A Gift – Happy Halloween!

By me 🙂

To celebrate one of my favorite holidays, i want to give you a gift, so, until Nov 2, 2012, download Vampire Morsels Short Story Collection FREE!

Just visit smashwords at :

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/209410

and add the book to your cart. At checkout enter the code:

HE87X

and that’s it! Feel free to share the promotion with your friends, family, coworkers… anyone who could do with a little vampire fun and have a safe and happy Halloween!

Vampire Morsels Collection

Have you enjoyed the freebie Vampire morsels? Now, get them all in once place, edited and updated, including seven morsels that were never published!

WARNING: The stories may contain spoilers as well as violence, strong language, sexual content or other disturbing scenes not intended for a young audience. Do you dare to walk in the shadows and taste the darkness?

Seventeen short stories from the world of Amaranthine; a universe of blood and darkness where vampires don’t sparkle and night is eternal.

Includes:

Kateesha – When Kateesha and her partner are sent to apprehend a rogue coven, things so awry and carry terrible consequences.

 Michael – Michael isn’t interested in finding a job, so his mother finds one for him. If only she’d known she was sending him to work for vampires.

 Troy – Claudius is having a get together, and leaves Troy in charge of greeting the guests. But what happens when he finds himself stuck babysitting a pretty boy vampire?

 Jesslynn – When Jesslynn’s baby gets sick, she sees only way to save him; by discovering whatever dark ritual keeps their neighbor, Jorick, healthy and eternally young. She gets more than she bargained for.

 Also includes: Velnya, Sarah, Nirel, Kariss, Herrick, Elsa, Claudius, Bethina, Benjamin, Ashton, Arowenia, Alexander and Adam.

Get your copy today:

Paperback – https://www.createspace.com/3950963

Amazon kindle – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008QJTRX8/

Barnes & Noble Nook – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vampire-morsels-joleene-naylor/1112302992?ean=2940014996617

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/209410

Vampire Morsels: Elsa


As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time.  so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…

Elsa

 (You can find Elsa in Shades of Gray. She is the one who turned Michael. This story takes place in the early 1980’s.)

Elsa stared at him and he stared back. A long moment dragged past and then he gave what amounted to an apologetic shrug and strode away in the rain. She watched him go; watched him climb into his black car and disappear into the night, and then she went inside and cried.

She hated him, but she hated herself even more.

When the tears stopped coming she wiped her face and went to the kitchen. In movies people always splashed water on their face, but what was the point? It was damp enough. Though, that would be a good excuse if her parents saw her.

“Why is your face wet?”

“Because I just washed it.”

Yeah, right.

She opened the refrigerator and stared inside. Her eyes skipped from item to item again and again, as if they might conjure something new and infinitely delicious, but they didn’t.  There were vegetables and fruit and cold iced tea. None of it would help settle a broken heart.

But what would?

She closed the door and dropped into a kitchen chair. The coffee pot light blinked in the darkness and the rain splattered noisily on the window. It was just the kind of night to be miserable, wasn’t it? The kind of night that practically screamed for the company of the depressed and lonely. Even if it was their own fault. Which it was.

She knew he didn’t want anything serious. She knew he had a life that was as different from hers as night was from day, not to mention a girlfriend he’d never leave. Still, she’d hoped anyway, hadn’t she? Deep down she’d believed that he’d stay. That was why she was so shocked when he said goodbye.

“Bye, babes. It’s been fun.”

What fantastic parting words. Those were the kind of words you could frame and hang on a wall. As if. Couldn’t he come up with something better? He had enough practice that he should have a little speech memorized just for the occasion. Did he say that to all the girls, or was she just the one lucky enough for such a poetic verse. Didn’t immortality require something better from him?

Damn him.

She ran her fingers through her brown hair and took a deep, cleansing breath. She wished she could wash him away, the way she’d washed the blood from her skin after their first night. He’d shown her what he was and she’d accepted it; welcomed it. He was beautiful and charismatic, and when she looked in his eyes the world jumped.

And now he was gone.

She abandoned the kitchen and her silent coffee pot companion. The front room was awash in whispery shadows. She stopped by the tv and turned it on, but there was only static. It was too late for programming. It was as if the station managers were all saying in unison “Go to bed!”

She threw herself on the couch and absently picked up the phone from the stand. She stared at it. Nothing happened. With a sigh she snatched up the receiver and tapped in Jennifer’s number.  She was her best friend and this was the kind of situation best friends were supposed to be for.

Elsa counted off the rings. One. Two. Three. Four. They rang on and on, until she ticked off number eighteen.  That was when the line clicked and a sleepy voice muttered, “Hello?”

Elsa gripped the phone in a strangulation hold and tried to find words. “Jen-“ A thick sob cut her off and she broke down. “Tristan. He- he’s gone!” she wailed.

“What? Who’s gone?” Jen yawned and slowly came to terms with the conversation. “Elsa, is that you?”

“He’s gone!” she sobbed again. “He just left! God dammit, he just left!”

“Oh, that dude who thought he was a vampire?” Jen was suddenly awake and her voice dripped sarcasm instead of sympathy. “Look, he was hot – maybe not bringing back sexy hot, but still hot, I admit that. But, Elsa, he thought he was a vampire.”

“He was!” she cried. “Goddamit! He was! And he left!”

“Yeah, I get that he left. But you’re better off without the psycho. What would your parents say?”

Elsa watched the streaky shadows the rain threw across the carpet. This was all wrong. Jennifer was supposed to tell her it was all right. She was supposed to understand . She wasn’t supposed to lecture her. “I’m twenty. I can do what I want.”

Jen imitated her father, “Not while you’re under my roof.” When Elsa didn’t so much as giggle she sighed. “Okay, look. I’m sorry, all right? But there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.”

Elsa caught her breath and held it. Plenty of other fish. That was a line straight from the annals of cliché comfort, and so she quit listening, though Jennifer kept talking. And talking.

Elsa cleared her throat loudly, and cut into the rambling spiel.  “Yeah, you’re right. Thanks. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Elsa, wait-“

She didn’t. She hung up the phone and then, for good measure, she unplugged it.  Tears dripped down her cheeks like the rain on the window. She wished she’d done something besides stare at him. She wished she’d thrown herself at his feet – her pride be damned! Never, never give in. Never, never let something so important slip away.  Don’t just sit there and cry about your lost paradise. Get up and do something about it.

That was what she needed to do.

Elsa stopped in the bathroom and splashed water on her face. As she thought, it did nothing to help, and soaked her shirt. She changed, threw on her raincoat and, without leaving so much as a note, she slipped out the door and into the storming night.

She slid into her car and started it. The heavy engine roared to life and she wished for the millionth time that she could afford one of the cute cars. The radio crackled and Madonna bled through the static. Her tiny, high pitched voice was no comfort, so Elsa turned the radio off.

She turned on the lights and the wipers, put the beast into gear and backed out carefully. Under the streetlights the road was a glare of slick reflections that made it hard to see.  She navigated slowly, though she was only half focused on the task.  Most of her attention was turned on where to go.

Twenty minutes later she parked outside of the Roockwood Inn where Tristan had been staying. The vacancy light flickered eerily, and the raindrops echoed off the car; ping, ping, ping.  The darkness seemed to watch her like a tangible, malevolent creature. She shivered at the thought and climbed out of the car.

Room 622, around the back. That was where he’d been, but no one answered her knock. She pounded again and again, until someone in room 623 shouted at her to be quiet. She couldn’t give up, so she hurried through the rain and into the shabby motel office. The walls were stained with tobacco and smoke hung thick in the air. The bell was broken, so she banged on the counter impatiently.

A voice came from behind the nicotine tatty blanket that served as a makeshift door between the office and the back rooms. “Yeah, yeah, hang on.”

She didn’t have time. Each second might be taking him farther away from her.

The blanket was thrown aside and a short fat man dressed in a horrible Hawaiian short waddled out. He took a puff from his cigar and eyed her critically. “Yeah, what can I help you with?”

“I’m looking for someone. Tristan Shelby. He was in room 622.”

The attendant shrugged. “Room 622 checked out earlier. Sorry, sister.” He looked her up and down again. “Just as well. I’d let that one go, if I was you.”

“I can’t!” she cried passionately. “Do you know where he went?” Tears trembled at the edges of her eyes, ready to drop.

The attendant scratched his stomach thoughtfully. Indecision flickered over his face, but finally her tears swayed him. “I don’t know where he went for sure, but he was runnin’ with a local crowd. They hang out at the old fair grounds most nights, so he might be down there. But-“ he lowered his cigar and met her eyes. “I wouldn’t go lookin’ for any of them, if I was you. They’re not what you think they are.”

Hope blossomed inside her. The old fairgrounds were a popular hangout for teenagers and, having grown up there, she knew them well. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”

“Remember I warned you!”

His words were lost as she dashed out the door into the rain. If she could only catch Tristan and say all those things she should have said earlier, then maybe she could stop this.

The drive was short. The fairgrounds were on the edge of town, and had been abandoned since the late 70’s.  She parked in the overgrown lot and got out. The tall, wet grass wrapped around her legs like grasping hands. She shook it off and forced her way through it towards the peeling gates. A wooden sunshine cut out still hung above them. Its toothy grin was faded and chipped, and the colors were bleached almost gray. “Have a Happy Day” was just visible on the reverse side in faded rainbow letters.

The ticket booth was dark and silent. The windows were a spider web of cracks that told stories of bb guns and rocks. Scattered beer bottles glittered in the flashing lightning and weeds grew through the cracked pavement. The rusted Ferris wheel hulked to her left. Vines covered it and hung down in long, thick tendrils like something from a nightmare scape.

She could feel eyes in the darkness again; feel the night watching her. She forced the silly superstition away and told herself to grow up. There was nothing to be afraid of. She’d been there before.

But never alone.

Am I alone now?

“Hello?”

No one answered her except the rain. She pulled up her courage and walked deeper into the fairgrounds.  The carousel loomed ahead of her. The dirty mirrors still tried to glitter on the canopy, and the silent horses stood in a frozen circle, waiting for riders that would never return.

She stopped next to it and waited as a bolt of lightning sliced through the sky. In the instant of light, she looked around madly, but didn’t see anyone. Her heart sank as she realized that she’d missed him. It was too late. Tristan was gone.

Her body sagged and she used the nearest carousel horse to hoist herself onto the large, disc-like base. She felt too morose to do more than sit on the edge and stare at her dangling feet. What was the point? Maybe she’d get lucky and the carousel would get struck by lightning.

She glanced up to her silent, painted companion. Dark streaks ran down the horse’s face, like old tears.  Oddly, that made her smile. “You know what it’s like, don’t you? With no reason to go on anymore?”

Thunder snapped and she sighed. She should go home and have a cup of coffee. She should change into her pajamas and go to bed. In the morning she should get up and put on her make up and go to work. Again and again the same routine. Meanwhile, he would be doing what? Or who?

She heard something. Her head snapped up and she looked around, but there was nothing. Only rain and dark and rusted rides. It was probably just a rat, anyway. Yeah. A rat.

A rat with fangs.

A man stood in front of her. To her terrified mind he was only a black shape with snarled lips and long, pointed teeth. A vampire, like Tristan. But, it wasn’t Tristan. It was someone else. Someone she needed to get away from.

She gasped and tried to throw herself backwards, but the carousel horse blocked her escape. He was too fast and she was suddenly pinned down on the old carousel. He held her by her wrist and growled into her face. His eyes were strange, not human but more like a wild dog; a wild starving dog.

He didn’t ask who she was, or what she was doing. He only stared into her eyes for an agonizing moment and then tore into her neck.  She screamed, but the sound was drown out by the rolling thunder. Lightning sliced across the sky and in the brightness she could see the rain drops, suspended in midair and the sad, weather stained face of the carousel horse, watching with chipped eyes. The darkness crashed back, but the image stayed in her head, like a still frame. Perhaps the last thing she’d ever see.

With her last breaths she screamed for Tristan.

There was a blur of motion and suddenly she was free of her attacker. She tried to move, but she was too weak to do more than roll her head to one side. The carousel horse and its neighbors were broken and strewn in the mud. The dark vampire lay nearby, hanging half off the carousel, his face covered in blood.  From the shadows a second man stepped forward.  He had bright red hair, like a punk rocker, and though he was soaked he brushed at the mud on his long coat as he approached them.

“Sorry, Lennon.  But I think I need her alive.” The new vampire hopped lithely onto the carousel platform, stepped over the bloody and angry Lennon and came to a stop next to her. He peered down at her like a vulture, his brow puckered. “You are alive, aren’t you?”

Her answer was a gurgle. Terror engulfed her. She tried to raise her hands to her gaping neck, but her arms wouldn’t work. All she could do was plead with silent eyes.

Lennon stood and wiped the blood from his chin. “What do you need her for?”

The red head arched a single brow. “Unless I’m much mistaken, she was shouting for our friend Tristan who, if you’ll recall, I am trying to locate. It seems that if she knows him, she may well know where he is.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Or maybe not.” He shrugged as if it was suddenly of no consequence. “It appears she’s useless to me, after all, so you can do what you want with her. Either kill her or turn her.”

“Turn her?” Lennon stared at him as if he’d gone crazy. “Why would I do that?”

The world shifted into shades of gray and Elsa choked. She tried to concentrate, but the conversation slipped through her fingers like tears.  Tristan. Where is he? Why isn’t he here?

“Why not?” the red head asked cheerfully. “She seems to know all about us already. That’s hard to come by in a fledgling, and it’s not like you have any, yet-“

Tristan.

“- Besides, it might be fun-“

Where are you?

“-Of course, it’s up to you. I don’t care one way or the other-“

Tristan.

“-better decide before it’s too late-“

Goodbye babes, it’s been fun.

The thunder cracked, but the sound was muted behind a wall of black. There was something in her mouth. The taste was bitter and sharp, like sucking a knife blade. She swallowed. It burned like fire. She swallowed again. And again.

It was an hour or more before she could move.  The first thing she did was sit up and touch her neck. The wound was gone. Even the blood had been washed away by the steady drum of rain.

Lennon sat nearby, his knees up and his eyes on her. “I’m Lennon,” he said pointlessly.  Then he half-lifted a hand in greeting. “Hey.”

Her eyes skipped around, but they seemed to be alone. “Where’s-”

“That red haired guy?” She nodded and Lennon shrugged. “Went back to work, I guess. He’s hunting them. Tristan and his partner. “

“Hunting them?” she echoed.  “He’s not going to – I mean he won’t…”

“Kill him?”

The words were too horrible to contemplate, but there they were, just the same. Lennon didn’t explain further, so she forced the question out, “Will he?”

Lennon’s expression softened. “Were you guys, you know?” The answer was in her eyes, and he suddenly looked away. “I don’t know. It depends, I guess. If he just goes quietly then probably not.”

Despite his attempt at reassurance, it was impossible to combat her panic. “But why is he after Tristan?”

“I don’t know. They’re wanted for something. Hard to tell.” Lennon fished a soggy pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He tried to slide one out, but it crumbled in his hand. With a mournful sigh he tossed it away. “Maybe because the guy’s obviously telling humans about us.” She opened her mouth to ask what he meant and he added, “You are – were – human, and he told you.”

Elsa couldn’t argue with that, though the word “were” disturbed her.

Lennon threw the ruined cigarettes away and stood up. “We better go. I’ve got to find my brother, then we need to get back to the den before sunrise.”

“Where’s that?” she mumbled, still lost in the intricate twists of the night’s events.

“New York.”

Her attention snapped to him. “I can’t go to New York!  I have to go to work tomorrow-” The sentence died on her lips as the full realization of her new status crashed down on her. She struggled to come to terms with everything that had in the last few hours. Hours. Was that all it had been? A few hours had taken Tristan away and changed her?

Changed her like she’d once asked Tristan to do.

“Have fun with that.” Lennon stood and offered her a hand. “I hope you don’t act this stupid when you meet Claudius.”

A mixture of panic and elation coursed through her and she fought to master it. “Is Claudius your brother?”

“Hardly!” He snickered. “He’s the coven master. We’re supposed to get permission before we make fledglings.” He frowned. “I’m not really sure what to tell him.  I’m not really sure why I did it.” he squinted ta her. “You’re not bad looking, I guess, but we need to work on a better story that this.” He waved his hand around the abandoned grounds as if to indicate the truth.

She had no answer for him, though he didn’t seem to expect one. He tugged her to her feet and led her through the rainy fairgrounds towards the exit.

Vampire.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she could hear Jennifer’s voice echoing, “He thought he was a vampire.”

That’s because he is, and now so am I.

Vampire.

The sign over the exit made her giggle softly. “Have a Happy Day”. Bizarrely, she would never have another day again. There would only be night after night from now on. But it was all right; or it would be once she found Tristan. Never, never give in. Never, never let something so important slip away.  Don’t just sit there and cry about your lost paradise. Get up and do something about it.

And now she had an eternity to do it in.

**********

Next up is either Herrick or Jeda, depending on my mood. (Herrick is so minor that his only contribution is he dies and Jorick and Katelina inherit his coffin, so he may get skipped.)

Arowenia: Available on Smashwords

Now on Smashwords, the third short story in the Vampire Morsel’s Collection.

Arowenia, Claudius’s child bride for eternity, lives in a gilded cage. She moves through a world of opulence and excess, shielded from Claudius’s political enemies, until a waring coven’s scheme engulfs her.

You can also find Arowenia in Shades of Gray, the first in the Amaranthine series.

Vampire Morsels- Bethina

As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time.  so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…

Bethina

(You can find Bethina in shades of Gray. This story takes place in 1947.)

Bethina snapped the suitcase closed and gave the familiar bedroom a last look. Though her mother was silent, she could feel her standing in the doorframe behind her. She could imagine the frown on her face and the unshed tears in her eyes.

“Are you sure about this?”

Bethina sighed and turned around to face her. “Yes. Mom, I’m sure. What else am I going to do?” Her mother started to answer, but Bethina hurried on before she could. “It isn’t like I’m moving to the ends of the earth. It’s just a few miles out of town. I can come home and visit you.”

That wasn’t enough to silence her mother’s objections. “And what happens when you get too sick to be a nanny anymore?”

“Would you rather they send me to die in a TB San? Would that be better?” Her mother flinched as if she’d slapped her, and Bethina instantly regretted the words. Regardless, there was truth in them.  How much longer could they pretend she wasn’t sick? Eventually there’d be no choice and they’d have to send her away. Blue Ridge was one of the better sanatoriums, but it was over 100 miles away. That might as well be 1,000. This option was better – so very, very much better. If only she could tell her mother all of it, then maybe she’d understand. But, she couldn’t.

“I’m sorry, mother, but I’ve made up my mind. They know about my condition and they still want me to come stay full time. And Alexander is so sweet. You can’t look at him without melting. I don’t want to leave him behind. I want to do something with the time I have left.”

“If you feel that way, then don’t you have a responsibility to that little boy? You’re exposing him to the disease by being there.”

“And I’m exposing you by being here. And I expose everyone in church on Sundays! They know about my condition,” she repeated. “And they have still asked me to stay full time.”

“But those people!” Her mother caught her hands and held them. “Bethy, they’re… they’re not right.  They stay isolated in that old plantation and no one ever sees them.  They’re-”

“Different,” Bethina finished for her. “There’s nothing wrong with them, mother.” At least nothing I can tell you about.

A horn sounded outside and Bethina thanked whatever saint was the patron of interruptions. “That’s Ernie. He’s taking me up there.” She extracted her hands and hurriedly grabbed her luggage. “I’ll be back in a couple of weeks for a visit.” She brushed a quick kiss across her mom’s cheek and then slid neatly past her. “I love you! See you then!”

“Bethy!”

Bethina didn’t stop to let her mother finish, and she didn’t look back.  Her mind was made up. There was no safer place in the world for her to go than the big brick plantation house with its shadowy corridors, silent rooms, and undead occupants. Occupants that couldn’t catch her disease.

Eddie was a few years older than her. Though they got along well enough, they had nothing to talk about, so the trip was a silent one. She could feel his disapproval, but they weren’t close enough for him to comment. But, when he parked the car just inside the large, iron gates, he met her eyes and cleared his throat noisily. The sign something unpleasant would follow.

She tried to circumvent it. “Thanks, Eddie. I’ll see you later.”

“Will you?” His question forced her to drop the door handle and meet his gaze. “I know it’s not my business, but are you sure you know what you’re doing? Everyone thought you were crazy enough working part time up here, but to move in? They’re creepy, and this place is about as cheerful as a funeral parlor. You sure you want to live here?”

Her eyes narrowed at his too blunt assessment.  “You’re right, it’s not your business.” She opened the door and climbed out with a crisp, “thank you for the ride.” She slammed the door with a satisfying sound, and then marched to the house.

The large front door opened before she knocked, and Sandra, one of the maids, moved aside to admit her. The entrance hall was a huge room paneled in wood and hung with old, heavy portraits. Light shone through windows around the front door, but it couldn’t chase away the shadows. Technically, Eddie was right. The house wasn’t very cheerful. The interior had been redecorated, but otherwise it was the same as it had been when it had been built over a hundred years ago. That meant no plumbing, and no electricity.

“You’re staying?” Sandra asked and took a step back. Like the rest of the staff she could still get sick and, though she was never unfriendly, she was distant.

Bethina only nodded and Sandra motioned to the curving staircase. “You might as well go on up. They’re not awake yet.”

Bethina nodded again and climbed the stairs slowly.  She made her way down the corridor to what was her new bedroom. Late September sunlight splashed through the windows and brought a cheer to the room that the somber hallways lacked.

She unpacked a little, rested briefly, then walked downstairs to the kitchen where the women were cleaning and preparing what would be their breakfast.  Yes, things here were different, including what time their day started.

Both women glanced up at her, but only Sandra acknowledged her. “Have you eaten?”

“Yes, but thank you.” She pulled up a chair at the kitchen table and watched Jane add wood to the old cast iron stove. Finished, the woman straightened and mopped her forehead, then rolled up her sleeves. Her arms were wrapped at random intervals with white gauze bandages. A hazard of working at the plantation house.

As if she felt the scrutiny, Jane turned around and met Bethina’s blue eyes. “I hear you’re going to be here full time?” Bethina nodded and Jane looked mildly surprised. “I can’t imagine your family is happy about that.”

Bethina shifted uncomfortably in her chair. “No. My mother’s pretty upset about it.”

“I would be, too, if I were her.” Jane turned back to a bowl of batter, leaving Bethina wide eyed with surprise.

“But why? You work here.”

Jane stiffened, but didn’t turn back around. “Just because I’m here doesn’t mean I’d want my daughter to be here.  I know what they are, after all. I wouldn’t want my child committed to this enslavement.”

“Enslavement?” Bethina echoed.  The word seemed absurd and out of place. Something antiquated and distasteful.  “How can you call it that?”

“And what would you call it?” Something dark hid under the edges of Jane’s tone. Something angry and challenging. It instantly irritated Bethina.

“How about employment?”

Jane laughed, but it wasn’t a happy sound. “You’re young still, and naïve. Employment is something you can leave if you choose. Do you think we have that luxury?” She turned around, her eyes dark fire and a wooden spoon gripped dangerously in her hand like a weapon. “Do you think we can leave if we choose?”

“Well-“

“Of course not! We know what they are. They can’t just let us walk out. Do you know what happened to the last girl who wanted to leave? She disappeared!”

“Maybe that’s because she left?” Bethina suggested impatiently.

“Without packing?” Jane snorted contemptuously. “They got rid of her because that’s what they do. When you get too old, or you want to leave they just dispose of you and hire another young girl who has no prospects for the future.  And in the meantime they work you to death scrubbing and dusting while they drink your blood!”

Sandra cleared her throat loudly; a warning that the conversation was headed for dangerous places, but Jane ignored her and went on.

“Maybe you don’t mind being food for those children because you’re staring down your own death, but the rest of us aren’t.  I could have done something. I could have gotten married. I could have had children of my own. Normal children that eat and drink and grow up!”

“Jane,” Sandra said softly. “Enough.”

“No, it isn’t! How can you face it, day in and day out and still say it’s enough? How can you stand to stare into that baby’s eyes and say it’s enough?”  She shivered. “It’s like they see right through you, to your very soul, but he never says a word. He never even cries! Just lays there like cold, dead weight and stares right through you!”

Bethina watched with wide eyed confusion as Jane’s shudders turned into tears, Sandra seemed to understand, though, and she quickly moved to embrace her. “Shhh. It’s all right, Jane. It’s all right.”

“How can it be all right? My sister’s dead! My own sister! And where was I? Here! I was here and would they let me go to her when she was sick? Would that bitch Jesslynn let me leave?”

Bethina stared uncomfortably at her hands while Jane wailed. She didn’t know how to feel about the woman’s words.  Her misery was real, but Bethina couldn’t reconcile it to what she knew of them. Yes, Jesslynn was austere, haughty even, but surely she’d let Jane go to her sick sister? She’d told Bethina that she could go visit her mother when she wanted, so long as she didn’t say the wrong thing. She’d been working there after school for two years now and had never betrayed their secret, so they knew they could trust her. Maybe that was the difference. Maybe she was trustworthy and Jane wasn’t.

Still, she felt she should say something. “I’m sorry to hear about your sister.”

Jane pulled back and glared at her through puffy red eyes. “No, you’re not! You couldn’t care less, just like they couldn’t care less. You’re a pet to them, not a slave like we are. But, just wait until you’re dying and they look the other way and pretend they couldn’t share some of that immortality with you. Then you’ll see how much they think of you. You’re just livestock to them, like the rest of us.  We’re good enough to clean their house and give our blood to their children, but we’re not good enough to join them! They let us die while they keep the secret to themselves!”

Bethina stood up too fast and grabbed the edge of the table to keep from falling. Jane had passed annoying and gone straight to making her angry. “It’s too bad your sister died, but you shouldn’t take it out on everyone else by being so nasty.”

Sandra cleared her throat again and glanced at Bethina. “I think maybe you’d better…” she trailed off, but they all knew what she meant.

Bethina nodded crisply and marched out the door. As she left, Sandra’s voice floated to her. “Jane, honey, you have to watch what you say. If she tells the mister and missus who know what will happen to you?”

“Who knows what will happen?” Bethina muttered darkly. “You’ll get fired, that’s for sure! See how you like it, then!”

She intended to go to her room and finish unpacking, but she got tired by the time she reached the entrance hall and had to stop and sit on a carved bench.  She coughed into her ever present handkerchief and tried to fight the instinctual alarm when she saw the crimson dots on it. Jane was so worried about the meager amount that Alexander or the baby took from her. Maybe she should try watching her handkerchiefs fill with it for no reason! Then she could talk to her about death!

“Bethina!”

She looked up at the sound of a delighted voice and saw Alexander. He stood with his back pressed to the far wall, clinging to the shadows.  “What are you doing up? It’s not dark yet.”

He squirmed. “I know, but I wanted to see if you were here yet. Father said he didn’t think your mother would really let you come, but Mother said of course you would. I knew she’d be right.” His face broke into a wide, pointy toothed grin.

She pulled herself to her feet and walked to him, stopping in front of him with her hands on her hips. “All right, now you’ve seen. You better get back to bed, mister, before you get caught.”

“Aw.” He turned his large, pleading eyes up at her, but she refused to back down. “Fine.” He relented. “But only if you promise to tell me a story later.”

“I’ll tell you a story, all right.” She tousled his dark hair. “One about little boys who don’t mind their parents and sneak around the house while they’re supposed to be sleeping. Can you guess the end?”

He gave a small, but exasperated sigh. “I’m going. I’m going.” He turned for the cellar, but stopped and looked back. “I’m glad Mother was right. I’d miss you too much if you never came back!” And then he skipped away to return to his coffin.

Alone, Bethina wandered to a side door and out onto the wide wraparound porch. The sky to the west flamed red and gold, and stray autumn leaves danced and swirled in the early evening breeze. She dropped to the porch and drew her knees up to her chest. Jane’s words flitted through her mind, “Just wait until you’re dying and they look the other way and pretend they couldn’t share some of that immortality with you.” Would they really do that? And even if they didn’t, would she really want them to share? Did she want to live forever, knowing that she’d never change?

“What’s that old adage? The journey is in the reward? No, the journey is the reward?” She couldn’t find the exact words, but it didn’t matter. The essence was there.  It was the road that mattered, not the destination because they were all headed to the same place, just some sooner than others.

Maybe Jane was right about one thing. Maybe she could look at things differently because she was staring down death. She knew she’d never get married and have children of her own, so what was the harm in letting her dote on Alexander while she could? Wasn’t it better to be here, near someone she cared about, than locked away in some sanatorium, sleeping in outdoor pavilions that were supposed to cure her? IN the end, whether they looked away, or even killed her themselves rather than letting her last days linger, surely it was better here than being there?  “Yes”, she told herself firmly. “It has to be better.  No matter what happens.”

  • Tales of the Executioners

    Short stories from the world of Amaranthine; a universe of blood and darkness where vampires don't sparkle and night is eternal. Each is about a member of the Executioners squad; the special vampire "police" force. Members both past and present share stories of assignments, origins, and more.

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    Joleene Naylor

    An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com

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