Thursday, 2 December 2010

Excerpt Day – Shadow of The Moon © Susan M. Sailors

Excerpt

 

Rebecca sat forward in her deck chair when she looked across the patio and saw a blonde woman approaching her. The stranger extended her hand, and Rebecca stood and shook it once she realized this was the woman Galen had told her to expect. She guarded her thoughts though, because she’d expected the vampire to come at night, and anything unexpected from a vampire could mean trouble.

 

“ You’re obviously older than Galen,” Rebecca said. “It’s three in the afternoon, and not a cloud in the sky.” The woman wore a sundress, and Rebecca looked at her exposed, perfect skin. “It’s obviously not hurting you.”

 

“ Just as it is not hurting you. Yes, I am older. I’m Lisbeth. Galen’s sire was my mother, so I’m even stronger.”

 

Rebecca couldn’t keep her eyebrows from shooting up. “Elizabeth was your mother? She was one of Morgaine’s daughters though. When were you born?”

 

“ I was born in 1788. Unlike Morgaine, her daughters never became infertile. Anyone could get them pregnant, though our self-proclaimed queen needed someone like her magic-wielding husband to conceive again.”

 

Morgaine and her husband Drake had been the first vampires. Drake had been a sorcerer who used blood magic, and eventually he’d managed to make himself and his wife immortal using it. The world, to Rebecca, was all the worse for it. She felt uneasy now she knew this woman was Morgaine’s granddaughter, even though Morgaine herself had been dead for months. “Why did Galen want us to meet? He described you because he wanted to be sure I wouldn’t turn you away once I knew you were a vampire.”

 

“ I’m a clan leader who is willing to support you, or at least help you. I have no objections to whom you and your fiancé once were or how you were made.”

 

Lisbeth was referring to the fact that Rebecca and her fiancé Chris, a former vampire hunter, had not been bitten and turned like other vampires. Morgaine had used magic to make them vampires, exactly the way she had been made centuries ago. Her husband Drake had been a sorcerer in Romania in the sixteenth century. He had used magic to make himself and his wife immortal. Most of his spells involved blood, and he had been very powerful, so his peers had called him Dracula because the mortal who was also often called by that name, Vlad the Impaler, was one of their greatest heroes. So, in a way, Dracula had been the first vampire. He’d reveled in the glory of being immortal until his children were born. Even as infants, they had craved blood. He tried to reverse the magic, killing his eldest son in the attempt. In despair, he’d then killed himself. Instead of grieving, his wife Morgaine had been pleased. Without him around, she was free to do anything she wanted with the powers he had given her. Their children were just like them, pure vampires, though they had needed a dose of their mother’s blood to be immortal, and she’d decided she wanted an empire. However, she soon found that her grandchildren were born human because there were no others like herself and Drake for her sons and daughters to mate with. Their bite killed humans, infecting them with a deadly virus. However, they eventually discovered that the bite and transfer of blood didn’t kill their descendants. As long as they took the blood before dying, only the weaker, human part died. The blood gave the vampiric part of each of them new life. It changed them into complete vampires, though it left them infertile in the process and took away their ability to walk in the sun. That was the only blessing. Morgaine soon discovered no one else could give her children, so she encouraged her still fertile daughters to mate as often as possible. From the day of that discovery, every child born from Morgaine’s bloodline was forced to make this change at a certain age and embrace the powers of the vampires, after they had had children of their own to continue the bloodline. They were “of the blood,” and they were taught to think it was a great honor to be so. The vampire clans soon became the most inescapable, grasping families in the world. No one was allowed to escape. If some resisted too much, they were forced or murdered in the end.

 

Rebecca tried to smile. “I hope so, but of course you’ve been told I’m Galen’s granddaughter.”

 

“ Yes. I was amazed he kept the secret for so long. His sister was a magic user, but I had no idea she was powerful enough to cast a spell to hide your blood from others. I’m not surprised she was murdered. I am sorry for it. She was a kind and gentle woman.”

 

“ It’s not true. I’m not his granddaughter. That’s why it was so easy to keep. Would you like to sit down?”

 

“ That sounds nice.” After they were seated, Lisbeth said, “He told me you would say that, even though you are no longer upset with him.”

 

A cool breeze blew across the patio. “I forgave him for trying to protect me. I forgave him for lying, though it did hurt at first. Everyone in my family has been gone a long time, so I was hurt when he lied about being my grandfather.”

 

Lisbeth hesitated, but then added, “We would know if he had lied. Once he revealed the secret, the magic around his sister’s spell dissolved. Her magic no longer protected you.”

 

“ Very convenient this spell was lifted after Morgaine had transformed me. No way to prove I was ‘of the blood’ before the day she changed me.”

 

“ No, but it also broke down barriers in his mind. Memories the spell had hidden. He remembered talking about this with your grandmother, telling her what it meant, telling her he would keep their child safe. He had to explain to her why he could not stay and marry her.”

 

Rebecca tried to remain objective. She’d hardly known her grandmother, so talking about her didn’t mean that much. Could that be true? Galen had not used those facts in his own defense. He had simply given up trying to convince her as a peace offering so she would speak to him again. Even if he was not her grandfather, she knew beyond any doubt he truly loved her. “Maybe I’ll ask Galen to tell me about it one day. Let’s talk about how you can help me.”

 

Lisbeth looked out over the grounds. “It is beautiful here. I always imagined werewolves lived near the woods. Simon and his family seem happy to have you here, despite all that’s happened.”

 

She wondered how Lisbeth had come to that conclusion. Simply because the werewolves hadn’t kicked them out? “It is beautiful. The werewolves are the reason Chris and I stay here. We want to protect them.”

 

“ I know. I will support you, cooperate with you, and offer my protection as long as nothing you do hurts any of my clan. I’m not as good, at least in your terms, as Galen. I feel you should know this upfront. I do not kill, but I still drink from humans. I do it almost every day.”

 

“ I’ll keep an eye on you then.”

 

Lisbeth smiled as though she thought Rebecca was teasing her. Then she sobered. “Have you found Gerard?”

 

Rebecca pushed away the sadness that rolled over her. Gerard had been their leader until very recently. Born into a vampire clan, he’d chosen to become a werewolf to escape them, not knowing this decision would cause such a stir among vampires. A werewolf bite would kill a human, but a vampire was strong enough to survive. And be infected. Morgaine had become erotically fixated on Gerard, and shortly after his change she’d tricked him into drinking her blood, making him the first vampire-werewolf hybrid. His wife had been like him when he turned her, but now she was dead. Aria and her unborn child had been murdered by a vampire, and Gerard had left because he felt he had nothing to fight for without her. He’d been gone nearly a month. Rebecca worried about him every day.

 

“ No. He won’t come back.”

 

“ He’s not far away. He roams the woods. I’ve seen him.”

 

Rebecca didn’t want to hope for too much. After all, it might be a trick. Galen was out of touch with most of the vampire community, and he only had Lisbeth’s word she would help Rebecca and the others. “You have?”

 

She nodded. “Most vampires won’t change into wolves anymore because they hate werewolves so much. The confirmation that Roland made them has pissed lots of people off. I like changing into a wolf though. I roam in the woods often.”

 

Roland had been Morgaine’s son, the only one of her children to refuse to follow her. He’d created werewolves by accident in an attempt to raise an army to destroy his mother. Out of shame he’d hidden the secret, realizing he’d cursed and doomed an entire race with his magic, exactly as his father had. Vampires saw werewolves as inferior, and they had hidden the secret of their origins in an attempt to keep them weak and powerless. Roland had tried to protect them by telling them legends he thought would inspire hope, convincing them that one day someone would rise up as their champion, but in the end those legends had done far more harm than good. Werewolves had spent generations waiting for a salvation that was nothing more than a lie. Vampires had hated and hunted them at one time, but now they for the most part only hated them, all the more so since their true relationship had become public knowledge after Roland’s death.

 

“ I know it has,” Rebecca said. “You’re saying you’ve seen Gerard while you were out in the woods in wolf form?”

 

“ Yes. He runs from people. But as a wolf, I got close to him. He stared at me, and I let him read my mind. He allowed me to sit a few feet away from him for a while.”

 

“ What did he do?”

 

“ Nothing. He liked the company though. He’s very lonely. I felt it so intensely it made my heart ache.”

 

Rebecca took a deep breath. She refused to show too much emotion until she knew this woman better. “What are we supposed to do about that? He told us to forget him.”

 

“ He’s not the best at making his own decisions.”

 

“ That’s unfair!” She resented the criticism, even though in her heart she agreed with it. Gerard hurt himself so often trying to protect others.

 

Lisbeth sighed. “I know, but he’s letting grief consume him. He needs help. He will go insane no matter how strong or powerful he is. And what happens then? You’ve seen him in his hellhound form, haven’t you? Terrifying to anyone. A giant wolf with a vampire’s fangs and glowing red eyes? It’s something out of a movie. Imagine him losing his mind and becoming little more than a beast with a vampire’s bloodlust?”

 

Rebecca realized she was gripping the arms of the chair tightly enough to draw blood from her fingers. She let go. “Are you trying to scare me?” she whispered.

 

“ Yes. You’re his friends. He’ll accept your help before mine.”

 

“ He read your mind. He knows who and what you are.”

 

“ And he won’t trust me. I’m Morgaine’s granddaughter. Do you know how he feels when he thinks of her? Do you know what goes through his head when he thinks of any vampire?” She leaned forward. “He sees his dead mother, executed for not wanting a son she had with a mortal to be turned into a vampire. He sees his twin sister Erika, murdered because she wanted to break away like he did. And his wife Aria, murdered by Luna in a fit of jealousy and revenge because Luna was obsessed with him exactly like Morgaine was. He sees nothing but death every single time he closes his eyes.”

 

Rebecca stood up and stalked away. “If you want to help me, fine. I’ll contact you if I need help. Don’t you dare come here to preach to me again!” She wiped the tears from her cheeks and ran into the house, glad the spells that kept uninvited vampires out still worked. She knew she had to help Gerard. She didn’t need someone who neither knew him nor understood him to tell her how much he needed them.

 

* * * *

 

Remy Bouchard came around the corner of the house and saw a stranger sitting on the deck. He looked around. Thirty minutes ago, Rebecca had been out here. She’d said she wanted to see him when he got a chance, so after running to the bank he’d come back to see what she needed. The stranger turned around when she sensed him standing there.

 

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman was breathtaking in a blue sundress that fit her every curve perfectly. Her golden hair fell in curly waves down her back. She smiled, and he couldn’t help smiling back. But then he smelled her blood. She was a vampire.

 

His smile faded. “Can I help you, ma’am?”

 

Her gaze wandered over him slowly. “Perhaps. You’re a magic user. And a werewolf, which is why that lovely and captivating smile faded so quickly. I’m Lisbeth. I’m a clan leader and Galen wanted Rebecca to meet me.”

 

Remy released the breath he’d been holding and let his muscles relax. “Right. I knew that. I couldn’t read you though. I’m Remy Bouchard.”

 

“ Nice to meet you. You’re a powerful psychic too. My my. But I’m over two hundred years old and had a powerful sire. You won’t be able to read me.” She smiled suggestively. “You’re southern. I’m guessing Louisiana. Your accent’s fading, but down there they know how to train a magic user.”

 

He tried to focus on thoughts that did not involve her gorgeous breasts or full lips. “Yes, I’m a lot of things, which means I need to stay away from you.”

 

“ Does it?”

 

“ Yes. Besides the fact you’re lookin’ at me like you wanna eat me, I know magic users are becomin’ rarer among vampires. I guess you could say I know my worth.” He tried to remain guarded. This woman was old and powerful. He could feel it. He really wished she weren’t so beautiful. He did not need that kind of complication right now.

 

“ I’m sorry if I’ve offended you. I hope I see you again though. There’s something about you.”

 

“ I think you’ve covered it: werewolf; psychic; magic user and not interested. I’m sure that would get most female vampires’ attention.”

 

“ You are interested. You only reject the idea because you’re afraid.”

 

“ Let’s have coffee one day then and see if my company is still so impressive. I mostly talk about horror movies and novels, just so you’re warned.”

 

“ Sounds wonderful. I’ll refresh myself on the subject and hold you to that invitation.” She took a few steps backward. “Coffee. A date.” She smiled again and disappeared.

 

No mist, no transformation. She just vanished, confirming yet again she was very powerful.

 

“ I was being sarcastic,” he muttered to no one. He let out a heavy sigh. “Hell. What have I done?”

 

He tried to look on the bright side. Galen trusted her enough to send her to Rebecca alone. She was beautiful. Those were two very good things. On the darker side, she was a vampire. She was old and strong enough to keep him out of her mind. She definitely wanted sex from him. Normally, that would be a good thing, but sex with a vampire was not something he wanted to experience. The blood of a magic user, whether a mortal or a werewolf or a vampire, drove vampires crazy. It did nothing special for them, but it smelled and tasted heavenly because vampires had been made with magic. It called to them. Luckily, it was so intoxicating a vampire was sated with only a few sips, but he didn’t want an addict on his hands. He’d been warned about vampires all his life, and his closest encounter with a very interested female vampire had been the most terrifying of his life.

 

He walked into the house to find Rebecca, hoping Lisbeth would lose interest before holding him to his unintended invitation.

 

* * * *

 

Gerard nudged the blue beach ball with his nose, sending it across the grass and back onto the deck, before sitting back on his hind legs. Being a dog didn’t feel much different from being a wolf. Bella sat in the swing reading a magazine while her daughter Mary toddled over to catch the ball. She would be three in a few weeks, but Gerard would not be there to see it. When he’d been turned by a werewolf named Lucas, he’d gone home with him to meet his family. His father Simon was a clan leader among werewolves, and he’d offered Gerard sanctuary with his family. His daughter Bella had been the one he made the real connection with. She was psychic like him, as was her little girl. Her brother, father and her husband Quentin had all been skeptical about her gift until meeting Gerard.

 

He’d ruined their lives starting with that moment. Lucas had been murdered along with Gerard’s twin sister Erika. Bella and Mary had been in danger countless times. Rebecca and Chris, once human, had been turned into vampires by Morgaine in one of her many plots. Nothing so dark would ever have touched any of them if he hadn’t come along and drawn the vampires’ attention to them.

 

Mary threw the ball back to him, and Bella looked up and smiled. Gerard felt relief wash over him. The neighbors had a black Labrador named Colby that frequently came trotting through the woods to roam in the yard. Gerard had obviously gotten the look just right in his transformation. Was Bella not being cautious enough, or was he really strong enough to keep her from sensing it was him? He thought Bella would always have her guard up because of Mary, but at the same time he was glad he’d worked out this plan to keep an eye on them.

 

He nudged the ball again and Mary squealed with delight. She ran past the ball and came over to hug him, kissing him on his long nose. She smiled broadly at him and then went back to her ball and threw it again. Did she know it was him? He thought it impossible if her mother had no idea, but still Mary had surprised them in the past. She rarely talked, but she knew things she couldn’t have known unless she could see into other people’s minds. She could move objects with her mind, but she had no idea she was doing anything unusual.

 

Someone came out onto the porch. It was Remy, the werewolf Simon had called to help them after Aria’s death. Gerard looked at Mary again. His and Aria’s child would never play with Mary. They hadn’t even known if it were a boy or a girl. Perhaps that, at least, was a blessing. Maybe even the child’s death had been one too. Too many vampires would have been interested in either exploiting or killing it. His wife and child would always have been in danger because of him, just as now they were both dead because of him.

 

Mary stared at him. She looked sad and came over to pat him on the head.

 

“ Your dad’s on the phone. He’s ordering supplies at the wholesaler and forgot to write everything down,” Remy said to Bella.

 

“ Okay. Thanks.” She went inside. Simon’s son Jason and Bella’s husband Quentin ran a bar together. Quentin had inherited the business from his father. A couple of weekends a month the four of them ran a murder mystery dinner club in the large, gloomy mansion Simon’s grandfather had built specifically for that purpose. Another family tradition. The love of family werewolves had had been what Gerard liked best about them, what had drawn him to them. Vampires only kept those of the blood close so they could control them. It had nothing to do with love or family. He’d enjoyed joining in with the dinner club, and he’d even played the corpse a couple of times. He’d never been cast as the murderer, though he almost felt that part would have suited him better. He pushed the dark thoughts aside. It was a game, just for fun. It didn’t have any greater cosmic meaning one way or the other.

 

Remy was staring at him. Gerard found the man very interesting. He was a werewolf and a magic user. He was also a very powerful psychic. He was strong enough to keep everyone else out of his mind. He left his mind open to Gerard though.

 

Remy raised one eyebrow. You couldn’t just call?

 

Gerard held his gaze. I don’t want to come back, but I couldn’t leave them.

 

Remy moved forward to stand beside Mary. “We won’t tell.”

 

Gerard looked at Mary, considering.

 

“ She knows it’s you,” Remy said.

 

Mary held her fingers to her lips.

 

How could you tell she knew? Gerard asked.

 

“ She’s thinking it. Bella’s so used to her powers she never tries to read Mary’s mind. You’re safe.” He looked at the door. “I won’t let anything happen to them. Rebecca is worried sick about you.”

 

Gerard looked down. I can’t help that.

 

“ Okay. I understand. I can’t change your mind, I’m sure.”

 

Gerard stood up and stretched. I’m not far. Come find me if they need me.

 

Remy nodded. “I told Rebecca you’d be looking out for them. She thought you were gone for good.”

 

Gerard didn’t respond. He turned and walked off into the woods. He turned back and saw Remy pushing Mary on the swing set as Bella came back out into the yard. He’d been wary of Remy at first, but he was glad to have him around now. He hoped no one in Simon’s household would ever need protection ever again, but he knew what happened every time he started to think it might be true.

 

Something always came, and he would be ready the next time those he loved were threatened.

 

* * * *

 

Remy finally found Rebecca that evening. Chris had started doing P.I. work again, which had been not only his job but also a cover for his vampire hunting, and she’d run out to help him with something just after he’d gotten home from his own errands. She was sitting in the living room looking through a magazine.

 

“ Hey,” she said as she stood up. “Sorry I ducked out on you. Chris needed me, and I didn’t want him to know I was doing anything.”

 

Remy thought that was an odd way of putting it. “Why not? Is something wrong?”

 

“ I have a question to ask you. I’ve been keeping a secret from everyone because I thought it wasn’t true.”

 

He began to wonder what kind of conversation he was in for. “A secret someone else told you? Seems the only way you could doubt it was true.”

 

She nodded. “Galen told me I was given his place as clan leader with no trouble because I’m his granddaughter.”

 

“ Oh.” Remy paused. “But…I thought you were human, Chris too?”

 

“ That’s what I need to ask you about. Galen said his sister was a magic user. Could someone with those powers hide someone who was of the blood? Could they protect them so no one knew that person had vampiric blood?”

 

Remy had never considered that before, but it sounded logical. “Well, if this magic user was a vampire, I think maybe they could. Magic users can protect themselves that way. We can make a potion to keep vampires and werewolves from smellin’ that element in our blood. It’s saved a lot of lives.”

 

“ Could someone have protected me that way? Without my consent?”

 

“ Consent doesn’t matter. What else did they tell you?”

 

She lifted her hair and turned a little. “See that birthmark? The red circle?”

 

He looked at it and then ran his finger over it. “That’s not a birthmark. It’s a blood tattoo.” He pulled away. “It’s probably Galen’s sister’s blood. They use them for protection, but usually they’re real visible. You know, on the forehead or cheek, maybe the hand. Normally it would be a clan markin’ or somethin’ like that. But if they wanted to hide you, that would give it away.”

 

Rebecca moved away and sat down quickly.

 

“ Are you okay?” he asked.

 

“ Everything you said explains it. I thought he was lying to make me do what he wanted or manipulate me.”

 

“ Galen loves you a lot, so I’m sure he’s hurtin’ too.”

 

She looked skeptical. “Really?”

 

He nodded. “He looks pained when he’s here. He tries to hide it. He wishes y’all were close again. I knew something was up. Everyone else seems to think so too, but no one’s askin’.”

 

“ I need to tell Chris, but I had to be sure.”

 

“ Based on what you told me, I’d believe him. I don’t think he’d lie about this, and I think the vampires would know if he were lying.”

 

“ That’s what Lisbeth said.”

 

Remy tried not to think about the beautiful woman who had been by earlier. She’d been much too aggressive for his taste. “What did you think of her?”

 

“ I don’t know. I trust Galen to look out for us, but I’m going to be cautious about accepting anything from anyone.”

 

He nodded. “That sounds wise. I ran into her before she left. She was very interested in my…skills.”

 

Rebecca half smiled. “I’ll bet she was.”

 

“ That’s the last thing I need. Being gorgeous and sexy aside, she’d be trouble, especially if she persuaded me to let her bite me.”

 

Rebecca nodded, and then she blushed. Was she remembering her own reaction to his blood? She’d been around a few times when he’d been using it for potions, and once she’d caught a drop on her finger and licked it before she could stop herself. She’d become so aroused she’d run away from him and into her fiancé’s arms. They’d stayed in their room the rest of the afternoon. Rebecca was gorgeous, but an unavailable woman was even more bad news. Things could already be awkward from time to time because he’d dated Bella about six years back. They’d broken up because he’d been afraid of having children who would be werewolves, possibly magic users. He’d also cared for Bella too much to risk losing her in childbirth. Werewolf females had hard pregnancies and deliveries. Simon had three children, each with a different mother, because each of his wives died in childbirth. Remy knew he could never live with those kinds of memories. Mary was beautiful, and Quentin was a good man who was surprisingly devoid of jealousy or macho competitiveness, unlike most male werewolves, so Remy was glad for Bella. The three of them seemed very happy.

 

“ I imagine so. If she becomes annoying, tell me. From what I understand, it would be an insult and a sign of disrespect for her to harass you if I told her to stop. Even if she’s not everything Galen thinks she is, she seems to follow those etiquette codes closely.”

 

He smiled. “Thank you. I may take you up on that. I sarcastically asked her if she’d still enjoy my company over coffee and a real conversation, thinkin’ she was just flirting or trying to assert her power, maybe lookin’ for a roll in the hay, you know? She said she’d hold me to it. I don’t want to go, but I’d rather not make her mad.”

 

Rebecca thought about this, nodding, but it was soon obvious she was trying not to laugh.

 

He tried not to smile, but then he laughed too. “Well, I’m glad you find it so amusin’. Maybe that means she’s not too dangerous.”

 

“ Sorry. I doubt she’d harm you, but hold her to your terms, okay? Nice, heavily populated coffee shop during the day. I’ll mention her interest to Galen though, in case she has a history of this kind of behavior.”

 

“ Most female vampires have a history of this kind of behavior.”

 

She laughed again. Then she sighed. “Thanks for your help. I feel better. I want to go tell Chris.”

 

“ Good luck,” he said as she walked out of the room and headed for the stairs.

 

“ Thanks.”

 

He wondered what a date with Lisbeth would actually be like. Would she act normal at all, or would she turn on the vampy charm and talk in suggestive riddles? He loved history, so it might be nice to hear some of the stories she might tell. He shook his head. The last thing he needed was to start looking forward to the event. That did not seem like the best way to get through it unscathed. Or unbitten.

 

© Shadow of The Moon,  Susan M. Sailors

Shadow of The Moon

Author: Susan M. Sailors

Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press

Genre: Paranormal

Buy link

Gerard had abandoned them.

Rebecca and Chris should have been planning their wedding, but with Gerard gone and the other vampire leaders forcing Rebecca to take her place as a clan leader, they had little time for such happy thoughts. Their troubles worsen when Blake, a powerful vampire who had stayed silent at first, comes forward to threaten Rebecca and those she protects. If she marries Chris, a former vampire hunter, Blake will declare war on her and anyone who supports her.

The werewolves who protected her and Gerard when they needed friends the most will suffer if she loses her power and authority, so she cannot step down but refuses to give in.

When Chris disappears, she tries to find Gerard. Did Chris leave to protect her? Or had something worse happened? Would she find Gerard? And even if she did, would he be able to help her?

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