruding from the side of the gulley in vivid splashes of green topped in yellow and white. Life finds a way in every condition. We can’t just get rid of humans. They could try to decide to eradicate me and those like myself, but it would be a failed mission. Somehow we’re all going to have to learn to live together. 

Ahead of us, someone calls out our arrival. “Master Raeleigh is here with his French lapdog.”

Cute. It’s not the worst name they’ve used for me over the years. I let it slide off of me. There’s no reason to give my virus a reason to snap. I’m here fighting for the right to live. I can’t be more of a monster than any of the creatures gathered down here. 

Thomas doesn’t look back at me. He trusts me to stay composed. He trusts me and that’s all that matters as we step forward into the circle that’s been formed. 

The Nabils are directly in front of us. I don’t know their names. They’re so old that I don’t think they remember anything other than the title that comes with their noble surname. The woman stands next to her king. To her left, a black Labrador sits back on its haunches, its brilliant green eyes too bright to be realistic. It’s rumored she has the ability to shapeshift. That dog is likely a servant or bodyguard she snuck in as an animal to keep the rest of us from suspecting an attack. 

King Nabil leans back in his wheelchair, his posture confident and relaxed. This is a throne on wheels more than a sign of his steady deterioration. He has yet to fully recover from the last war he oversaw and will likely not make it through the next. Erisa is his only heir. It’s why they killed her lover and locked her in a dungeon somewhere far from the likes of me. They need her complacent before the king croaks. 

I’d do more for her if I could. Thomas refuses to get anymore involved. 

My thoughts are cut off by the raspy whisper of the man ahead of us. “You’ve kept us waiting, Raeleigh.”

Thomas dips into a bow. “My apologies. I was under the impression none of us would be here for another three hours.”

There’s a bristle of annoyance from the group, but no one argues. They can’t admit that they’re all more paranoid about this meeting than Thomas and me. Making a show of looking at the various people around us, Thomas clears his throat. 

“We’re all here then?”

Queen Nabil steps forward, a threat in simple shoes and flowing, red robes. “The meeting may begin,” she speaks clearly, making no attempt to hide the fangs that dangle from her upper jaw. 

To our right, a man stands up off of a trunk he’d been using as a chair. Ivan. “I vote we do away with their cities. We’ve grown in numbers. They won’t be able to stop us. We can keep the ones we need for food and get rid of the rest.”

Thomas steps forward amidst the murmurs of agreement from the rest of the bloodthirsty lot. “As much as everyone appreciates a modest proposal, I have to disagree. Humans are making technological advances that we would never have managed. Their short life spans and competitive resources make for a people that can be an asset to us. Caging them like they’re cattle will only launch a war.” He stares ahead at the Nabils. “Are you ready for that kind of violence?”

The Queen is the one to speak. “There are humans who are willing to work for us. We’ve had a good system for several centuries. Eradication is a steep choice for a species that serves a purpose.”

Good. We’re already making headway. Humans don’t deserve to die. I think we should treat them as equals who deserve respect and fair rights, but we’ll work on getting to that. For now, just getting them off of the chopping block is a good step. 

Ivan hasn’t been swayed. Dressed in leather armor, he spits on the ground and kicks at the dirt. “They are killing this planet. They’re unnecessary.”

His words spark a new argument. Is their worth greater than their damage to the planet? The group to our left argues that there isn’t much point to keep a pest that will destroy our habits. Another group speaks up. World War Two becomes the topic of the conversation. The devastation that the humans brought on each other and the toxins they released into the air. Some of the creatures in this group were hurt by it. Some communities still haven’t fully recovered almost thirty years later. Humans are dangerous and cannot be left to live unchecked. 

“You could have stopped all of that. There was plenty of time to do something and you all just watched it happen.”

The words are out of my mouth before I have time to think about it. Silence overtakes the circle. Queen Nabil snarls in my direction. 

“You are not a welcome portion of this committee. Raleigh, reign in your pet or I will do it for you.”

There’s prescription painkillers in my backpack. I should have taken some before this meeting. A pounding headache has started behind my eyes. 

It’s going to be a long night. 

“I have as much of a right to be here as the rest of you,” I raise my voice when she tries to cut me off. “I lived through the war. I was ready to give my life on the frontlines until I was kidnapped and experimented on. When I was released, I helped clean up the cities in need. I’ve been going out of my way to stop the scientists still trying to create more vampires and put down the people who can’t be saved. The rest of you would have sat back and watched the world burn, but I’m out there every day trying to make a difference.”

Thomas has a hand on my chest. He won’t silence me, but he’ll keep me from stepping forward and demanding a duel from one of these cowards. Ivan cracks his knuckles. Nobody dares to speak, though. This is between me and the so-called Queen. 

Her lips twitch. “What’s the plan then, Gideon Carter?” She launches my name at me like it’s a venomous snake writhing in the sand. “How will you change the world?”

“We work with them. I already have government officials in America who want to help us. They’ve given me space to fix up and we’re going to set up homes and food systems to help new vampires.”

She barks a laugh, crossing her thin arms over her chest. “We do not speak to them, Carter. We feed from them. Have you made them aware of this?”

Yes. Of course. “They’re going to work with hospitals to get us regular shipments of nutrient-rich liquids.”

“Blood,” her eyes shine as she licks her lips. “They will just hand this to you?”

Thomas is pushing on me, silently asking me to back down, but I can’t. This is my idea, my plan, my purpose. It’s the whole reason I survived the experimentation. I’m supposed to help people. This is how I’ll do it. 

“We’re still negotiating, but they weren’t turned off by the idea.”

“So, you will live among them?” She hisses each word at me, her eyes squeezing into slits. 

I nod. She’s listening. They’re all going to hear my plan and understand that it’ll work. 

“Cohabitation is key. It’s the only way the world gets better than it is right now.”

Her gaze slides from me to Thomas. “He is young. Unlike the rest of us, he was once human. I will let his behavior go this one time, Raeleigh.” My heart stops as she pins me down with her eyes once more. “What you have come with is a child’s dream, Gideon Carter. Let me tell you how that plan ends. 

“The humans will agree to your plans, but they will lie. You will build your homes and lure innocent vampires into them. Then, they will trap you down there. As hearty as your species is, Gideon Carter, I am curious to see how well you would survive a bombing. The humans came into this world a deadly type of people and will allow the death of their own if it means killing us off. Ash will fall from the sky and fire will overtake the land and the deaths of your people will be on your head.”

Before I can open my mouth, Thomas kicks me in the knee. My leg goes out from under me. He doesn’t look down at me. Instead, he holds his palm open towards me. Stay. Don’t move. My hands in the dirt, my hair falling around my face, I do as he wordlessly pleads. As much as I disapprove of this meeting, I won’t get him killed for me. 

“Forgive him for his optimism, Queen Nabil. He’ll lose that soon enough.”


I could never. 

I brought my brothers with me into this world of humans and vampires and story tale monsters. I have to believe there’s a reason I survived. There’s a reason for us to be here. There’s a way for humans and monsters to live together without constantly going to war. 

I say nothing as she returns to her spot by the King. “Have you any better options then, Thomas Raleigh?”

No. We came together with only one option. It’s the only thing we discussed the entire trip here. 

Thomas, however, has a backup plan. “We pitch in for one more experiment.”

Face down, I listen to the shuffling feet around this circle and the murmur of excitement. These are the people that funded my death. They brought me back as well, but they killed plenty of others before they got the formula for new vampires correct. 

This can’t happen. 

“A bit of each of us. We create a creature to unite us all. Something that will rule the earth long after we’re dust.”

That wasn’t the agreement. The man-made virus is taking over the planet. New vampires are showing up on every continent. The planet can’t handle anything else. 

“That doesn’t fix the human problem,” Ivan calls out. 

Thomas is confident in his response. “There won’t be a human problem left when this experiment is successful.”

“We can’t just kill them all,” I snap from the ground, pushing to my feet. 

Thomas turns to look me in the eye. “We won’t have to,” he speaks loud for the whole group to hear, “I’ve located the missing piece of our last project. A syren. The last syren. To mix her DNA with ours would create a child that would grow up with enough power to conquer the world.”

“That’s incredibly dangerous.”

Nobody hears me. They’re all too excited over Thomas’ proclamation. While they speak amongst each other, he leans close to me, his breath hot on my ear. “Just go with it, Gideon. This is the only way to buy us time.”


He’s gambling for more time. 

“They’ll find a way to actually do this,” I whisper back. “You’re signing the death warrant of that syren at the very least, Thomas. We can’t let them do this.”

His blue eyes are void of any compassion. “Sometimes we can’t save everybody.”

I’m losing him. This isn’t my friend. This is one of the monsters prepared to do whatever it takes for its own survival. “You would allow them to experiment on a child?”

He doesn’t answer. He doesn’t have to. 

The future is barreling towards us faster than any of us can handle. Hard choices are going to be made. These creatures are on the wrong path. 

I take a step back from Thomas. 

I won’t be like them. 

I’ll find a way to stop this. 

“If you leave, they’ll hunt you,” Thomas breathes, his pupils wide as concern wrinkles his forehead. 

I know. I won’t stand around and let them agree to kill people. 

“They’ll have to outrun me.”

I’m another step away from the group. 


Desperation pulls at the edges of his voice. He didn’t plan to come here and lose a friend. 

“You’ll have to stop running eventually. You can’t spend the rest of your life like this.”

Another step. I shrug. This isn’t the life I asked for. None of this is. I was supposed to meet a girl when I came home from the war and buy a restaurant. I wanted love and the smell of baked goods to fill our home. There was going to be laughter and we would have family over as often as possible. 

That dream is gone. 

I won’t lose my morality, too. 

“Nothing has killed me yet. I dare them to try.”

Author’s Note

It was important for me this week to make a juxtaposition between Gideon and the older creatures in this series. His actions over the course of the story affect many of the other characters, easily making him friends and enemies at every turn, while giving me a fun character to share.

I hope you had a fun read this week and to see you again next Saturday!

Be sure to check out Bridgette’s and Anna’s stories as well: