Posted in Character Stories

An Arrow at his Behest

Three different outfits, a compact bow hidden in an alcove, and a single arrow tucked into the seam of my tights. There’s been weeks of planning in order to get to where I am tonight. I can last a few more minutes. 

Sweat drips down the back of my neck. There’s leaves in my braid. My shoulders tremble from the weight of the taut string in my hands. 

I have one shot. 

It’s meant for the lord of the castle. 

Women in pastel dresses twirl along the floor. He’s been out there dancing for over an hour. A servant took his suit jacket a few minutes ago. In only a white shirt and tie, the blood will be quite prominent when I let go of my arrow. 

When… If… I still can’t believe I’m up here. 

It started as a passing joke. The lord himself put the money up. Should anyone be capable of stealing his heart, they would be given a bounty. 

Over a hundred men have attempted this particular job. Some were brutes who crashed through the front door and were shot down before they could make it to the Lord’s chambers. Others were sneaky. They crept along the outside of the castle, pulled themselves up to the highest windows, and snuck in during the earliest hours of the morning only to be caught in traps and sent scurrying back to their hovels with tales of horror to recount to any who would hear. One person tried to lace the Lord’s food and accidentally killed a passing serving girl instead. He was sentenced to death by the same poison. 

Every entrance to this castle has been monitored since then. The windows are rigged with bells and spikes to deter assassins. The lord doubled his prize, tempting anyone else to try their hand at his death while also testing out his security. 

Of course, no woman has attempted before me. 

The men posted at the doors hardly glanced my way. No one saw me change out of the maid’s outfit into that of the kitchen staff. None still caught me pulling off the apron to stand in this tight suit at the balcony. I climbed the rails, pulled myself up towards the ceiling, and made my camp above the ballroom while all of the table settings were still being placed for the guests. 

And then I waited. 

I’ll continue to wait, my muscles straining and breath barely gracing my lips. This has to be perfect. I can’t hit anyone else. I must strike him in the heart. 

I’m going to be the lady of this castle. I’ll never eat out of the garbage again or have to slink through the alleys behind the bar to collect the change dropped by drunken customers. I will have his riches and his home and the freedom I’ve chased since I was old enough to realize that being born a woman was a prison I couldn’t escape. 

A servant rings a bell, quieting the band. The women in their pastel dresses do a final twirl and then leave the dancing area. Together with their assorted chaperones, they cling to the edges of the room, looking towards the center for whatever is planned to happen next. 

This is it. He’s alone. There’s nothing between us. I have my arrow aligned with his heart. 

That prize is going to be mine. 

My new life is one breath away. 

Before I can release the arrow, he looks right at me and winks. 

No. No, no, no. I can’t get my fingers to let go now that his eyes are on mine. This isn’t how this is supposed to go. 

I can’t breathe. Can’t swallow. Can’t think. 

Why has it never been mentioned before that Lord Durinhan has green eyes?

“Esteemed guests,” he calls out to the gathered crowd, that penetrating gaze never wavering from mine. “I’d like to introduce you to the lady of the night.”

Me. No. How could he have known?

When I don’t move, he clears his throat. “You may come down now.”

This is a trap. It has to be. I’ve heard the rumors of people punished for attempting to take the Lord’s life. Leaving the safety of the eaves could be my last voluntary action on this earth. 

I don’t know what to do. I could still let the arrow go. The prize would be mine. 

Or he would move. The arrow would pierce his shoulder. He would live and have me executed for this attempt on his life. 

“We’re waiting,” he calls from the lower level, his deep voice stern. 

I could make a run for it. They can see me, but I’m quick. No one knows who I am. I’ll retrace my steps, jump down onto the balcony and find a window to leap through and not stop running until I’m back…

At the bar. Where I rent a room that takes most of my pay. A place where assault and violence and mishap live hand and hand with strife and despair and the loss of innocence. 

“Miss, you can come down or my men will bring you down. Your choice.”

I don’t really have much of a choice, do I?

I’m not going back to the bar. This was my chance to get a new life. Taking a deep breath, I let the string loosen and pull the arrow away. 

“How would you suggest I join you?” My voice is trembling, containing none of the power his does. 

There’s a mischievous gleam in his expression as he lets his lips pull into a grin. “Since you’re so far up, I could catch you.”

He’s asking me to fall for him. Ridiculous. Disgusting. Lame. 

“You could drop your weapon first,” he offers as I try to figure out how to slink off of the wooden beam. 

Never. Not an option. Looping the bow string around my left shoulder, I hang onto the shaft of the arrow in my right hand and then swing my legs over the side. It’s a far drop. My shoulders tremble from my weight as I lower myself down and dangle from the beam. 

If he doesn’t catch me…

There’s no time to think about it. My palms are slick with sweat. My shoulders scream from the exertion of waiting with my bow for so long only to be forced down in this show of authority. I can’t hold myself.

I’m grabbing the beam and then there’s nothing between me and the floor. Air whooshes by my face as I fall. A gasp rings through the room. There’s no time to cover my face or catch my breath and ready myself for the impact. 

Lord Durinhan keeps his promise. He snatches me away from the air’s greedy fingers. Letting out an oof, he crashes onto the ground with me on top. 

Guests run from the corners of the room to help us up, but I’m already moving. On my feet, I brandish the sharp end of my arrow like a knife, daring them to come closer. These rich, spoiled people with their thick makeup and frilly clothes let out exasperated cries, stumbling over each other to get away from me. I’m too busy focusing on them to realize that Lord Durinhan has gotten to his feet. 

He clamps heavy hands onto my shoulders and lets out a chuckle, speaking over my head to the gathered people. “What an entrance! I believe this will be a story for all to tell for years to come!”

While they titter at his words, he leans down to me, the stubble on his chin grazing my ear. “Come quietly. We can talk in my office.”

“Why not just make an example of me out here?” I snarl back. 

He tightens his grip on me. “You’re the closest to winning. Don’t you at least want to discuss a portion of the prize?”

Yes. Of course. This can’t be real. 

“But, I didn’t take your heart.”

A shiver shakes my spine as he lets out a low laugh. “You still have time, Miss.”

Author’s Note

Happy short story Saturday, readers!

This one was such a fun dialogue prompt to start with. Just two characters. One with a bow and arrow, the other knowing their life was on the line and smiling up at them. I read it on Pinterest and immediately had a spark for the woman who would climb into the rafters and try to win her freedom with violence.

I hope I’ve left you wanting more. Tension and a spark for a story that could be developed into a bigger novel is my specialty here. It’s fun to take breaks from my regular projects to do these little scenes and even more fun to get feedback from all of you!

Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this story!

See you next time 🙂

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

Villain or Hero

Someone is playing a wicked prank this evening. Witchcraft of this sophistication must cost more than all of the rare sand dollars in the world. I eyeball the woman on my arm as we step out of the dining hall. 

The paprika-spiced pudding in my other hand was a dreadful decision to grab. If this interaction turns into a bout of fisticuffs, I’ll be forced to smash it into her pretty face before running for my life. I haven’t lived as long as I have by taking on my problems head first. I’m much better at getting some distance and strategizing. 

I’d recommend that lifestyle to anyone. 

Run and live another day. 

It’s how I became Cassias Laur. 

Which, I’m fairly sure, is the reason there’s a shapeshifter playing the woman of the house. 

She follows along, matching my pace as we leave behind the hall and enter a room lit only by a small night light in the corner. There’s a hiss next to me. Dammit. She’s taking this opportunity to attack me. 

Nope. Not going to do that. 

I step back, ready to throw the pudding as hard as I can, but she’s no longer by my side. Squinting into the dim room, I don’t see her again until the plate is slapped out of my hand and a knife is pressed to my throat. 


Not how I intended to end my night. 

I mean, I’m aware someone is trying to kill me, but this is just getting ridiculous. 

“Woah, woah, woah. What did I do to you?”

Her voice is so quiet next to my ear. “It’s not personal, darling. Someone paid me for a heart and I’ll be taking it now.”


I’ve always been a nervous laugher. Now, the giggles start and I can’t stop them. I’m trying to explain to this shapeshifting woman why this is hilarious, but I can’t seem to get anything out other than blatant gibberish. 

Confused or infuriated, the woman pulls me tighter against her lithe form. The knife travels from my throat to my chest. She’s trying to get my heart. 

I’m trying to get my heart. 

I’m going to kill my friend when I find him. That letter wasn’t really meant to be shipped off to an assassin. Now, it has completely backfired and this woman is going to be quite upset when she realizes that my ribcage is lacking the one thing she is trying to take. 

“I don’t have it,” I finally manage to wheeze out. 

Her hold doesn’t loosen. “What do you mean you don’t have your heart?”

I truly doubt that she finds me intimidating in any way, but I put my hands up in the general sign of complacency and innocence. “Please let me explain. I haven’t had it for years.”

“If you try anything…” 

She doesn’t need to finish the sentence. “Totally. Of course. My heart is already gone, but you can take a kidney or something if you want.”

Releasing me, she lets me turn around to face her before she slams me against the nearest wall and replaces the blade over my chest. “Talk fast. I don’t get paid to wait.”

“I’m the one paying you!”

There’s a war playing out over her borrowed features. I’ve seen the real Alyssiana Laur make that face. She’s either going to demand a heinous crime of me or commit one herself. 

“Look, I don’t really have a moral stance on suicide, but this isn’t really an appropriate way to go about ending your life.”

 Those blue eyes almost seem kind on this supernatural creature. She’s giving me a moment to explain myself. 

“No. I’m not a vampire.”

It’s a strong start. Doesn’t explain anything really. I have to say more. 

I’ve got this. 

“The woman you’re currently using as a costume is my boss. Well, more like my keeper. She’s a witch and she took my heart and I just wanted it back, but I didn’t really mean for a letter to get sent out to someone like you.”

I drag in a breath of air after spewing out way too much information. The way she’s watching me makes my skin feel too tight. She could still stab me. It won’t kill me. The only thing that could kill me is the real Alyssiana destroying my heart. However, stabbing doesn’t feel nice whether or not one is immortal, so I am really trying to avoid that outcome and I can’t relax until the weapons are put away.

Frustration tears through her pretty face. She pulls down the bracelets on her wrist to flash a dark tattoo at me. “Show me yours.”

Oh. That. I unbutton the first few buttons on my shirt and pull the fabric down to reveal the jagged scar on my chest. “It showed up this morning?”

The woman, creature, she-demon lets out a yowl and stalks away from me. Her muttering is interspersed by her making jagged swipes at the air with her very sharp knives. I keep my back to the wall and my mouth closed. This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with an angry woman and I’d like to leave this room with most of my important parts. 

Finally, she composes herself enough to whirl back on me, her knives tucked into sheaths somewhere on that stunning dress. “If I don’t get your heart, I give up mine at the end of our agreement.”

Shit. That’s some crazy stuff. 

I didn’t write that.

But I know who did. 

“Look, this is all a huge misunderstanding. My friend got overzealous in his attempt to help me. Can’t I just release you from the bargain?”

Her sneer is sharp enough to cut through a stack of wine glasses. “That’s not how magical bargains work.”

Right. I should have known that before I said anything. My bad. I’ll make a point of researching magical practices at the first opportunity. 

I stare at the woman impersonating the tempestuous witch who chained me to my current predicament. This doesn’t have to be a truly bad situation, does it?

Before I can lose my nerve completely, I just blurt the next words. “Maybe instead of being a bad guy who stabs people, you could help me?”

A barking laugh blasts through me as she throws her hands up into the air and stomps back across the room. We’re in a small tea lounge. I figured most of the house guests would be busy until later, so this was a safe space to talk to this woman, but now I’m concerned she’ll start smashing the quaint furniture and wrecking the glass cabinets.

None of it is really mine, but still…

If we could get rid of Alyssiana, then technically I would be the rightful owner of this whole estate. 

Not a bad idea. I don’t have a plan yet, but this feral creature has to be the key to getting the freedom I have craved for centuries. 

For too long, I have played the part of doting husband and loyal subject. Alyssiana tricked me into this. She carved my heart out of my chest and tied my immortality to herself. I didn’t do anything to deserve this and I truly feel remorse for getting this woman involved, but… if it helps… I really would like to see if she can retrieve my heart before the month is out. 

“You want me to play hero?” 

Her voice is hollow from the other side of the room. This isn’t a joke. It’s a real question as she contemplates her place in the world. 

“You could be villain-adjacent if it means I walk away alive at the end of this.”

There’s no humor gracing her severe expression. “I thought you were the villain when I arrived.”

Her words are soft and thoughtful. She’s hiding in the shadows, likely more herself here where I can’t see her clearly than she ever would be in any physical form under direct lighting. I don’t know how long she has lived or how many lives she has taken. Perhaps our lives have crossed for the betterment of both of our stories. 

“Well, this is a chance to work together and be whatever we want.”


The single syllable is whispered so quietly that I could have imagined it if the aching hole in my chest didn’t suddenly feel full. She gets it. We’ve been used and pushed into black and white boxes as simple as hero or villain. 

It’s time we take back our stories and write the ending we deserve. 

I hold my hand out towards her. “No more contracts, but I agree to help you if you help me.”

She regards me like I’m a bug that has wandered in off of the street. I’m worthless and small and inconvenient. Her head tilts to the side. Those soft eyes can’t belong to a monster. She lets her gaze travel over me and I feel like a marble statue being inspected and admired and remembered. 

Crossing the room, she slips her hand into mine. “Words are just as binding as paper, Cassias Laur. If I play your hero, you agree to be mine. Deal?”

Yes. Of course. This is likely a terrible idea that will earn me the death Alyssiana has been foretelling for decades, but I don’t care. 

Yes. I want a chance at my own life. 

Yes. I want someone to think of me as a hero. 


Author’s Note

While this portion can stand alone for my villain to hero prompt, I would like to point out that it is a continuation of my “Here for a Heart” story a few weeks ago. I flipped the perspective and gave Cassias Laur a chance to speak his mind this week. Goofball characters that are unsure of themselves and mesmerized by the sophisticated, supernatural counterparts I cast opposite them is probably my absolute favorite thing to write, so please keep coming back to the blog if you enjoy it!

These are characters that I don’t have a decade long outline to work off of, so if you enjoyed this or the “Here for a Heart” told from the phoenix’s perspective, please let me know in the comments, so I continue to make time to shape these foolish people and their complex outline.

Thank you for reading this week and make sure to check out Bridgette’s prompt as well: Room 313

We’ll see you all next week!

Next week’s prompt: Tumultuous soulmates are on opposing sides of a conflict

Must include the words: apothecary, bow tie, ladylike, sprocket, mushroom, scrounge, frenzy, match, oust, prisoner

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 Uncategorized

Demise in Golden Eyes

It’s too late to turn back. We’ve been traveling on horseback for three days. Before that, we commandeered a rowboat. The Princess even resorted to taking a small plane from the islands to her home country. 

Now, the wind swirling around us, it flings snow at our faces. The flakes settle on our shoulders. We’ve given up slapping them away. Wrapped in furs and blankets, the cold temperature still settles into my bones. 

Princess Nabil looks like a snow queen, though. Her shoulders back, face forward, she gallops along the frozen landscape without fear or trepidation. I vowed to follow her anywhere, but this is getting to be ludicrous.

I should have put up more of a fight when we realized her parents were no longer in Egypt. Their imperial castle deserted. No servants, no king or queen, no sign of the girl. 

Nothing touches this area of Norway. No windmills or cypress tress. It’s just snow. We passed a town yesterday, the whole community huddled into their homes as the blue hour stretched across the sky. I saw their smiling faces through thick windows. A little girl with blonde hair waved as we trotted through the town, her childhood not yet endangered by the presence of strangers. 

I wish I could have given that to Erisa. A childhood filled with wonder and awe and kindness. Instead, she was raised on the end of a blade, bloodied and bruised before she even knew that gentleness existed in the world. We’ve been bound to each other for several decades now and I have spent too long watching her take on the weight of the world just to get nothing out of it. 

Erisa slows. There’s nothing out here still. Just a white landscape staring back at us. 

In an elegant slide, she dismounts her horse, her cloak swirling around her shoulders as her boots sink into the snow. I don’t let myself hope that she’s given up. We’ve come too far for her to turn around and go home. There’s something here.

“My parents have several homes around the globe,” she says quietly as I step off my horse and move to join her on the ground. “This one, though, is their favorite.” Her golden eyes flit around us. “Isolated. Cold. Enough humans to feed from without having to deal with any consequences.”

“Why bring her here then?”

Her gaze snaps to me, liquid fire touched by the shadows of something darker. “This isn’t about Kanani. It’s about me. We’re walking into a prison, Seymour.”

“It’s a trap?” My breath plumes in front of me. 

One curt nod. That’s all she can give me as an answer as she struggles to catch her breath, her hands opening and closing into fists at her sides. Scared. That’s what I’m seeing in her features. Princess Erisa Nabil is terrified. 

She keeps her chin up. “There isn’t a very large chance she’s alive,” she says carefully, each word damaging her as she accepts the reality of our situation. “I have to go in there. If she is alive, I have to see her.” Another slow, deep breath. “If she isn’t, I have to stop her murderers from getting away with it.”

A death sentence. She’s walking right into one. Against all protocol between us, I reach out and wrap my hand around her cold wrist. 

“Is she worth it?”

Determination sets her shoulders. She doesn’t shrug me off, but she remains stiff in my grasp. 

“I will tear this world apart for Nani. She’s worth it.”

I force myself to meet her hardened gaze. This isn’t the face of a princess. This is a warrior. This is the woman who will become my Queen. 

“And if she’s not there? If there’s no way to save her?” My chest tight, I force the next words out because I need to know she’s completely invested in this notion. “You’ll send us to the depths of Hell for someone who cannot be reached?”

Erisa’s bottom lip trembles. “You don’t have to follow me, Mour.”

I gently rub my thumb over the silky skin over her too thin wrist. “You aren’t going in there without me.”

A whisper of a smile touches her lips before she pulls me towards her and wraps her arms around my neck. “You are my only friend, Seymour Mostafa.”

Without giving me a chance to reciprocate or find a way to speak past the lump in my throat, she pulls away and twirls back towards the plain landscape. Tugging a short sword from the arsenal strapped to her body, she stabs it directly into the ground, gives it a hard turn to the left, and then takes two steps back towards me. The ground trembles. The snow shifts, slowly creating a large circle in front of us. 

Not a circle. A tunnel. 

This is it. Everything she has been searching for in the last week and half. We’ve crossed from one hemisphere to the next and passed through several countries all for the girl Erisa loves. 

I’d be a fool to walk into this optimistically, but I let my fingers wrap around the pendant that hangs on my neck as I whisper a prayer to the heavens. Maybe we’ll be okay. Perhaps they’ll be reunited and we can make it back home in time for lunch tomorrow. 

Maybe. Perhaps. Probably not. 

I take one last deep breath of the frozen air and let the cold latch onto my lungs. It’s time. She puts one boot on the rung leading down and I’m following before her head dips below the surface. 

We travel one on top of the other for several meters before Erisa lets go of the ladder, free falling the rest of the distance into the dim pit. Her feet barely make a sound as she lands. The only other noise is the whisper of metal on leather as she pulls out two knives and glares down the tunnel. 

Should Kanani be in a bad shape… I let that thought die. Erisa Nabil is not the kind of demon I would want to meet on this day. To lose the love that ties her to her humanity would be a travesty no riches or pleas could ever appease. 

Soon enough my own feet settle onto the concrete. I don’t pull out any weapons. My princess can threaten the other members of the royal family and survive, but I won’t get away so easily. It’s best to see if we can talk this out before I pull out a sword and forfeit my life. 

No more words pass between us. She moves into the shadows and I am right on her heels. This isn’t the first battle we’ve walked into together, but, if things are as bad as I suspect, it may be the last. 

I try to memorize the firm line of her shoulders in the minimal light. Her hair braided tightly down the back of her head and her eyes forward, this is a woman ready to take on the world. Should she need me, I won’t let her down.

There’s a faint click and then the lights for the tunnels blare to life. Flickering bulbs burn a golden imprint onto my retinas. I manage to stay on my feet, jaw clenched as I blink to clear my blurred vision. Erisa doesn’t even flinch. She likely has contacts in that filter the light for her sensitive vision. I should have been smart enough to do the same. 

My Princess waits for me to be ready before she stalks further down the tunnel, her knuckles taking on a pale tone as she grips her weapons tighter. “You know why I’m here,” Erisa shouts into the blackness beyond us. 

The sharp click of heels on concrete echoes down the tunnel as her mother walks towards us. A wine glass in hand, she stops several meters away, smart enough not to get close enough to Erisa to lose a battle while silently daring her to lunge. Should Erisa attack first, no explanation or sentimental story or plea could save her. To touch Queen Nabil is a death sentence. Even if the Queen makes the first move, there’s a large chance Erisa will still be condemned for defending herself. 

We’re trapped now as a thud rings out behind us. The hatch has been closed from the outside. I have no doubt this place was built to keep vampires in. We won’t be forcing our way back out. 

Erisa never planned to leave. 

My heart thuds heavy against my ribs. Love is as good a reason to go to battle as anything else. It’s one of the greatest reasons to die, so that two lost souls can eventually be reunited. I let my fingers curl around the hilt of the blade at my side. No matter what happens now, whether we leave these places as ourselves or something less corporeal, Erisa Nabil will not go alone. 

“I see you brought your pet, darling,” the Queen drawls after taking a generous sip of the dark liquid in her glass. 

Most princesses are tied to a man at an early age. I was given to Erisa. A warrior bestowed on a child. The royal line obligates her to take a husband, but she has kept me as a friend and confidante. I am a failure in the eyes of her parents. 

I couldn’t care less. The only eyes I care to see myself in are Erisa’s. 

She and I. 

Now until the end.

“Where’s my fiancée?” Erisa’s voice is cold, each word dripping with the kind of power typically reserved for a god. 

“He’s right there, darling.”

I swallow hard, but make no move to speak. This isn’t my fight. Erisa doesn’t dare glance my way, but I scrape my foot across the cement flooring to remind her I’m here. 

Here. Behind her. Whenever she needs. 

“Kanani, Mother. Where the Hell is she?”

The older woman clucks her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “Did I teach you no manners?”

Erisa is a half a breath away from throwing one of those knives. I brace myself for it. 

“Is she dead?” My princess is spitting the words through bared teeth, her fangs pushing out of her upper jaw as she readies to jump into battle. 

We’re likely to be dead before we ever know the answer. I brace myself for that decision, for the moment Erisa will need me to lunge into battle alongside her. The woman in front of me is holding herself together by sheer will and determination alone. I can see the way her hands tremble when she asks questions about her missing fiancée, though. Her breaths too short, her words too clipped, she is seconds away from breaking and I have to be ready to put myself between her and the sharpened point of a sword if I want her to have any chance of surviving.

I never get the chance to move as the Queen snaps her fingers. 

A single man delivers the remains of Kanani’s body in a cardboard box. There isn’t time to take in every pain inflicted on the girl. It’s impossible to equate what’s left with what once was a woman in love with tourists and the idea of running away to be a hippie just so she could fight for what she believed in. This isn’t the woman who I helped sneak into Erisa’s rooms in order for her to get down on one knee and ask my princess to stay in her life forever. This is our worst nightmare coming to life. 

The inevitable break I expected crashes through my princess. A guttural scream wrenches itself from Erisa. Not a cry from the throat. Not a sob. This comes deep from her stomach, rattles through her chest, and flings itself into the world as she hits her knees in front of the dropped box. 

Her fingers hesitate over the once beautiful face before gently closing the glossy, brown eyes. I don’t move. I can’t until I know what course of action she wants to take. There’s a clear shot to take down the Queen right now, but it isn’t my right to take such a death. 

This is Erisa’s decision. 

Soldiers file into the room, taking up space in front of and behind the Queen. “It is time for you to stop playing around, Daughter. Time to live the life I have created for you. I suggest you get off of the ground now before I put a sword through your friend.”

Now or never, Erisa. I don’t mind the sword. It would be an honor to die for this, for her, for the right to let her live and love and go on in this world how she chooses.

We have seconds to live and concede or to choose to go down fighting. 

I tighten my grip on my sword, popping a button on my other hip to give me access to some smaller options since we’re stuck in this tunnel. “Erisa?” I finally allow myself to speak, my voice unnatural to my ears as it slips by my teeth. 

Ever so carefully, she wipes her nose on the back of her hand and stands to her full height. She doesn’t look to her mother. She instead turns to me, our eyes on the same level, so I can come face to face with the horror and devastation that Kanani’s end has brought to her. 

“I will stay,” she says it loud enough for the sensitive ears of our enemies, “but you must go.”

There’s not enough air in here. My chest is tight. I shake my head. I would rather die in these halls than go above ground as a coward. 

“Something I love has to survive today,” she manages, each syllable trembling over her lips. 

My heart cracks and I nod. “As you wish,” I murmur back, stepping into her as she pulls me in for a hug. “You are my queen,” I add, my breath a warm caress on her cold ear. 

I don’t know how she expects me to leave until I feel her tug my chin down. Our lips brush. Magic tingles across the space between us, making my face feel fuzzy as I stagger back from her. 

“Gideon Carter,” Erisa commands. “Find him and wait until I’m ready.”

Her knives are flying in the next moment, but there’s nothing I can do to fight the magic coursing through my system. I shrink in front of the soldiers coming for me. Once a man, now a mere pest. 

Erisa takes down seven soldiers before one manages to get his hands on her. I shuffle out from the confines of my bulky, winter clothing and stretch my wings. Erisa is on the floor as I take to the air. 

Her gold eyes follow me as I slip out of an air vent as a bat, the cacophony of the battle echoing around me as I do the one thing I swore not to.

I run. 

I abandon my queen and let her mother get away with murder, so we may win another day. 

The wind batters me as I find a way back to the surface, a single thought on the front of my mind as shame does all it can to pull me back to the ground: Gideon Carter. 

I must find Gideon Carter and wait until Erisa can rejoin me. 

There is no way to tell how long we will be separate, but there is one thing I do know. I will find Erisa Nabil again in this life and we will not lose the next battle.

Author’s Note

As always, thank you to everyone who has made it to this part of the post. Seymour and Erisa are an important piece in the overall theme of my novels, two beings from out of time fighting to fit in and survive and love in their preferred ways. When I saw the prompt for getting away with murder, I thought I would write something goofy and light-hearted about an accident that had to be covered up, but this story became so important after the one-sentence clue I gave to it a few weeks ago in Gideon’s story about Tomorrow. Decades will pass before these two are reunited. It’s going to be really interesting to see how they change and adapt in the twenty-first century.

Again, thank you!

Be sure to check out Bridgette’s post for the same murderous prompt: